Trust me, good people — concussions notwithstanding — an expanded NFL postseason and an 18-game regular season are inexorable. Oh, sure, the players’ union will balk and some sports columnists will protest, but the league wants it and the fans want it and undeniably it will make more money for more people, and last time I checked, America was built on the notion of making more money for more people.
Will the quality of play suffer? Likely. Will more players get hurt? Of course. But players are interchangeable parts, and the bottom line is: We want as many Sundays of football that matters, preferably with the biggest stars intact. Even though we’ll watch anybody in uniform — see NFL replacement games, 1987 — it is more enjoyable if Tom Brady and Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson and Tony Gonzalez are suited up.
But as we approach midseason, players keep getting banged up. Just last week, Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (torn ACL), Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (foot), Colts running back Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) and Panthers guard Amini Silatolu (torn ACL) were lost for the season. Michael Vick (hamstring) and Clay Matthews (thumb) were also sidelined.
When the NFL extends its season, the casualties will grow — unless we take measures now.
This is as clear as climate change.
We can deny the science, continue adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and watch the Earth spiral into apocalyptic extremes, which will spoil a lot of weekend plans for a lot of people.
Similarly, we can deny the reality of our most brutal team sport, let the athletes keep smashing each other into physical ruins and watch the NFL wither, which will spoil even more weekend plans for even more people.
We need to protect our resources, both natural and LSU-made.
Fans don’t come to the games to see players get hurt. At least I don’t think they do; the NFL isn’t “Rollerball” — yet. But nobody wants flag football. We accept the violence and probably delight in it.
(Column Intermission: From Redskins owner Daniel Snyder’s letter to “Redskins Nation” on the team name: “I respect the opinions of those who disagree.” No, you don’t. “I want them to know that I do hear them.” No, you don’t. “I will continue to listen and learn.” No, you won’t.)
In fact, in a nation that stockpiles weapons, I’m surprised the NFL does not mirror our gun culture and permit limited firearms on the field. Combining the best aspects of pro football and paintball, you could allow one defensive player — logically, the safety — to carry a weapon. Let’s say Robert Griffin III streaks down the sideline on a scramble; from across the gridiron, the safety could fire a shot and stop him from reaching the end zone.
Medicine is so advanced these days, the bullet could be removed from Griffin’s leg at halftime, and he would be good to go by the third quarter!
Or as an alternative, I would arm the quarterback — and the quarterback only — and enact “stand your ground” laws in NFL backfields. Let’s see how many sacks J.J. Watt gets when Jay Cutler is packing a Glock 21.
I’m just kidding, folks.
Anyway, I believe Peyton Manning could work 1,000 straight days on an oil rig and sit in an isolation tank for an additional 1,000 hours, then still walk onto an NFL field and, without a single warmup throw, complete 26 of 32 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns.
So why do we want anybody getting near his head, his neck, his arm, his ribs or his knees? Why put him in harm’s way during a routine practice session or a meaningless exhibition game?
You think Nik Wallenda’s doing 37 practice runs on a high wire over the Grand Canyon beforehand? It’s dangerous.
So how do we ensure the most players showing up for the most games in one piece without sacrificing the savage sensibility we love?
● No training camp.
● No exhibition games.
● No hitting during practice.
● And, in the case of the Cincinnati Bengals, a preposterously early curfew, which, hopefully, leads to no arrests.
Q. You’re so anti-hockey — do you have NHL nightmares? (Michael Kaplan; Woodbridge)
A. You just reminded me of the 1992 film “A Few Good Men,” when Lt. Kaffee tries to convince Lance Cpl. Dawson to plead to a lesser charge and tells him, “Do it, Harold. Six months. It’s nothing. It’s a hockey season.” Six months? How quaint. I think the Stanley Cup playoffs alone are six months.
Q. In terms of marital malfeasance, where do you rank Rick Reilly misquoting — and misrepresenting — his father-in-law in a column? (Jeff Grossman; Bethel Park, Pa.)
A. You know, I should feel even more sorry for his wife, but when you marry Rick Reilly, you get what you have coming to you.
Q. Which was The Slouch in line for first, iPhone 5s or Grand Auto Theft V? (Brian Dunn; Atlanta)
A. No smartphones or video games for me; Rack-O, baby!
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