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October 07, 2008

What I Hate about Football #A-11

Football The Times' Freakonomics blog tells the story about the A-11 offense and the reaction to innovation in football. If you don't feel like following the link, here's the A-11 offense in a nutshell:

[The A-11 scraps] the traditional starting formation and [makes] every player a potential receiver (normally, only five players can receive a pass from the quarterback). That increases the possible number of plays the team can run, from the usual 36, to 16,632.

[This introduces] such unpredictability into where a quarterback will pass the ball that it baffles the defending team and gives the offense a better chance of breaking through.

The result of this unpredictability is that the

Piedmont Highlanders, the high school team that first deployed it, [has] improve[d] its record for each of the last three years, as they run A-11 plays more and more often. The randomized plays have given the scrappy team an advantage over brawnier teams that used to regularly clean their clock.

This being America, those bigger teams have reacted in an all-American way: they wet their beds, called the A-11 "dishonest and unsportsmanlike" and are working to have the offense banned. (They've already succeeded in 10 states.)

This is an example of what I hate about football, where changing the rules to benefit the powerful (BCS schools and powerful coaches) is par-for-the-course. (It happens in other sports, such as basketball, but football is especially brazen.)

Granted, such a scheme probably couldn't work at the major college and NFL level anyway because, as one Freakonomics commenter noted, the players are so specialized and have body types to match. (It's hard to imagine an NFL lineman as a credible receiving target.)

But banned at the high school level? Please! This is just bigger schools' sour grapes at the prospect of being embarrassed by smaller ones. All the spring practice, summer workouts, steroids, HGH, and big kids can't help if every 170-205 pound kid on the other side is an eligible receiver.

Apropos for a sport that calls exhibition games "pre-season" and claims that, notwithstanding the freakish size and speed of its players, steroids isn't a problem (because Human Growth Hormone is its players' PED of choice), motives are veiled through a suitably Orwellian use of language: "dishonest and unsportsmanlike."

Which is why the post-modernists, no matter their favorite sport, have a point about preferences and power masquerading as moral principle.

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Comments

Andy

The schools using this offense should just go straight to Aussie Rules, where every player has to be able to kick, leap, run for days, and tackle. Now THAT'S football.

LeeQuod

Roberto wrote: "(It's hard to imagine an NFL lineman as a credible receiving target.)"

"Refrigerator" Perry of the Chicago Bears (back in the glory days of quarterback Jim McMahon) gave me some hope for the game. I.e., if you started to shuffle these specialists into non-traditional positions, the game could get interesting.

But alas. I hardly ever watch it - or even college ball; too boringly predictable. (But thinking financially, I suppose one would want one's investments to provide a boringly predictable return.)

LeeQuod

And no doubt to his stunned amazement, I agree with Andy about something - Aussie Rules is itself a ripper!

Andy

See, there are things wingers and libs can cross the aisle on!

I played a couple seasons on a US team called the KC Power (there's an amateur league here in the States.) It was one of the most enjoyable sporting experience of my life, but Footy definitely is a young man's game. I got really tired of trying to run down guys half my age, so I moved on to politics.

(Before that, I was known to don armor and club my friends in the SCA. Met my lady wife of 23 years in that game.)

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