So this weekend I went to watch my lowly NY Giants lose, as expected, to the only slightly less lowly Dallas Cowboys - and it got me to thinking about sports as a whole. Why we watch, what we watch, and what we want to see...and it occurred to me that maybe all of the things that we've been doing to improve the health and longevity of our players...indeed the purity of the games...is actually counteractive to the things we like to see.
What we like to see?
Well, lets be honest here. There's some folks that are into pitcher duels in baseball, and some that are into defensive struggles in football. At the end of the day, however, each sport has one thing that will bring people to their feet and make them "oooh and aaah". In baseball, there is no moment that will stagger a crowd on a regular basis like a huge blast of a home run.
It's truth. No matter how much people say that they want baseball to remain a pure sport, the thing that really jazzes us up is a 500 foot blast over the scoreboard, out of the city, and into next week. There's a reason the All-Star game features a Home Run Derby and not a fastball derby.
In football, it's the big hit. I'm as guilty of it as anyone: I LOVE watching a quarterback get destroyed by a massive linebacker or lineman coming in untouched. I love when, halfway up a stadium, I can HEAR the hit. Obviously I'm not a total caveman, I don't really want to see anyone get injured per say (keeping in mind, there's a difference between getting HURT and getting INJURED)...but I absolutely love the sheer brutality of the game.
Ironically enough, in all of the various league's fervor to protect their assets, these are the very things being taken OUT of the game. Baseball cracking down on performance enhancing drugs, for example - well, we're not too likely to see a McGwire vs Sosa homerun race again any time soon, are we? And football...oh football, what has happened to my game? I'm all for some protection, but some of the penalties we've seen called this year for "touching the quarterback" essentially have been just ridiculous. I submit for consideration the hit by Ahmad Brooks on quarterback Drew Brees:
Hard hit? You bet your ass. But we're playing football here people, not tiddlywinks, and a 15k fine for a hit that was, in essence, completely clean is such a crock I can't even get over it. When Ray Lewis, admittedly not a poster boy for clean living or play, says he's going to pay half the kid's fine for that hit, you KNOW something is wonky. Honestly, it's like telling WWE stars (admittedly, I know it's fake there) that steel chairs are now forbidden - you're taking out of the game what we, the fans, WANT to see. We WANT to see Drew Brees' neck stretch out like a turtle on what was, in essence, a completely clean hit - just a good, HARD hit.
So what do we do now?
Well, lets think about this for a moment. What the pro leagues are doing right now is trying to make their games safe and sound. They're trying for purity and they're trying to ensure that their players can enjoy life after insert sport here. All of those are, I think, admirable things. But what about those of us who just want what is being taken from those games? For that matter, what about the players who would be willing to risk a little more in exchange for the brutal game they grew up with (Ndamukong Suh, I'm looking at you)?
Here's what I would propose. Call me Vince McMahon but with an actual plan. I want to see the SFL: the Steroid Football League. Now hear me out on this before you go slamming me: drug testing at the start of each season and anyone NOT on performance enhancing drugs is out...or better still, forced to act as a cheerleader for the league. I want a league with nothing but the biggest, baddest, nastiest bastards on the planet. Your career will be short but memorable: much like the grand finale of Pippin, this is your chance to have one pure moment and go out in a blaze of friggin glory. Penalties remain in place - but contact penalties? This babying of the quarterback? Screw that. In fact, I want a weight limit placed on QBs - you must be 250lbs or more with under an 5% body fat rating. I want my QBs to be as scary as the NFLs linebackers.
Now I know what you're thinking, all those guys on 'roids, we're talking about the makings for violent crimes when on the street. This is true, however not with the SFL - oh no. These guys will have dormitory living, and they'll be monitored by guys deemed "too violent" to play, even in the new SFL.
Baseball - same general idea. I don't want guys who can steal bases. I don't want guys who can bunt for a single. I want scores in the double digits every game and, if possible, I want at least two bench clearing brawls in every game. In short, I want to restore the violence that has been so eagerly ripped out of professional sports in general (except hockey...I love hockey).
So what do you think? Obviously it's not a realistic idea - federal and state laws aside - but would bringing a little of the violence of MMA/WWE to football/baseball make them more interesting? More to the point, would you pay to watch a football game so violent that it more closely resembles Mutant League Football than the NFL? Would going "so far" allow a league to succeed where a league that tinkered like the XFL failed? In a world where videos of people being beheaded get millions of clicks, I think the time is right to bring 'roids into the mainstream and, to quote the Bad News Bears, "LET THEM PLAY".