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  • Writer's pictureKnox Thames

Football Reflections 

While I usually write about human rights issues, I watch a lot of football (for my international readers, that means American football, not soccer). With the college national championship tonight and the NFL playoffs set, following are some armchair quarterback musings on improving college football and the National Football League. In addition, I add some “hot takes” on random issues relating to both.


Considering the dismal state of global affairs, it’s nice to occasionally write about a diversionary (even frivolous?) topic. What follows is not wisdom handed down from on high, but some thoughts worth considering (or at least worthy of a blog entry).

Big Ideas

Fewer NFL games would mean more football: With the cascading number of injuries to star players (particularly quarterbacks) this year, the recent extension to a 17-game NFL season was a mistake. It was all about money and didn’t consider the impact on players’ health and the overall product on the field. The NFL should cut the season back to 14 or 15 games but played over the same 18 weeks. Teams would take the field every seven to ten days, allowing for more rest and reducing the chances of injury. But, with the longer breaks, the NFL could potentially have games every day except Saturday (still reserved for college). I’ve always found it odd that the NFL has so many games competing with each other on Sundays. While my teenagers love the excitement of NFL Red Zone, extending to a full week slate of games would mean every team could get airtime, and the NFL could get airtime six days a week. 


Limit the review time for instant replay: Instant replay is instant, but the decisions aren’t. They take too long and disrupt the flow of the game. The referees should have only one minute to review during the first three quarters. If they can’t decide in 60 seconds, then the call stands. In the fourth quarter, they’d have 90 seconds. Too many reviews stretch for two minutes or more. Limiting would keep the game moving and stop Zapruder film-like forensics that take too long.


Fewer college bowl games: In years past, only the best college teams would be rewarded with a trip to a post-season bowl game. Exclusivity made it interesting, exceptional, and compelling. But times have changed, with the chasing of TV dollars diluting this proud tradition. The comedic names of bowl names make clear the absurdity of the current situation: the Pop Tarts Bowl, the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, the Duke Mayo Bowl, the Taxslayer Gator Boca Raton Bowl, and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Few fans care if they take home these trophies. And a winning season isn’t even a requirement. Who wants to watch South Alabama (6-6) play Eastern Michigan (6-6) in the 68 Ventures Bowl? Less would be more. 


Separate college football (and men’s basketball) from their conferences: Coach Chip Kelly has the right idea of creating an independent Power 5 conference for major sports. The vast realignments centered on football destroys local rivalries and punishes the non-income-generating sports. Recognize college football and men’s basketball for what they are – semi-pro leagues and create a separate conference for them. Don’t punish less lucrative sports like baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer, etc., and keep them in the old conferences. 


Money, money, money: It’s great college athletes can finally benefit from their “Name, Image, and Likeness” (NIL) since their allegedly non-profit colleges were reaping tens of millions of dollars off their play. However, if athletes pursue a NIL, the players should commit to playing the entire season and not opt out of games they don’t like. (And the transfer portal should open only after all the games finish.) Lastly, what are universities doing with the money from larger and larger television contracts? With these vast sums, shouldn’t state schools like Alabama, Ohio State, Texas, UCLA, and others be basically free for every student? 

Hot Takes

Joe Burrow should be the NFL MVP: When he played healthy, the Bengals were the best team in football. They destroyed the 49ers and were beating the Ravens, the two top seeds in the playoffs, before he went out with a season-ending hand injury. With a healthy Joe, the Bengals won despite having the fifth-hardest schedule in the HISTORY OF THE NFL! (*I don’t know what DVOA means, but it sounds impressive and helps my argument – details are irrelevant for a fan.) Burrow’s importance to the Bengals defines the “Most Valuable Player.” 


Best opening song – Monday Night Football: The combination of Chris Stapleton, Cindy Blackman Santana, and Snoop Dogg is great, modernizing the classic “In the Air Tonight.” Add that to the classic MNF intro, and it’s pretty cool. All the others are so contrived they’re painful to watch. 


Combine the Manning Cast: Watching the two brothers, arguably two of the best quarterbacks ever, dissect plays and rib each other is fun. But could they once be in the same room? They can afford the flight. 


Worst uniform and mascot: The Cleveland Browns have the worst uniforms in the NFL, hands down. This is not a point for debate. The worst mascot is Big Red for the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers. A red blob is just sad. Again, not a point for debate. (Admittedly, this may not be an impartial view, as the Browns are the Bengals nemesis, and my parents worked for WKU's cross-state rival Eastern Kentucky University for 30+ years.)



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