EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 26, 2014

Column: NFL is just crazy about changing rules

There is no escape. The Super Bowl will soon be upon us and apparently by law the national conversation must now switch to football.

Being a law-abiding person, I will do my best to contribute. I’m neither a sports writer nor football expert, but I do have expertise in occupying a sofa near the TV.

From the vantage point of that sofa, I hear that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league is considering abolishing the point-after attempt that puts the final dollop of cream on a touchdown.

Of course it is. You may think that the NFL is a football organization, but in fact it is a Buddhist-like entity on a quest for perfection. It is for gridiron nirvana that the league changes its rules from year to year.

For 2013, the league made at least seven changes to the game. For example. Rule 5, Section 1, Article 2 now allows tight ends to wear numbers 40 through 49 and H-backs to wear numbers 80 through 89. Thank goodness for that.

But the consequence of all these rule changes is to lend a degree of almost theological contemplation to the simple business of large people trying to move a pigskin down a field while other large people try to stop them.

To be an official in today’s NFL you have to have a mind that can wrap itself around the ever-shifting rules and the ever-complicated subtleties. It has become an almost superhuman challenge. When it comes to an impressive grasp of nuance, Supreme Court justices appear by comparison to be a bunch of dumbos.

Indeed, it would not surprise me if young people aspiring to be philosophers and rabbinical scholars give it all up to wear striped shirts in the NFL. It is where the action is, where the great questions of American life are answered, such as: “Did the player have control of the ball all the way through the catch? Were both feet inbounds?” And my personal favorite: “Did he break the plane of the goal line?”

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