Almanac NFL – The 2023 Dan Orlovsky Cup: Week 12



Greetings Tipsters

Of course there’s rivalry between fans of the football codes. “Mine is better than yours” is inherent to all sports fans, whether the code, the team, the player. We’re lucky here, Australian Football, Rugby League and Rugby Union, Association Football, plus Gaelic and American Football on telly.

We can see the whys and wherefores of the various codes and even if we prefer one to another, we can appreciate why others like them. That said, let’s address the idiotic complaints about American Football.

First, “pansies in padding”, usually followed by “Rugby players don’t wear helmets.” Yeah, ‘cos Rugby players didn’t die onfield. Even Teddy Roosevelt wanted to ban the game for its extraordinary level of death and destruction, and this was college football. 20-year-old rich kids were playing it for fun. When pro football kicked off in the 1920s, it was in tough industrial towns, hence Packers and Steelers. If work had a chance of killing you, what the hell did violent football matter?

Clueless people see padding and helmets as protection, not the weapons that they are. By the mid 1970s, linemen were beating the hell out of each other. Plaster-soaked bandages were wrapped from wrist to elbow and used on helmets, arms, legs. Fractures were common, concussions moreso. That’s why NFL leads the world, however unwillingly, in CTE research. (All football codes will be unrecognisable in 20 years.)

I dig the look of 1980s NFL, the huge pads. Check any Chicago Bears match from 1985 or Pittsburgh Steelers in ‘75, for the most brutal field sport you will ever see.

Fifty years later, injuries are still expected. Not if, but when. Eight quarterbacks are done for the season, let alone all the other torn and tortured tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones. Mostly due to the instant, fast, sharp movement at the snap. The clueless complain “they swap players and only play for 20 minutes.”

When they do play, everyone is involved. That receiver who rarely takes a catch is running lines, drawing defensive backs away from the ball, he’s blocking, taking hits.

“But rugby players are out there for the whole 80 minutes.” Oh, spare me! Half the team touches the ball a few times and spends nineteen twentieths of the match jogging back and forth. The other half touches the ball even less. The Rugby League scrum is an embarassing joke, the Rugby Union maul is a bunny hug lying down, plus biting and scratching. Australian and Association footballers do a heckuva lotta standing around.

Watch an NFL snap and you’ll see ten or twelve 300lb linemen propel themselves into the opposition from a few inches away. Smack, BANG! Meanwhile, running backs who rarely see out their rookie contracts get crunched by linebackers twenty times a game. Receivers lose their toenails in preseason from practising sideline catches and their fingers bend at disturbingly weird angles.

Smart bastards, too. Mostly college graduates, some skated through, some have topline GPAs. Check out Philadelphia Eagles albums. Justin Tucker sings opera, Derek Carr preaches in New Orleans, they all have to learn a 300-page playbook.

American Football is intricate and finely detailed, it is brutal and balletic. Fundamentally, it is on the other end of the footballing C curve from Australian Football yet shares highlights. None of those other compromising weaklings has anything like the receiver catching a long pass or the centre half-forward taking a mark or the dynamism of the snap and the centre bounce.

Cheers Tipsters

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About Earl O'Neill

Freelance gardener, I've thousands of books, thousands of records, one fast motorcycle and one gorgeous smart funny sexy woman. Life's pretty darn neat.

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