In 1920, a new phenomenon was born in the U.S.: American football. The league that would eventually become known as the National Football League (NFL) was originally established with rules similar to its predecessor, college football.
A few short years later, the NFL decided there needed to be more distinction between college and professional football, so a Rules Committee, independent of the college game, was created. Today, the group is known as the Competition Committee and is comprised of eight members of team executives and coaches.
Why is this group notable?
The committee claims it listens to owners, recommendations from experts in the football sphere, the player’s union, officials and medical professionals to form new regulations to “help the game.”
It should be noted this group has indeed provided great help toward making the NFL what it is today. Without this group, we would not have game changers such as the immaculate reception, which helped progress rules with double-touch forward passes, or the Holy Roller, a rule in which, after a two-minute warning, only the fumbling player can recover and advance the ball for the offense on fourth down.
In the 1930s and 40s specifically, rules were created to make the game more entertaining, not less. Because of this ideal, passing from any point behind the line of scrimmage was legalized, penalties were removed for multiple incomplete passes in the same series and the shape of the ball was adjusted to make it easier to throw and catch.
The Rules Committee stated in 1940, “Each game should provide a maximum of entertainment insofar as it can be controlled by the rules and the officials.”
The game is not what it used to be.
Just recently, Oakland Raiders defensive end Arden Key was handed a 15-yard penalty for a light shove on Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. The shove occurred a mere few seconds after Mayfield released the ball. Mayfield never hit the ground. Key did not take a cheap shot.
Key is not alone. After a preseason game this past summer, Denver Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe took to Twitter to release his frustration.
“These penalties are getting ridiculous,” Wolfe said. “Tough to take someone to the ground without landing on them, whipping them down, grazing their head or hitting their legs. This is a tough game for tough people.”
While it is important to heed the advice of medical professionals, football has and always will be a dangerous contact sport. Its basic foundation involves using full force to tackle opponents to the ground, and while regulations may shift, they cannot rebuild American football brick by brick.
It is what it is.
The U.S. is crazy about its football, and just a glance at a local stadium during a game makes its fanaticism clear. Football is a game of entertainment, talent and toughness. Fans enjoy watching great hits, impossible catches and close games. What fans do not enjoy are games amassed with penalties.
Week one of the 2018 season set a new NFL record for penalties in a week, and the record was broken prior to Monday night games. After Monday night games concluded, there were a total of 255 penalties, and those are just the ones accepted.
There were approximately 16 penalties on average per game for the first week, which is enough to make fans’ blood boil and fantasy football participants scream at their TVs. No one wants to watch a game where the referee blows the whistle every minute.
Unfortunately, since the 2015 season, the average number of penalties called in the first week of the season were less than the season average. If this is the case for this season and the seasons to come, we are in for an incredibly irritating football experience.
Football is a contact sport. It has always been a contact sport. The men who play in the NFL are the strongest, well-trained athletes in their sport, and I think they understand the risks involved in playing football.
It is important to try and keep athletes safe, but the line has inevitably been crossed in the NFL. No one wants to watch a game where the referees dictate every move. Let them play.