James Harden is better than what the NBA has allowed him to become. NFL offenses, while on the surface seem very creative, are better than what the league has allowed them to become. Sports as we know it was much better than what the impatient fan has and will continue to force it to become.
Let me first say this; I love sports, obviously. I talk about it daily. I love the storylines, the playoff chases, the emerging stars, the surviving vets and so on. I always will. But fans with an iphone in their hand, a twitter page and a lack of patience will continue to morph pro sports into a fast paced scoring fest that will virtually eliminate any future defenses similar to The No Fly Zone, The Legion of Boom and the Steel Curtain or the fame that followed a stand out defensive player like the “Glove” Gary Payton. Sure, an action packed video game like performance can be exhilarating, but when that becomes the norm it will make the back and forth shootouts less and less meaningful. Currently, if a football game is locked in a 6-3 battle late in the contest fans will call it terrible football. If Utah and San Antonio are looking at a score of 87-81 with 1 min left in the 4th fans will say it’s a boring game. Hard to tweet about a 4 yard run or a defensive effort resulting in the shot clock expiring. But show a fan a deep pass or long 3 and whoa Dr! we are in business.
Kansas City is being hailed as the franchise to usher in the new age of offense. Sure, all those players in motion and running zig zag routes look fantastic but a defense that can’t bump a WR past the 5 yard line has no choice but to let those speedsters run around. A safety can’t even dislocate man from ball (DMFB) anymore. If the receiver is defenseless, which is often the case then a hard hitting safety is better off letting the catch happen and going for a light tackle. Don’t even get me started on tackling a quarterback. Twice this season, Clay Mathews sacked a QB and to me, could have made a video on how to tackle in the old, new and future NFL. The league didn’t see it that way and threw a “roughing the passer” at him. Can’t hit the head, the knees, the facemask or the air around the facemask (ask the Chiefs). After all, if Clay Mathews is allowed to sack a QB and a DB like Chris Harris Jr. is allowed to throw a WR off a route how in the wild world of sports are we going to be able to see Mahomes to Hill for a 25 yard slant with no one within 10 yards? I’m all about player safety, truly, but there’s a limit…it’s called common football sense.
In 2010, the top 10 NFL passers averaged about 4,300 to 4,600 yards. I remember when it was a big deal to get a football card of a QB that entered the 5,000 club. It was rare. In 2018, 3 passers did it while 2 of those passers missed the playoffs (Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan). in 10′ Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers barely topped the 4,500 mark. That means not only are teams throwing more, they are getting more yardage per game, per completion. Handcuffed CB’s, pass rushers that must pull back before making contact with the QB and hesitant safeties allow even an average offense to march down the field. Every position player on defense has been heavily affected by the rules of today while most offensive players have seen a positive change. This is all possible because a large NFL fan base wants more yards, more completions and more touchdowns.
There are some offensive players that have witnessed a decline; The traditional running back. The rushing numbers have dropped too; both in yardage and overall attempts. In 2010, 8 top running backs carried the ball 300 times or more. In 2018, only Ezekiel Elliot got the rock 300 times (304). We may never see the likes of Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis and Walter Payton again. Sure, todays backs are touching the ball in terms of catches in the backfield but it’s not the same. A run is a run. Getting the handoff in the face of a wall of D linemen is much different than a flip to Saquon Barkley in the flats. I enjoy seeing a RB catch the ball but there’s just something about witnessing a well orchestrated blocking scheme work hand in hand with a shifty back. Will we suffer through 2 yard gains and a cloud of dust? Absolutely. But that’s what makes the big plays so much more enjoyable.
In the NBA James Harden and Steph Curry alter the game in their own way and the league encourages it. Harden loves to camp out at the top of the 3 point line and dribble, dribble, shoulder shove, dribble, shove, head nod, shove then pop. If he can’t find his shot he does those above mentioned moves but instead of shooting, he drives the lane. He works his body into a center, maybe a helping guard. Like a pinball he touches the walls of a defense while praying for a call. It’s the NBA, he gets it. You see, the NBA wants the league to adopt the Houston Rockets philosophy; shoot the three, try to dunk it or get the and one layup. That sells folks.
Steph Curry hit a 61-foot- 3 pointer on Monday night. It was at the buzzer and nothing more than a heave, a prayer. The 4 lettered network had the story as a top 3 and discussed the shot like it was calculated, planned rather than the fact it was nothing more than a late quarter heave. Watch the clip here: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/26299820/curry-61-foot-3-pointer-longest-fg-season. He’s being commended for his “willingness to put up the heave.” Curry is one those players carrying the long shot torch. So when he does it, in any situation, it’s treated like something he might just do with plenty of time on the clock someday. It’s not that far fetched to someday see Curry, up 10, decide to throw it up from half court. Fans would lose their minds. Before games he practices shots like that and out of bounds all the time. I wonder if the NBA would rather just have a giant 3 point contest (NBA All Star Game) rather than contested offense.
We are in a fast paced world, I get it. We want every moment to be eye popping and heart pounding. I caution fans that worship the limitless high scoring……soon, you will become numb to it. Sports are meant to be exciting, both offensively and defensively. Even in the most predictable of contests, we can always expect something unpredictable to happen. A lot of times it’s a late Qb sack, a quick pick 6 or game changing fumble. However, if we continue to turn the games into an all out scoring barrage, making defensive play more and more difficult I fear we’ll see the above mentioned defensive plays become even more rare.
Call me old fashioned or boring but if we continue to push for more offenses and less D, you’ll see a world of sports that appeals only to the impatient fan. Guess what impatient fans do…..they get impatient. They’ll move on. There’s nothing wrong with a little defense….The NFL, NBA and perhaps even the MLB should not be so quick to alter their games for a bored generation.