The NFL ran its Pro Bowl weekend, sinking into the party theme that it’s always been for everyone in any sport really. It used to be that players didn’t mind the free trip to Hawaii, though when it got to be they could all easily afford a trip to Hawaii that sort of lost its charm. So the NFL made this one in Vegas a week-long carnival of sorts, and it was met with mostly positive reviews from players and fans.
There are those out there who would have you believe it was a test run for what football could look like one day, when the league gives in on what player safety actually looks like. They’re probably the same ones who bitch about every personal foul and targeting call and use words to describe it that link back to the female anatomy.
There always had been a school of thought that if the NFL, and football as a whole, really was committed to player safety, it would take the helmets and pads off. That they would make the sport look more like rugby, which isn’t bereft of concussion problems but isn’t quite on the scale that football has seen. Removing all that protection would force players to not launch themselves into each other with the same violence they have before, and would have to actually tackle each other instead of hitting each other.
Maybe, maybe not. Would be hard to know without the kind of testing and experiments we haven’t seen. The real question is would fans accept such a version? The urge is to say they wouldn’t. The game has thrived on the collisions and inherent danger of the sport. We all hit the right notes and say our rehearsed lines when something truly awful happens to a player, but that doesn’t mean an overwhelming majority want to see great change. It’s all part of the dance.
While football has leaned more and more into the skill part of the game (and it’s become about passing and players running free), it’s unlikely it could bring itself to fully turn over into something new.
Fans wouldn’t respond to the sound the same way. No crunching of pads, no banging of helmets, no sound of contact, fans would find it too awkward, even if it were safer. No threat of big hits or true stuff at the line of scrimmage. It wouldn’t fly. The fact that the game teeters on the edge of madness, and sometimes spills over it, is the unspoken appeal for most.
Removing the pads and helmets may in fact be safer. Fans being able to actually see players’ faces wouldn’t hurt either. Even more freedom for skill positions may be entertaining. But deep down, safer isn’t what fans and the league really want, deep down.
The NHL managed to break some news on its All-Star break, with Bo Horvat signing an eight-year extension with the New York Islanders after his trade there from Vancouver. And boy, did Lou sound thrilled to lock down his new No. 2 center!
It’s not much of a secret that the game has passed Lamoriello by. He’s complained before about there being no contract term limits or salary limits, and has openly bitched about having to pay players more than canned food. His refusal to allow facial hair on players or for anyone to wear a jersey number over 40 are anachronisms.
But mostly, the Isles have sputtered under his watch. The Isles goofed one 100+ point season with a roster not built by Lou and by some Barry Trotz magic, and that’s been about it. They haven’t been close since, and had The Bubble their recent record would look even more heinous. They’re only two points out of a playoff spot but everyone around them has games in hand on them.
No one made Lou pay a career second-line center first-line money. But he did, and he’s already trying to make everyone feel like shit about it. He must be a real gas to work for.
In a sea of players who live to not rock the boat and have nothing to say about anything, at least the Canadiens boast one who gets it: