Football Is The New Boxing

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys

In many ways, it was not a good series of days for the NFL this Thanksgiving weekend past. The games played on the 12th week of play were for the most part entertaining, but it’s getting clearer that the league has serious issues.

First, the concussion issue is a continued pain in their side, and it should be. Findings were released the day before Thanksgiving that NFL legend Frank Gifford suffered from CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) that’s being found in more recently retired players. Gifford was famously the target of Chuck Bednarik in a 1960 NFL game where a vicious tackle by the Philadelphia Eagle injured Gifford, who didn’t resume playing for the Giants until 1962.

While the NFL is constantly improving what they call its “concussion protocol,” it’s clear from the retired players currently suffering that the league could have done more earlier. The question is: is it doing enough to protect players now?

There’s another issue the NFL has that is starting to remind me of professional prizefighting: the officiating, and how it seems to have gotten worse in recent years.

Namely, I speak of the recent Denver Broncos 30-24 win in overtime against New England’s Patriots, though there were other games were the crews look like they ate too much weekend turkey. Watching the game on NBC, it seemed like there was something Al Michaels or Cris Collinsworth wanted to say, but didn’t have the gumption to say.

It seemed to me that the calls against New England were way out of proportion to the calls against Denver, and that the Broncos always seemed to get close calls in their favor while Patriot players had to have been murdered to get a Broncos penalty.

Even the usually calm Tom Brady (who I called in a tweet Johnathan E. from the 1975 version of Rollerball) was seen a few times jawing with the officiating crew, pleading for better results a few times. Revenge for the whole Deflategate fiasco, I wondered, as Skip Bayless did on ESPN this morning?

I’ve been watching NFL games and seeking a better understanding of them since I was seven years old in 1978. (Other kids were reading nursery rhymes, I was reading the NFL Record and Fact Book.) When you have broadcasters like Jim Nantz saying on the air (as he did yesterday) that there’s an ambiguity about what a legal NFL catch is, and what a catch is not, there are issues.

The question is, will the league do anything about all of this, or will it continue to bury its head in the sand, saying this is all just muse for our entertainment?

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