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October 15, 2006

The Evolution of Football

The Evolution of Football

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The “Small Ball Theory,” George Plimpton’s notion that the quality of writing about a particular sport is inversely proportional to the size of that sport’s ball, has always been given a generous hearing in our office. This is a baseball kind of place, basically, with a sideline in golf. Any ball that’s larger than a fist — or oddly shaped — doesn’t get much attention in the confabs before our story meetings… or column inches on our bedside tables.

But when Michael Lewis, he of Moneyball and Coach stardom, started turning his attention away from the diamond and toward the gridiron, the Plimpton line morphed from truism to canard. First came a number of newspaper pieces, including a fascinating New York Times profile of Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. And now we have The Blind Side, which prompted Malcom Gladwell to wonder if we’re enjoying a golden age of sportswriting right now.

If this is a Golden Age with two kings (Gladwell argues for three), Bill Simmons is the fan with unlimited and often hilarious cultural references who situates sports in our particular mytho-pop moment. And Michael Lewis is the humane explainer with masterful narratives who is able to situate sports (and sports figures)… well, just about everywhere else. In his latest book, which is ostensibly about football, he touches on religion, class, NCAA rules, education, gender, and — everywhere and in everything — race.

But it’s also about, as the subtitle tells us, the “evolution of the game:” football’s transformation from a running sport to a passing sport, and the subtle and not so subtle changes that follow. It’s about two Bills — Walsh and Parcells — and the ultimate distillation of an unfinished argument about brains versus brawn. It’s about the impact one man — in this case Lawrence Taylor — can have on an entire sport. And it’s about a newly vital position that rose in importance in tandem with the quarterback.

Which is more than enough for an hour of radio. We’ll be focusing on the evolution as Lewis sees it, and on the game as it stands now. So step right up. Football fans, what are you paying attention to this season? What’s your version of its evolution? Football haters: what, if anything, would make you tune in?

Michael Lewis

Author, The Blind Side, Moneyball, and Coach

Contributing writer, The New York Times Magazine

Aaron Schatz

President and Editor in Chief, Football Outsiders

NFL Analyst, FOX Sports

Jay Christensen

Blogger, The Wizard of Odds

Sportswriter, Los Angeles Times

Extra Credit Reading

David’s post is a reading list in itself; here are a few nuggets from today’s digging.

Mike Reiss, West Coast Offense; the neophyte’s guide, ESPN, October 17, 2004: “Were the history of the West Coast offense to be penned in Biblical style, it would certainly be heavy into “begats,” an archaic verb but one appropriate to describe the lineage of a popular design used by a preponderance of NFL coaches and coordinators.”

Rick Snider, More links in the chain of west coast offense,, The Washington Times, October 22, 2003: “Before the West Coast offense spread through the NFL, before Don Coryell disciples Joe Gibbs and Ernie Zampese taught Norv Turner and Mike Martz, Francis Schmidt created more wing formations than Col. Sanders.”

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  • http://www.radioopensource.org/user/sidewalker sidewalker

    Are you talking about the evolution of football and rugby football to “American football”? It is so confusing to us fans of the beautiful game when you don’t refer to that Ivy League hybrid by its proper name.

    As for what would make me tune in? Stuck in a Minnesota motel room in a snowstorm with only a choice between Fox News or a Vikings game on the tube. Come to think of it, better to snuggle up under the blankets and enjoy the fire and brimstone of the Old Testament.

  • http://olywa.blogspot.com emmettoconnell

    Your reference to the office as being a “baseball kind of place,” reminds me of a line of thought I had over the weekend. I went to my first Pac-10 game at Husky Stadium in Seattle on Saturday (I’d been to non-conference games before) and it provided a stark contrast between watching baseball and watching football.

    The Husky game was much more intense than a Mariners game, which is probably why I’m more of a baseball fan than football, though I love watching football on t.v. I’ll probably go to more Husky games in the future, I’ll just prepare myself a bit better next time.

    In terms of the evolution of football, when I covered sports for a small weekly, I thought it was interesting that sometimes you would see a true pro set on one side of the ball, while on the other side you would see an old time Wing T. And, it wasn’t usually the older or worse coach that used a more basic, traditional approach.

  • http://www.radioopensource.org/author/david/ David

    Emmett: This is interesting. What do you mean by “preparing” yourself for future Husky games? What kind of intensity did you encounter? Is this about pace, or volume, or emotion?

    And a larger question for the community. After talking to Michael Lewis and Aaron Schatz, I’m hoping that we’ll talk tonight about how to watch football. To get that started: how do YOU watch the game? What do you pay attention to? Are you following the ball, or the action away from the ball? Is it possible to do both, in real time? How can you take in the maneuvers of 22 players all at once?

  • http://olywa.blogspot.com emmettoconnell

    David: I think it was my lack of mental preparation because of all three “pace, volume and emotion.” I’ve been to countless high school football games as a reporter, so I’m able to appreciate the live product, but the scenery (literally a sea of purple all day), the noise and emotional letdown at the end of the day took a lot out of me.

    Compared to the Oregon State vs. Washington State game I went to the week before, UW was a completly different world.

    Next time, I’ll also be the proud owner of at least two pieces of Husky attire, so I won’t feel left out for most of the day.

  • nother

    I’m fascinated that unlike baseball, American football has not translated well to other nations. What makes the gridiron game unique to America? For one thing, football embodies the corporate centric aspect of American life. Specialization, ruthlessness, anonymity, commercialization, and of course the bottom line.

    Specialization: A team is broken down into departments with players and coaches that specialize in those specific departments, like middle managers. There is the defensive team, the offensive team, and special teams; there is even a practice team with it’s own players. The teams employ up to 15 coaches with 9 executives and 53 players who must learn complex schemes.

    Ruthlessness: A successful corporation is ruthless; if an employee has lost their value they are gone. Bill Belichek (the strongest branch from Bill Parcells coaching tree) may be the most ruthless coach in sports, and also the most successful. He is renowned for letting go of popular players because they asked for more then their “value.” He does not pay for past services; loyalty is not a factor. This is successful because unlike baseball there is no guaranteed contracts, if you can’t play, they don’t pay.

    Anonymity: Most players walk down our city streets unnoticed, they are anonymous, they are x’s and o’s for a game plan, they are the faceless cogs drudging away in their cubicles for the greater good of the company.

    Inasmuch as football embodies the corporations of capitalism, it also feeds the beast. The stories we hear about the Super Bowl all relate to money. How much it is bringing to the host city, how much for commercials, how much will be wagered.

    The bottom line.

  • Old Nick

    Why you, the football-hater, might glean some value from this show

    Confession: I’m a closet sports fan. I grew up with the ’68 (& ‘72) Detroit Tigers, the late Lombardi Green Bay Packers, and the Daryle Lamonica-to-Fred Biletnikoff Oakland Raiders. Like many American kids of the Sixties, I played softball and hardball on the grass-worn neighborhood diamonds. Lots of fun, of course, but for shy kids, the high ‘failure rate’ inherent in baseball was somewhat intimidating. Which made casual, pick-up football a very welcome second sport.

    Because anyone, even shy kids, can run hard and tackle. (Tackling doesn’t have to be mean, just firm.)

    Some of us were better at drawing up plays than throwing the ball or catching it. But since football is more a team – cooperative – sport than baseball (a series of one-on-one contests between batter and battery, and then, impersonally, between batted ball and fielder), blocking, ball-carrying, and defending offered vital roles to those of us less gifted with hand-eye-coordination. In football, every player must contribute. It’s an intricate choreography of eleven individuals trying to move the egg (ball) across the goal (womb? – anyone recall Tom Leherer’s Freudian analysis of the game? – or was it George Carlin?) protected by another eleven.

    So, that’s my background. It’s why I can relish the sight of a pulling guard and fullback blocking linemen and linebackers to ‘make a hole’ for ball-toting, fancy-footed tailbacks. Which sets up ‘play-action’: a fullback pretending to ‘whiff’ (miss) his block, which frees him up for a short pass from the quarterback, who’s just faked a hand-off to the tailback (who then blocks the oncoming ‘red-dogging’ linebacker). In short, football can be not only a game but an art. It’s complex, however, and, for the novice, hard to learn to appreciate.

    Howevah: much as a love the play of the game, I can’t stand football culture.

    I deplore the egotism of the celebrity coaches, the narcissism of the players, and, most of all, the rabid machismo and its nasty sexist underbelly. The fans, meanwhile, can be utter asses: swept into an ersatz tribalism that forgives their players’ personal excesses even while creating it by ridiculous idolization and ego-pampering. All this absurdity paradoxically reaches its zenith in the NFL – where the game has been developed into its most watchable form, and where the most amazingly talented players display their abilities. Anyone lucky enough to have watched the peerless yet humble Barry Sanders will know what I’m talking about: he ran, cut, stopped dead and restarted in a different direction (avoiding those oncoming tacklers) like no one else before or since. Somehow, through it all, he remained a normal human – a shy kid from Wichita. So, football culture, even while a sewer, doesn’t necessarily corrupt everyone it touches.

    I guess the point is this: football is a great ‘street’ game. And though it’s hard to appreciate the collegiate and professional levels of the game because of the attendant culture, it’s not impossible. It’s watchable. Riveting, even, sometimes.

    But it’s hardly a good place to find decent, empathetic role models. Nor is it a religion, although, regrettably, it serves as a substitute for religiosity.

    Take it for what it is: a game for kids who like running and teamwork. And a game that’s at its best when the players appreciate the opposition as much as their teammates.

    Finally, please do not discount the contribution that sports in general and football especially have made to the (ongoing) fight against societal racism. Yes, it’s hardly a won battle; but the televised images of white and black teammates cooperating toward a collective goal set weekly examples for a generation of Americans. Televised football played an inestimable role in ‘normalizing’ relations between America’s white majority and its darker-skinned minorities. (‘Normalizing’ in quotes because racism surely still lives – but it’s no longer considered a necessary and proper public virtue, as it was a mere four decades ago.)

    (Go Tigers!)

  • pryoung

    Along the lines nother sketches out, I’ve long marveled at how football conceives of the notion of “play”. The word has more significance in football as a noun than as a verb. And of course, as a noun, it connotes exactly the opposite of play’s freedom and spontaneity. A play is a minutely choreographed, filmed, re-played and studied event, involving—as nother suggests—scores of specialists up in their technically-outfitted booths with their flow charts.

    There is management in all sports, obviously, but nowhere does it pervade the “game” as fully as in football. That might also be what makes it so TV-friendly, as the technology really enhances the experience of the game in a way that it doesn’t for other sports. It did come to supplant baseball as the national pastime in the age of television, after all.

  • nother

    It’s a mans game in a patriarchal society, the only women involved stand on the sidelines in skirts and cheer. Who the hell are they cheering up? Ostensible the players but in reality they are just eye candy for the beer guzzling face painters in the stands during TV timeouts. During these TV timeouts we’re used to sitting on the couch and watching scantily clad woman be objectified on commercials, so why should that change at the game.

    When I watch a football game with “all my rowdy friends” I feel my testosterone viscerally increasing. I went to a boxing match last year and felt the same thing. The collective energy taps into some primal machismo sensibility, I feel like grunting.

    I think I like grunting.

    Ultimately football is about the tribal spirit displayed in war. A baseball game is about two tribes battling on a higher plane. When the Red Sox and Yankees play it’s a battle of wits, which city is superior in an intellectual sense. Red Sox fans call the Yankee fans names like arrogant and dimwitted. When The Patriots play the Steelers it’s about two tribes going to war, which city would win if we battled to the death? Patriots fans don’t call Steelers fans names so much as yell you’re going down, we’ll going to kill you.

    Point of fact, Yankee’s fans are arrogant and dimwitted.

  • pryoung

    Ah, having spent substantial time in the cheap seats at both Yankee Stadium and Fenway, nother, I can tell you that the experience bears rather little resemblance to Plato’s Symposium.

    I don’t disagree entirely with what you say about football, though I think it’s worth considering why it is in effect a kind of civic ritual in most parts of the country, especially when the high school and college games are added to the mix. Were it as obvious as you suggest it to be, I don’t know if it would have risen to that position. And women are there in the stands, often in equal numbers as men.

  • nother

    Pryong, interesting points about the idea of “play.” It made me think about how video game are becoming so “real” looking that we won’t know the difference soon between a “real” football game and a video football game.

    David, I’m glad you brought up how we watch football. I get so frustrated watching on TV because the camera stays zoomed in on the quarterback when he is deciding whom to throw to. We don’t get to see the wide receivers running their patterns; consequently, we can’t be in on that decision. We have to wait until he throws it and the camera fades back. We miss all that action. We have to wait for the replay and it’s not the same. They should show the game from a wider angle or at least have a split screen.

    One last point before I go to work. The people who were at the opening New Orleans Saints game this season, say it was the most emotional sporting event they have ever experienced, thousands of people crying together in solidarity. I’m sure there weren’t many residents of the 9th Ward at the game but something about the strength of football gave these people a needed jolt.

    No matter how much football evolves or changes, it’s the Troy Browns of the world who will make the game enjoyable to watch.

  • nother

    Points well taken pryong.

    Oh yea, I believe tailgating is an American phenomenon, and tailgating at a football game is very cool.

  • Old Nick

    To David’s question: “(H)ow do YOU watch the game? What do you pay attention to? Are you following the ball, or the action away from the ball? Is it possible to do both, in real time? How can you take in the maneuvers of 22 players all at once?”

    nother makes the right point here: “I get so frustrated watching on TV because the camera stays zoomed in on the quarterback when he is deciding whom to throw to. We don’t get to see the wide receivers running their patterns; consequently, we can’t be in on that decision. We have to wait until he throws it and the camera fades back. We miss all that action. We have to wait for the replay and it’s not the same. They should show the game from a wider angle or at least have a split screen.”

    The only solution for watching the game on TV is this: pay attention not to the ball but to the offensive line.

    At the snap, watch the two guards (on either side of the center, who snaps the ball to the quarterback). If the guards stand and retreat, it’s most likely a passing play. If the guards instead plow forward or, better yet, pivot and run laterally to the line of scrimmage before colliding with their blocking assignments (usually a defensive lineman or linebacker), it’ a running play.

    Watching the blocking can be much more rewarding than watching the ball. Because the game is determined not by the prima donna wide receivers, or by the feted quarterback, or even by the punishment-absorbing halfbacks.

    It’s determined by the linemen. The offensive linemen. The guys who make the least money (in professional football), but without whose efforts the rest of the designed plays hopelessly flounder.

    Which makes it a telling metaphor for our society’s upside-down priorities, I suppose. We don’t care about the workers but about their manipulators.

  • http://olywa.blogspot.com emmettoconnell

    As much as i understand the cultural differences between baseball and football, I cringe when people refer to baseball as a “thinking” sport, while football is all about brute force. As the topic of this show will likely display, football has become so much more complicated in the past 50 years than baseball. From run-and-shoot to West Coast offense, there have been very few similar developments on the baseball side. The middle reliever or the DH.

    There are as many subtle points to football as there are in baseball, but rather the culture surounding the sport makes it seem more brute.

    An awesome study of college football culture is Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer, the story (and blog) or Warren St John as he follows the Crimson Tide.

  • Jessmm

    What about the cult of fantasy football? If it’s the plays and the strategies that are so important, what’s the allure of concocting the “pefect line?” Is a virtual play-making game too much in the line of a chemistry set in terms of relevant play?

  • ideaguy

    I rarely read about sports anymore, but I loved Michael Lewis’s recent article on Michael Oher in the NYT magazine. How is he doing at Ole Miss – on and off the field? And, while we’re on the subject, how does BYU get away with offering those “gut courses” online?

    Thanks!

    Bill McDonough in Beverly MA

  • peggy sue

    The show is just coming out here in KUOW land. I just turned on my radio and heard Christopher Lydon say George Carlin “left something out.” Meanwhile I was just thinking of Carlin and looking this up. In case anyone out there is not familiar with the Carlin comparison… here it is… yeah – I’m sure all you machos sports types have heard it…

    George Carlin compares Football to Baseball…

    Baseball is a nineteenth-century pastoral game.

    Football is a twentieth-century technological struggle.

    Baseball is played on a diamond, in a park.The baseball park!

    Football is played on a gridiron, in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium.

    Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.

    Football begins in the fall, when everything’s dying.

    In football you wear a helmet.

    In baseball you wear a cap.

    Football is concerned with downs – what down is it?

    Baseball is concerned with ups – who’s up?

    In football you receive a penalty.

    In baseball you make an error.

    In football the specialist comes in to kick.

    In baseball the specialist comes in to relieve somebody.

    Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting and unnecessary roughness.

    Baseball has the sacrifice.

    Football is played in any kind of weather: rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog…

    In baseball, if it rains, we don’t go out to play.

    Baseball has the seventh inning stretch.

    Football has the two minute warning.

    Baseball has no time limit: we don’t know when it’s gonna end – might have extra innings.

    Football is rigidly timed, and it will end even if we’ve got to go to sudden death.

    In baseball, during the game, in the stands, there’s kind of a picnic feeling; emotions may run high or low, but there’s not too much unpleasantness.

    In football, during the game in the stands, you can be sure that at least twenty-seven times you’re capable of taking the life of a fellow human being.

    And finally, the objectives of the two games are completely different:

    In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.

    In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! – I hope I’ll be safe at home!

  • http://http::myspace.com/theexchangerate stoneg64

    Great Show,

    As a massive 5-7 former high school offensive linemen, I know some of the complexities that goes into blocking for a runningback or quarterback. I thought the game was interesting before I played but once I learned the subtleties of zone-blocking and trap-blocking, I was sold for life. A devestating block can often be as interesting as a long pass play down the sidelines. Intricacies such as a blocking scheme are what make watching football and endlessly interesting game to watch and learn about. Football seems to have the ultimate balance of wit and skill.

    Go Pats! He he!

  • nother

    Just heard the podcast, thankyou for it.

    First I want to thank David for actually contributing to the blog, something we need much more of.

    The conversation started out with a discussion about the different dynamics between the Offensive and Defensive sides of the ball. Y.S. Kim Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland writes something interesting here: http://www.physics.umd.edu/robot/einstein/kant/kant.html

    “I would like to stress that Taoism is not confined to the ancient Eastern world. It is practiced frequently in the United States. Let us look at American football games. The offensive strategy does not rely on brute force, but is aimed at breaking the harmony of the defense. For instance, when the offensive team is near the end zone, the defense becomes very strong because it covers only a small area. Then, it is not uncommon for the offense to place four wide-receivers instead of two. This will divide the defense into two sides while creating a hole in the middle. Then the quarter-back can carry the ball to the end zone. The key word is to destroy the balance of the defense.”

  • plnelson

    “Specialization, ruthlessness, anonymity, commercialization, and of course the bottom line.”

    Football doesn’t come CLOSE to baseball WRT corporate bottom-line thinking!

    Baseball is all about money. One of the reasons I STOPPED following basball is because of how much of it always seemed to be more appropriate for the business pages than the sports pages, with salary disputes and rich teams buying other teams’ star players, and crippling strikes and naked attempts to buy pennants.

    By comparison, the NFL looks like a bunch of pinko-commie socialists with their salary cap and revenue-distributing schemes and adjustments in draft picks, all in an effort to maintain a level playing field.

    Furthermore, anyone who regard baseball as a thinking man’s game hasn’t studied an NFL playbook. I know they don’t LOOK very smart, but I’m convinced football players must have minds like computers to be able to digest (and REMEMBER!) those complex plays, and be able to adjust rapidly to different looks the other team is throwing at them.

    I’ve been a football fan since the third grade (when I was friends wih Billy Sullivan’s son, Patrick before they packed him off to private school) and for years suffered the embarrassment of rooting for the Patriots, who, more often than not, were an automatic “W” for the OTHER team’s record. But I stuck by them and these last few years have been WONDERFUL for football fans here in New England.

  • nother

    You make some good points pinelson. Maybe we should take the pro sports out of the equation, they have entered a unique sphere where money rules all. If we look at just high school and college football and baseball I believe my theory would hold.

    Also someone please answer a question I hoped they would get to in the show, why has American football not translated well to other nations, as opposed to baseball and basketball?

  • nother

    Pinelson, they answerd the “thinking man” issue in the show. Football is complex to play and simple to observe, while baseball is simple to play and complex to observe.

    Check out pryoungs point about “play” above.

  • nother

    As far as the Patriots are concerned, they are bucking the thoery put forth in the show that the passing game rules all; they are ploughing ahead this year with strickly an old school running game in the form of Maroney, Dillon, and Faulk.

    A good coach does not impose his philosophy on the team he looks at the tools he has and adjusts his game plan accordingly. For years Bill Parcells was known as a “running coach” but now he passes as much as anyone – he has the tools.

  • rc21

    Some very good points made on this thread. To Nother football has caught on somewhat in Europe. I’m not sure it will ever be as popular as basketball. You must understand the expense of the sport as opposed to basketball. Also soccer seems to be the counter to football in many countries.

    Football is an extremly complex sport especially at the higher levels. The political and societal comparisons I find to be humorous, Why must we try and over analyze everything. Football like all sports, should be looked at for what they are..Sport. Good for the mind and good for the body.

    The thing I find interesting about football as well as other sports is how much luck, and officiating comes into play. In many cases it makes or breaks you. In the late 70,s Sugar bear Hamilton gets called for a vey controversial penalty allowing the Raiders to go on and win the super bowl. A few years ago We remember the famous tuck play with Brady. If not for that, the Pats watch the super bowl on T.V.

  • plnelson

    “Also someone please answer a question I hoped they would get to in the show, why has American football not translated well to other nations, as opposed to baseball and basketball? ”

    I think football is a very expensive sport to play. You need to have very large rosters compared to baseball and basketball. It’s too exhausting for one player to play offense and defense in the same game (at least for long – Patriots players like Mike Vrabel and Troy Brown often switch off but only for a few plays) . So with offenseive and defensive players and special teams, and allowing for positional specialization and enough bench to cover the inevitable injuries, and you really need teams with 50+ man rosters. Add to that the additional specialization needed for coaching and training, plus necessary practice squads and you’re talking about huge personnel costs compared to other sports.

    And then there’s all that equipment. And the cost of maintaining a field that gets badly torn up in ordinary play, and the medical cost of the injuries that result from such a rough game, and I think American football is in another league (so to speak) from the other sports, financially.

    I think the cost factor explains a lot more than any alleged cultural differences regarding aggressive Americans -vs- peaceful, pastoral Europeans. The British play rugby, the Spanish have bullfighting, etc.

  • fabkebab

    For someone from UK who has never much enjoyed *American* football, I thought this was an excellent show – I really got a lot out of it which cast the sport in a new light- well done

  • fabkebab

    As for the question about why the sport hasnt caught on in other places -

    1 ) Rich countries already have sports like soccer and rugby, and American football probably cant repay the investment required to bring it to the mainstream (which is what the previous poster said)

    2 ) Poor countries probably cant afford the equipment, and also probably would not be able to tolerate the injuries since it would leave them crippled for life if they only had limited health care!!

  • nother

    Ahh, you guys are coming into my web of corporate theory, nice… Specialization entails money and corporations entail money. The more money that the NFL has grossed the more specialized it has become. Some teams have 15 coaches now! Are you going to tell me that Vince Lombardi had 15 coaches? I know Jim Leyland doesn’t have 15 coaches. Pinelson made some good points but he(?) was missing the point. The structure of teams, the specialization of the teams, the money of teams, is what embodies the corporate centric structure of the US, not the structure of the league. The structure of the league is socialistic in it’s want of parody and I find that ironic or complex or something.

    Rc21 says: “Why must we try and over analyze everything.” Why? Because it’s better than watching TV. What”s wrong with analyzing something we spend so much time watching? Rc21, you have to admit, we watch NFL football so much, it must be taping into some major part of our culture, what’s wrong with talking about where that originates from?

    The best thing about football is they play in any element, enough said.

  • rc21

    To nother: you are correct. It is fine to over analyze football. I guess I should have said ” Lets be careful about drawing to many cultural and social conclusions”. Your point about capitalism and football holds some truth but Someone could and I believe did make a case that it is also comparable to socialism. It is a definite Equal work by all to attain the goal. vs other more individual sports. Also, “The violent macho culture of football makes it popular in the USA” theory. Someone pointed out bull fighting in Spain, and soccer in Europe. I will add to that the extremely macho and violent game of Hockey, which is favored by the peace loving countries of Norway and Sweeden.

    I have a question for you and others. I grew up playing all sports and really loved them. I currently am involved in sports. But I find myself becoming less interested in proffesional sports save the sox and pats. I could care less about the NBA, and that was my favorite sport growing up. I used to go right to the sports page when I was younger. Now I read it last. Just wondering if others have had this experience. Sorry I did not mean to change the subject.

  • plnelson

    “Pinelson made some good points but he(?) was missing the point. The structure of teams, the specialization of the teams, the money of teams, is what embodies the corporate centric structure of the US, ”

    But nother’s QUESTION was why don’t other countries adopt football.

    The “corporate structure” has nothing to do with that.

    I work for a large, European multinational corporation. The Europeans are perfectly capable of using a “corporate structure” where it suits them. There is nothing uniquely American, about a hierarchical, heavily specialized corporation. Plenty of Japanese corporations have refined that concept to even greater heights than most US ones. Also, watch how football offensive teams break huddles, and how some Japanese corporations end strategy meetings.

    Football doesn’t have a “corporate structure” because it’s American; Football has a “corporate structure” because that WORKS. I’ll bet a traditional Lombardi team wouldn’t be competitive in today’s NFL.

    Having spent time in Japan and having worked on a cooperative project with a Japanese partner, I’ve often wondered why football isn’t popular over there. Many of NFL football’s values of self-sacrifice, team spirit, personal sacrifice for the team goals, and enduring pain, are elements of bushido, the Japanese warrior spirit. Instead, Japan has embraced baseball, which, with its individualism and lack of team play, would seem antithetical to Japanese values.

  • plnelson

    “Just wondering if others have had this experience. Sorry I did not mean to change the subject. ”

    I used to be a big baseball fan but I got fed up with the way money has distorted the game.

    Also, in the old days of baseball you could hardly imagine your star players playing for anyone else, at least in the prime of their careers. Sometimes in their declining years a bona-fide star might get traded, or a star might begin as a rookie for another team, but during their prime they played for one team. Micky Mantle was a Yankee, period. Ditto with Whitey Ford. Ted Williams and Yaz were Red Sox. Stan the Man played for the Cards.

    Nowadays baseball players are just mercenaries with no team loyalty.

    Also i used to be a much bigger basketball fan a few decades ago (it probabl yhelped that in those days the Celtics were class of NBA for years.) Two things hav changed – the quality of play has gotten TERRIBLE with all the expansion teams. And also it’s hard to play well carrying around all that EGO that modern basketball players seem to have.

  • rc21

    To plnelson : Those are exactly my sentiments. I would add another thing that has turned basketball into a side show. The fact that palming and traveling have become a major part of the game yet they are almost never called.

  • nother

    Well, the way I see it you guys are missing out, there are some great things happing in the NBA. I’m perplexed at your criticism but not surprised. I take it that you two are white American men right? I tend bar and talk sports with many people and with very few exceptions they the white Americans criticize today’s NBA. Please don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying you are racist. What I’m saying is there is a BIG difference between today’s NBA and your dad’s NBA. The difference is there are NO white American stars in the NBA. Name one for me. There are a few white guys but they are foreigners. The way I see it, all these white Americans that criticize today’s NBA simply do not identify with today’s players.

    You write: “Two things have changed – the quality of play has gotten TERRIBLE with all the expansion teams. And also it’s hard to play well carrying around all that EGO that modern basketball players seem to have.”

    You’re dead wrong. The fact is the best team the last few years has been the Detroit Pistons, a model team. This is a team without superstars, Chauncey Billops is their best player and anyone could have had him a few years ago. They have succeeded as a team, by checking their egos at the door and by playing great defense. They are a role model for kids everywhere. They would suceed in any era.

    Another fact, the NBA’s best player right now is LeBron James and he is a model citizen. Has he shown you something with his ego that turns you off? Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Steve Nash, all model citizens who whose level of play could be matched up to any era. Sure you could give me some names of players whose egos hurt their teams but for every NBA player you give me, I’ll give you the name of a football or baseball player whose ego has been a detriment to their team. You say you don’t watch because of the lack of palming and traveling calls, are you serious? That’s like saying I not going to watch football because of the lack of Interference calls, or forget baseball because ot the lack of adherence to the strike zone. The lack of enforcement of these rules happens in every sport and like it or not, it’s to encourage more scoring.

    My hope really is you will step back and look at the NBA anew. In the words of Rick Pitino, Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, are not walking through that door folks – but some new great players are.

  • nother

    Expansion has hurt every sport, look at hockey. In baseball there are many pitchers pitching in the bigs who shouldn’t be out of double A, here they are though giving of homers by the bus load. Yet you still watch MLB, why?

  • plnelson

    “They have succeeded as a team, by checking their egos at the door and by playing great defense. They are a role model for kids everywhere. They would suceed in any era.

    Another fact, the NBA’s best player right now is LeBron James and he is a model citizen. ”

    But these players are the exception. They arose as a REACTION to the all the Kobe Bryants and Dennis Rodmans and Ron Artest charging into the stands at a Pistons/Pacers game 2 years ago.

    “Yet you still watch MLB, why?”

    ‘You’ who? I stopped watching MLB years ago, for exactly the reasons I mentioned.

  • nother

    What about Terry O’riely charging into the stands years ago, didn’t Ted Williams spit on fans, I know their are baseball players who have gone into the stands. You say “these players are the exceptions” Ok, what about Ray Allen, Ben Wallace, Grant Hill, Richard Jefferson, I could give you more if you like. Tell me the sport or the era you like or liked and I will give you names of player comparable to Bryant, Rodman, and Artest.

  • nother

    corrections: Terry O’reilly and in my 4:24 post I said parody instead of parity, duhh…

  • rc21

    To nother: I Played Bball growing up it was my favorite sport. The travelling and palming infractions have changed the game beyond anything that the others sports call or dont call. In the first place the strike zone has always been at the discretion of the ump,be it good or bad. Palming and travelling are infractions that have literally transformed the sport. Look at the jumpstop move. That is clearly an up and down call.

    I really hate people always trying to bring up the race issue. My alltime favorite player is Bill Russell. And that is for every sport not just Bball. My second favorite is Larry Bird, but only because he is white There are you happy.( I’m kidding )People who play and follow sports pick their heroes or people they like because of how they play the game and their personality. not because of their skin color. People who are casual sports fans may go by race. I dont know and could not care less.

    Let me guess you are either a minority who loves basketball because it is dominated by blacks or you are a patronizing liberal who thinks if he tells all the brothers how much he loves basketball they will think “Wow what a cool hip white guy” Why are you so concerned about how many white stars are in the NBA. I dont see what bearing that has on the fact that my home team the Celtics stink and have stunk for almost 20 years.

    One reason I played and coached sports for so long is because race plays little if any part in the closed environment of a team sport. No forced intergration, No liberal elitists trying to socialy engineer some bizzare multi ethnic,culturaly diverse scenario, where every group gets egual attention and is given equal value. It is just a bunch of guys/women working hard togeather to achieve a single goal. This is how special friendships are formed that last a lifetime. It is also the best way to get races to come togeather. I experienced the same thing while in the service.

    So if you want to bring race up fine. but in my case you are way off target. I wont speak for plnelson. He is smarter than me. He can defend himself.

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