As I get older, I ought to appreciate tradition more and, I guess, in some ways, I do. I also can remember the days when innovations were introduced to tradition-steeped institutions and the uproar when the word “change” was mentioned. In this blog’s case, change in the the world of football is the subject – and one change in particular.
It’s not a new rules change like instant replay, or even others like moving the goalposts to the back of the end zone or moving the kickoff to the 30-yard line (from the 35, from the 40). Nor is it the attempts to help the offense, like “protecting the quarterback,” allowing the “O” line to extend their arms and use their hands, disallowing contact with the receiver shortly after he leaves the line of scrimmage or even the elimination of the “horse-collar” tackle. Purists lament change, many becuase they say that the records are rendered meaningless – as if records were the reason people tuned into games. Besides, for those people, if they feel that strongly, my suggestion is to push for asterisks. It’s not like we’re ever going to run out of them – look: (*******) and I have plenty more where they came from.
The game is what people enjoy and if some records become obsolete, well, there are worse things that could happen. Check your last 401K statement for further proof.
The one innovation that everyone seems to agree on is Monday Night Football. But even this source of massive entertainment didn’t emerge unscathed by critics. “The NFL means Sunday” was the mantra for the “beer-in-one-hand, nuts (careful with your imagination) in the other” (or chips, hot dog, brat, or whatever choice of food), said the true NFL fan. Although the sport created the term “Sunday NFL widow,” most women could at least plan on free Sunday afternoons with their other “mourners.”
There were others who claimed there was no way a game could be broadcast with three guys in the booth – that they would take away from the game, that they’d be tripping and screaming all over each other (kind of like a CNN political show with guests) or how one guy would be the odd man out and become irrelevant. All of this could have happened if not for the brilliance of Roone Arledge and the ultimate choice of members in the booth.
We were presented with Howard Cosell, a guy who was extremely erudite (although not as smart as he thought he was), “Dandy” Don Meredith (a good ol’ country boy who allowed people to think he wasn’t very bright, but was much more clever than he let on) and Frank Gifford, who served as moderator and “voice of reason” for the trio, all the while possessing a sense of humor (which if he hadn’t, he probably wouldn’t have lasted very long).
MNF has become not only accepted, but a stage for defining performances, like when players are heard to say the likes of, “We are not only going to make a statement, but we have a chance to do it on the greatest stage of all, Monday Night Football.” Players realize they’re entertainers (some a little more over-the-top than others), and they understand, whether fans have Direct TV or not, there’s only one game on Monday night.
Although a little extreme, Eric Hoffer (not, I’m led to believe, the biggest football fanatic who ever lived) said something that applies to most change:
In a time of drastic change, it isthe learners who inherit the future because the learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
P.S. Don’t ask me who won because I didn’t watch, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize a great innovation when one comes my way.