What makes people like sports? People like sports because it is inherent in our human nature to enjoy seeing someone approach a challenge and through their skill, their effort or sometimes just sheer luck, make it through the gauntlet. Football is a sport that presents plenty of challenge along its way, whether it’s passing over the heads of defenders to a wide receiver, running through a blockade of beefy strong linebackers or simply kicking the ball through the goalpost. Meeting the challenges is what football is all about. For the NFL there are three challenges that need to be met head-on.
Long the bane of consistent fans and new prospects alike is the NFL’s long preseason coverage. For fans who have missed football from February foreword the preseason offers an exciting look at new teams, how they work together and how draft picks are coming along to form a consistent and solid year. Everyone from sports enthusiasts to predicting prophets wants to see what the teams look like. However, the four-week preseason before the regular season games begin is simply too long. Preseason games are played with less ardor and many of the star athletes don’t play in them because they don’t want to risk getting hurt before the regular season begins. What it leads to is new fans walking into the season with bad plays and boring games, low-string players, and not enough energy. A shorter preseason would help the NFL to maintain momentum into the regular contest.
The Pro Bowl
After an exciting regular season, the playoffs and finally the Super Bowl, which is America’s unofficial national holiday, comes the Pro Bowl: A limping, sad game many professionals refuse to play and because they do not want to risk injury for vanities sake. The Pro Bowl is a dragged out, tired tradition harming football and creating little interest for the sport. After the Super Bowl is over, watching one more game seems pointless. Who cares what happens after the world championship? Others complain the picking is nothing but a popularity contest and has no real meaning Veteran players don’t want to risk the injury, and the game limps along with third or fourth choices doing the actual playing. A better option for the NFL is name a team but not play a game. Players who succeed in different parts of the sport can be honored as the best players for that position but no injury, boring football game or media damage has to be done in the process.
The new problem the NFL faces is a consistent criticism of their overtime system. Based on the idea that sudden death creates shorter games and a quicker resolution to the contest the overtime system leaves one glaring error. The team to receive the ball is decided by a coin toss and receives a great advantage in the resolution. Many ask if a simple coin should really have a say in the outcome of the game. A team that has a stellar offense and weak defense could easily lose if the other team receives the ball. That team can score, and close the window of opportunity before the offense of the opposing team even has a chance to take the field. Solutions have been recommended for the coin toss system, including allowing both teams a chance to drive the ball or enacting a dual kick off with the team who advances the ball the farthest keeping the ball in place and driving from that point.
Sport is about overcoming challenge, and by facing these challenges head-on, making wise decisions, the NFL has every opportunity to make changes that will keep this American obsession as popular as it has always been.