or "Where has the game I love gone!"
Over the last forty years there have been a lot of changes in the game of football in general and high school football in particular. Many of them are great for the game. Some questionable, depending your viewpoint and fit in the game itself. (i.e. coach, player, fan, parent, etc.)
The following are ten pet peeves of mine that have arisen in the game. Mind you, I'm not approaching this as some old foggy, lost in the single wing and leather helmets. As I said, many changes have been great for the game. These just.....well let's say they chaff a certain part of my anatomy! I'm sure everybody will have their own opinions.
- The proliferation of individuality in the greatest team sport known. Don't get me wrong, we had our superstars when I grew up too. We had our idols. Today, though, the individual is bigger then the sport and the team. Just look at the forums - 90% is about individual players. Where a player is going is more important then what his team is accomplishing. On the NFL level I understand this as it is a business. They sell the individual. However, it's all the way down to high school and even little league. (I went to visit a friend's son's game and was asked if I was there to see their best player because everybody came to just watch him.) This individuality extents to celebrations, pre game dances, tirades, uniform adornments, etc. Pretty soon the teams will be named for their best players instead of their schools. (How about "Tim Tebow's Angels")
- Combines, Combines, 7 on 7 camps, camps, skill days, more combines, etc. Enough! None of these have anything to do with the game of football. (7 on 7 can be good to a point but that "season" has taken on a life of itself. In some ways it's grown bigger then the regular season with all the traveling, trophies, etc.) Doesn't anybody see this as what it is? A moneymaking factory by the runners of these camps and combines - including - shame on them - the college programs. They already know who they are recruiting! The rest of the guys are wasting their money and given false dreams. And the independent combines and camps - well - college coaches don't even trust high school coaches' watches - do you think they're going to trust a part-time timer! How many times do they have to see these kids. I keep telling kids - if you're a 4.7 in one camp - you're probably a 4.7 in another but they want to try again and again. (I once had a kid that three schools told they never recruit anybody who doesn't go to their camps. He couldn't afford them so he didn't go. He was pretty good. Got 1A offers - these were 1AA they missed out! Foolish. And what families really have the money to be spent on all these camps because of foolish hopes transmitted by these camps and combines)
- The Quantification of the football player to pure numbers: This kid of goes with the above but since when did a half inch make or break a football player. If you can't watch film and tell if a kid can play you shouldn't be coaching. Some kids are just combine freaks! But they are not football players. Yet, they get scholarships over players. The NFL Hall of Fame is full of guys who are too short, too slow, or had some other negative. (Do the names Emerson Walls, Darrell Green, and Nick Bouniconti ring a bell!) Don't get me wrong the clocks and measurements are a nice second source to justify your choice. (Too stories on this: One is that Bill Belichek once said that more players make the NFL from the third round down because that's where you draft purely off of film. The second involves Bear Bryant in his last couple of years when asked about the speed of his recruiting class. His answer was coarse and stated he didn't care as he wasn't recruiting a track team. If you looked at the film, he said, they were fast enough to get to the ball carrier and arrive there in an angry mood!) Any number or statistic can be made to lie! My personal feeling here is that coaches rely on these to justify to alumni and press their failure. I also sincerely believe that this is the reason that there are so many major upsets in college football today - players - not stats fall through the cracks.
- This whole concussion issue! Before everybody gets on my case here - understand I believe everything possible should be done to make the game as safe as possible. Everything and continuously! Right till we stop playing this game! Right till the very last play! It's just that I'm tired of hearing it. There is inherent risk in everything. Cops put their lives on the line everyday - should we have no cops. Of course not - that's stupid. Try and make their lives safer. As safe as possible. My two biggest complaints here are the former pros who use the very podium they got from playing this game to say they wouldn't let their sons play it. Newsflash:YOU WOULDN'T HAVE ANYBODY LISTENING IF YOU DIDN'T PLAY IT! The second is Espn running this shows with "experts" on the dangers of playing and if football should be banned and inter-splicing it with commercials for their NFL today show. You can't have it both ways! And not all situations are the same. Somehow the NFL problem of not releasing the study has been blended into the actual concussion problem. They are two distinctly different situations. Address the problem. Make the game safer and safer every day but let's stop with the debate. The problem is there. It will be. Stop scaring the people. They are bright enough to read the facts and make educated choices. (As with most of these issues - somebody's making money behind this. Isn't strange that the helmet companies come out with new improved and MORE expensive helmets EVERY YEAR. Parents demand them! Yet the experts tell us there is no helmet that can prevent concussion due to secondary movement of the brain inside the skull! And those "experts" - read the credits. They are also paid well for their appearance. In most cases an appearance where they are told what side to take to balance the debate.)
- Recruiting at the high school level: This is out of control across the country. When I first started coaching (and it was a Catholic School) there was a saying to qualify a head coach "He could take his and beat yours then turn around a takes yours and beat him." Today its all about recruiting. And it's not just the parochial the publics are just as bad. One school in south jersey brags about 10-12 transfers all scholarship kids and then never wins a championship. It's ridiculous! At Spirit I had to recruit and I felt dirty doing it. I kept it selling the school but I ran into others who would make home visits, give jerseys with names on the back, and fawn over an eight grader. We are suppose to be educators. What do you think we've taught a kid when, in 8th grade, he's been told he's the greatest and he's already accomplished everything in life. And then we complain when that same kid puts himself above the team or is a prima donna. Along with this goes athletic transferring. It's totally out of control. Again it's the individual being bigger then the team. I have no respect for coaches who win this way. Get better as a coach. Grow as a coach. Find a way. Recruiting (at the high school level) is not coaching my mind. (Strange from a guy that just left a parochial but while I understand the need in these type of schools to sell the school to families this issue is gotten way out of control. Incidentally it was one of the issues brought up about me at the school - my inability to sell my soul!)
Tomorrow six to ten. Let me know what you think!