Wussifying Football

In the first quarter of today’s Ohio State-Iowa game, an Iowa receiver caught a pass on a crossing pattern and got drilled in the chest by Buckeye defensive back Bradley Roby.  The Iowa receiver, to his credit, held on to the ball.

The officials dropped a flag.  They ended up calling a “targeting” penalty on Roby for what certainly looked to me like a clean, if hard, hit, and then ejected Roby from the game.  The explanation for the penalty is that a receiver who catches the ball is “defenseless” and shouldn’t be drilled.

Huh?  This is, or was, football.  The game is all about hard hits.  I’m not in favor of headhunting, or spearing someone who is on the ground, or clothes-lining a receiver in the neck, but Roby’s hit was a classic football hit — shoulder to chest, trying to jar the ball loose.  The fact that Roby was not only penalized, but in fact ejected from the game, for such a hit tells me that the game is changing, and not for the better.

At last week’s Browns’ game we saw a similar call.  As the Lions were driving for a score to try to put the game away, a Browns player hit the Lions QB in the chest just as the ball was released.  The pass was incomplete, but the Browns were called for an unnecessary roughness penalty, and the game was over.

I’m sure these rules changes are being made, at least in part, in order to protect players and to avoid the concussions that have plagued football at every level.  I also suspect, however, that the motivation, at least in part, is to favor the offense.  In the Ohio State game today, one Iowa running back typically put his head down and used his helmet to try to batter the would-be tacklers.  It’s a time-honored football technique — but why should the offensive player be able to lead with his head when a defensive player can’t?

We may be heading toward a day when every football game is a 52-49 affair and offenses move up and down the field to the delight of offensive-minded fans.  If that happens, it’s too bad — because it’s not really football.  I’m hoping that the officials in charge of devising new penalties avoid wussifying football to the point where the sport isn’t really recognizable any more.

The Iowa Test Of Basic Skills

When I was in grade school, I took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.  It purported to measure proficiency in things like reading and math.  Today at 3:30, the Ohio State Buckeyes take their own version of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.  They’ll be lining up against the Iowa Hawkeyes looking to demonstrate the basic skills of blocking, tackling, running, and playing a full four quarters of football.

IMG_1439The Buckeyes are undefeated — which is an accomplishment in and of itself — but they haven’t been overly impressive, and it has their fans worried.  They’ve beaten the two best teams they’ve played, Wisconsin and Northwestern, but they didn’t blow their doors off like people hoped they would.  The Buckeyes clearly have talent, but it doesn’t look like they’ve fully gelled.  The Buckeye Nation is hoping that happens today.

Iowa looks to be a decent team in a pretty weak conference.  The Hawkeyes are 4-2, with losses coming to Northern Illinois and Michigan State.  Iowa tries to run the ball — although they had no success on the ground against Michigan State — and plays pretty good defense.  They’ll face an Ohio State team that can move the ball up and down the field with a lot of different weapons but also has been giving up a lot of yards and a lot of points.

Ohio State fans always assume that wins will occur and look ahead to whether Ohio State will make the National Championship game.  The team, of course, can’t afford to do that.  Today’s game against Iowa gives them a chance to continue to work on coming together, playing better defense against the pass, and being more consistent and focused on offense.  The Buckeyes need to take the rest of this season one game at a time, and work on improving their basic skills from week to week.  If they can do that — starting today against Iowa — the National Championship game will take care of itself.

When Even The House Stenographer Loses It . . . .

An odd thing happened on Capitol Hill Wednesday night.  No, it’s not that Congress actually passed, and President Obama actually signed, a bill to increase the debt ceiling and reopen the government.  It’s that a House of Representatives stenographer seized the microphone to briefly rant about government and God before being forcibly escorted from the House floor.

During the diatribe, the stenographer shouted that “the House is divided.”  According to the linked article, she also said “He will not be mocked,” and added:  “The greatest deception here is this is not one nation under God. It never was. Had it been, it would not have been. The Constitution would not have been written by Freemasons.”  The stenographer and her husband, who were interviewed, said she had had trouble sleeping during the last two weeks and felt moved by “the Holy Spirit” to make her statement.  Now that she has done so, she feels a tremendous sense of relief.

What does it tell you when even a House of Representatives stenographer, trained to sit there day after legislative day, taking down the political statements of Republicans and Democrats alike, finally can’t take it any more?  Or, if the Holy Spirit really was involved, that even the Holy Spirit can’t endure any more mindless blathering without engaging in a verbal outburst about Freemasons?

If I were in the Senate, I think I’d check in with the Senate stenographers, who probably are also teetering on the brink.  And President Obama’s staff might do well to touch base with the White House photographer, too.  Apparently we’re asking them all to endure the unendurable.