Sunday, October 18, 2009

American Football is Un-American

Mike Flynn, writing at Big started talking about Rush Limbaugh's aborted attempt to become a part owner of the St. Louis Rams NFL team. I think Rush got railroaded by political correctness. While you may not like some of the things that Rush says, you cannot with a straight face claim he is not a savvy businessman. But I digress from my point.

Flynn actually pointed something out--American football is decidedly un-American in execution:
Rush took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to address the mau-mauing that scuttled his NFL dreams. Personally, I’m a little mystified why Rush would want to own part of a football team. Oversized, preening and pampered athletes set in strictly defined roles and running elaborately orchestrated “plays” designed by a full bureaucracy of coaches seems, frankly, I dunno…unAmerican. Quite unlike the other football, where there are no plays, few coaches and wide latitude for individual initiative and improvisation. (How did we get stuck with the collectivist top-down heavy sport?) But, to each his own.(emphasis added)
I hadn't really thought of American football in quite that way. I had always decried its lack of fluidity and thinking. Only on a broken play do we see any hint of improvisation and usually it results in a loss or not much of a gain.

But American football is decidedly socialistic in its set up. The plays are controlled not by the players but by the centralized bureaucracy of a whole plethora of coaches. Now, American football teams have 19 coaches. A starting offense and starting defense in football consists of 22 players--not counting special teams, a punter and a place kicker.

By contrast, Manchester United, one of the biggest football (soccer) clubs in the world has 10 coaches and that includes their director of their youth academy and conditioning coaches.

But it is the rigidity of American football that is so Un-American. Everything is centrally planned. American football teams will often script as many as their first 20 or 30 or even more plays before the teams even take the field. The coaches make most of the decisions. In fact, while much is made of the role of the quarterback, how many quarterbacks have the knowledge, skill and freedom to call plays from the line of scrimmage and how many times a game is that freedom exercised.

Thus, despite chuckleheads like Jim Rome berating soccer as "Un-American" it may in fact be the most American sport around, one that cherishes individual effort in a team environment. Not that I will be able to convince people like Rome and the other sports punditry in this country of htis point of view, but there you go. Soccer is more American than American football.

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