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The NFL Has Accepted The 80-Yard Field So Now Chaos Can Reign

Photo: Norm Hall (Getty)

So it turns out that professional football teams can do all the things they need to do on any given day with 20 percent less field. All they have to do is not give much of a damn about it.

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And there’s your latest of example why the vicious scam of practice football is coming undone. If the 80-yard field in Winnipeg for Packers-Raiders last night didn’t matter, if the two teams could work around the goalpost holes nobody thought to deal with in the months-long lead-up to the game, if the organizers could figure out that lowering prices for something nobody wants is actually the way the economy should work—if all these things happened and a game was still inflicted upon us, then progress toward a better planet is being made.

It has already been established that the 32 NFL coaches can make enough work for their players without even bothering with games, and have stopped bothering to lie their way around that decades-old truth from the suckers...err, customers. It has been shown that they don’t even use the players they have to pay to do this nonsense, and this is in a league that is trying to make being at the office for players as close to a 52-week-a-year thing as possible. It has also been shown that fans would rather flush their tickets than be seen using them (StubHub was advertising $5 tickets for Jacksonville-Miami, $6 tickets for Washington-Atlanta and $8 for Giants-Cincinnati). And now it doesn’t even matter how long the field is, not even to Jon Gruden.

And while this could be just an elaborate scam to wean America off games they don’t want to increase pressure on the players’ union to add more regular season games (in the NFL, nothing is ever as it seems), it’s still good to see the fellas dropping the pretense. Frankly, they should have played the game in a park with trees and picnic tables and gopher holes and parked cars and an uneven surface and a concrete path running diagonally across the field. If you’re not going to give a damn, don’t give any parts of a damn. After all, nobody else does.

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But let’s advance this even further. Yes, there have been instances in which 80 yards was plenty, including the 1932 NFL championship between the Chicago Bears and Portsmouth Spartans (Portsmouth became the Detroit Lions two years later and even won a few championships in the 1950s before swearing off success for the next century as belated penance for leaving Ohio). And when the Bears played at Wrigley Field, the end zones led directly into the baseball dugouts and weren’t 10 yards deep in the corners. Lesson: You make do when handed doo.

What we’re saying is, if Jon Gruden can put up with 20 percent less ground, and holes where holes shouldn’t be, then 100 yards doesn’t matter at all. It’s just another arbitrary number that can shed whenever the mood strikes. And if 100 yards don’t matter, then neither does the pristine field of painted green, nor the same yard markers for all 32 teams, made in the same size and font for the benefit of some recluse in the video room breaking down receiver splits.

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Oh, the hell with it. Let’s just say it. Bring back mud. As global warming continues to eat the rest of the planet, let’s embrace the new string of thigh-deep-snow games. Let’s have uneven conditions, and even badly lined fields that may or may not approach normal dimensions. Uniformity is Satan’s choice, not ours, and now that the envelope of exhibition football as a necessity has been destroyed, let’s get to work on all the other presumptions around the game. It’s only unfair if both teams don’t agree to play by the same rules on game day, and besides, screw fairness. The only real value to keeping 100 yards as a rigid standard at this point is for fantasy players, and we all know what monumental bores they are when released into gen pop.

If this seems like chaos, well, of course it is. Look around you. Everything is chaos, all across the culture, all across the economy, all across the political diaspora, and in the new world order a man’s word is his shiv. The NFL may be worrying perpetually about audience share and a changing market, so this is its first chance to get ahead of the game again.

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So break the chains of rigidity and uniformity. Destroy standardization. Make the rules mere suggestions, and embrace WTF. Jon Gruden just said it’s okay, and he’s going to his grave knowing that he still the NFL’s pre-eminent tight-ass so you can take this as his personal endorsement, as well as a potential marketing campaign.

“The NFL—80 Is The New 100.” On $159 hoodies at a store near you.


Ray Ratto thinks every time a team wants a play reviewed, it should have to pay $1 million in cash on the spot to a local charity, or take the call it got and shut up about it.

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