The NFL has just announced that next Monday Night’s Football game will be shifted from Mexico City to Los Angeles. Screw the locals who bought tickets. Trash all the planning and travel plans undoubtedly made by some fans. Just flip a giant middle finger to Mexico.
What’s the reason? Riots? Political unrest? Safety? Volcanoes? An earthquake?
None of the above.
Try this on for size: A soft playing field.
That’s right. The highly-anticipated matchup between two of the NFL’s best teams, the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs won’t be played at the cavernous Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, which hosted the 1968 Summer Olympics. The league decided the field conditions weren’t acceptable.
Not acceptable? Doesn’t the NFL have an archive to check out the playing fields over the past 60 years in Green Bay, Pittsburgh, or Cleveland?
This decision is outrageous. It makes no sense at all. In the NFL nowadays, here’s what qualifies as a field with “unacceptable playing conditions.” This photo of the field at Azteca Stadium (below) was taken just a few days ago:
So, what am I missing?
Why cancel the Mexico City game?
This field looks perfectly normal. It’s sure far better footing for players than many games played outdoors in December and January. What’s the problem?
Would a soft, perhaps even muddy field give one team an unfair advantage over the other?
Would a soft field cause unnecessary risk to players?
In fact, the opposite is true. Studies have shown that games played on natural grass produce fewer injuries than games played on the horrible rubber faux-grass which now litters most football fields and is an abomination to watch. Action gets slowed down, and landings become softer. Risks to knees and ligaments aren’t as severe on grass fields because the natural turf gives way to physics. Rubber grass provides better footing, but that also leads to more injuries.
Indeed, fake grass rolled out of some Lowe’s garden center makes football about as interesting as a mopped warehouse floor. Sure, it’s prettier to look at and easier to walk on for both players and officials. But it’s boring as hell and takes all the fun out of the game. It’s the difference between having real Christmas tree versus one made polyvinyl chloride. The real tree is more fun.
Sure, the NFL wants clean uniforms, rubber grass, domes, and higher-scoring games. The league wants points. Thing is, we already have something like that. It’s called the Arena Football League. And, it’s unwatchable.
Many of us devoted football fans remember the greatest games from years ago, many of which were played in the mud, in the rain, in the snow. Football was played in the elements. And it was great. Muddy football was great football to watch. Football loses its natural essence when it’s played on artificial fields, in domes, in 72-degree weather, in what amounts to a man-made petri dish.
Football on rubber grass is a crime.
Old style football was always more fun to watch, as this clip shows:
The NFL is enjoying its most exciting season in years. Many games have been thrilling to watch. New stars have emerged. The playoffs are fast approaching and it’s a wide-open race as to who will win the Super Bowl.
As we continue to watch pro football despite all its awful rules, inconsistencies, terrible owners, and off-the-field scandals — let’s just hope it doesn’t snow in Green Bay or rain in Pittsburgh. I’d sure hate to see a muddy field and “unacceptable playing conditions” make the NFL have to move the game into a dome.
Whatever suits Trump’s myopic illusion gets tweeted out and is then repeated. Facts be damned — it’s a sure-fire hit to blast the French, who make easy targets for his beer-chugging, pork-rind chomping, tobacco-chewing base.
President Trump’s day has started off badly.
It began with an early morning Twitter attack on France and French President Emmanuel Macron. Just days after Trump humiliated himself and embarrassed the United States in front of the world at the international commemorative remembrance of World War I dead by skipping out the high-profile event due to rain (92-year-old Queen Elizabeth somehow made the journey), the most famous victim of bone spurs in history returned to Washington, and in an astonishing display of arrogance even for him dodged yet another Veterans Day gathering, this time at hallowed Arlington National Cemetary, about a 5-minute car ride from the White House. In his defense, it was raining again.
Eager to distance himself from yet another firestorm of controversy at home, and quell murmurs within veterans organizations, the Commander-in-Chief who purportedly supports the troops and veterans, Trump pivoted away from scandal and in desperation returned to his favorite punching bag — the French.
When cornered — attack.
Upon the first sip, Trump’s tweet seems reasonable to those who might be unfamiliar with the wine trade. However, he’s not fooling me nor anyone else who’s up to speed on how wine is produced, marketed, and sold internationally. Instantly, we recognize the tweet for the intended distraction that it is. It’s smoke and mirrors and a line of bullshit from a huckster with no clue about wine and tariffs.
See, drinking wine does produce benefits — knowledge about wine.
Fact is, the European Union — a cooperative of 28 nations which includes France (please Mr. Trump — Google “European Union”) — is in charge of setting tariffs for the continent, and it levies very modest tariffs on import taxes, about the same as American charges on incoming alcohol-infused products from Europe. It’s not France that determines tariffs — it’s the E.U.
Trump doesn’t know this, or he knows this and simply doesn’t care. Whatever suits Trump’s myopic illusion gets tweeted out and is then repeated. Facts be damned — it’s a sure-fire hit to blast the French, who make easy targets for his beer-chugging, pork-rind chomping, tobacco-chewing base.
Why doesn’t someone on his staff stop him? Why doesn’t an economic or trade adviser say, “Excuse me Mr. President, but it’s not France that determines tariffs, and the tariffs on American wines are about the same as what we charge.”
A President blind and deaf to facts.
A typical 750ml bottle of wine from the United States faces tariffs at the French border ranging between 11 and 29 cents, according to the European Commission. It doesn’t impact the cost of wine much, especially on more expensive bottles. California wines do sell in France and are widely popular throughout Europe, but Americans certainly buy far more French wine. The United States being five times as large in population might have something to do with the disparity.
The wine wars might seem trivial in the grand scheme of far more pressing matters. But, it’s President Trump who brought this up. It’s Trump, personally, himself — not some aid, not a staffer — as he does almost daily, who manufactures a controversy out of thin air that simply doesn’t exist. It’s Trump who invents his own reality.
Trump’s erratic, often factless tweets have become a window into the lifeless and twisted tanker of nothingness he is — a rambling, incoherent, twitter troll of incendiary ignorance. As is so often the case, he has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. Trump’s latest whine about wine is certainly much ado about nothing.
Too bad it didn’t rain in the French vineyards. Trump might have skipped this occasion, as well.
What would the pointspread be on a hypothetical game between the Alabama Crimson Tide versus the Oakland Raiders? Or, the New York Jets? Or, the Cleveland Browns?
Let’s agree — Alabama is the best college football team in the country. The Tide has been college football’s premier powerhouse for the last decade. Nick Saban, Alabama’s head coach, has won nearly 90 percent of his games. He’s compiled an astonishing 142-20 career record while at Alabama. By contrast, no NFL head coach comes anywhere close to that winning percentage. The closest pro football coach to Saban’s numbers, not surprisingly, is Bill Belichick. His career W-L record of 252-120 with the New England Patriots translates into roughly a 68 percent winning percentage. No doubt, Alabama is a great program — one of the best teams in college football history.
Next, let’s examine the W-L records of three very bad NFL franchises, at the moment. We’ll look at the Raiders, Jets, and Browns, each of which appears to be headed towards a last-place finish, this season. Since the Raiders have a 1-8 record, let’s start with them, at the very bottom of most power rankings.
Radio talk shows and online sports forums are often ripe with wild speculation when there’s a bad NFL team that’s really struggling. Some misguided sports fans even claim the worst pro team would have a difficult time beating a top-ranked college football program. I’ve actually heard and read these types of comments many times. The hyperbole goes, the bad pro team is so bad they would lose to the best college team.
Allow me to respond in as polite a fashion as is possible:
This claim is complete bullshit.
There is no way a college football team, even one as talented as Alabama, would be able to stay in the same playing field with an NFL team. A Canadian Football League team or an Arena Football League team, even though they’re also professionals, might be closer in skill to the college program. That might make for a competitive matchup. But any one of the NFL’s 32 teams is far superior to anything on the college gridiron. The disparity isn’t even close.
Why is there such vast difference exist between the pro and college ranks? Here are some of the primary reasons:
No college team can match the inherent advantages of even the worst NFL team based on any of the ten parameters listed above. A bad pro team would trounce any one of the greatest college teams in history. And, the score wouldn’t be close. It would be a rout on the level of when a top Division 1 school plays versus a Division II school. Typically, those fiascos are decided by seven or eight touchdowns. They’re pretty much over at kickoff.
So, what would the pointspread be on a game between college and pro teams? To estimate, we must establish a few guidelines. First, let’s agree the pro team will play all-out to win for the full 60 minutes. We presume the NFL team won’t tank, nor rest its starting players. Let’s also agree that both teams are fully healthy. Finally, let’s agree the game is held on a neutral playing site. Given these conditions, what would the pointspreads be?
I’d make the following lines on the Alabama Crimson Tide versus the following NFL teams:
Oakland -34.5 vs. Alabama
NY Jets -34.5 vs. Alabama
Cleveland -36 vs. Alabama
Note that I’d make Cleveland slightly more of a betting favorite than either the Raiders or Jets because the Browns are better than the other two teams (at least at this moment). They also field a better defense that plays with some consistency.
Here’s another hypothetical: What would the pointspread be if Alabama played the NFL’s best team? Let’s include either the New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, or New England Patriots in this equation. We might also include the Pittsburgh Steelers. Each of these five pro teams is somewhat similar in talent. Each offense has an explosive offense, scores lots of points, and is guided by an outstanding quarterback. All the coaches are experienced and highly-respected. The defenses might not be as good as some other teams statistically speaking, but each is a serious Super Bowl contender.
Based on these thoughts, I’d post the following lines:
New Orleans -47.5 vs. Alabama
LA Rams -49 vs. Alabama
Kansas City -47 vs. Alabama
New England -44.5 vs. Alabama
Pittsburgh -44 vs. Alabama
The reason I’d make the LA Rams higher than any of the other four top teams against a college opponent is as follows: The Rams feature a solid rushing attack. They also have a better defense. So, Alabama would likely have a tough time scoring many points. Give Rams’ Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips one full week to come up with a game plan, and it’s quite possible his Rams would shut out the Tide, or hold them to a very low score. I’d put Alabama’s team scoring total at 12.5 for the game, which means any of the NFL team would probably score somewhere in the mid-50s.
One interesting historical footnote to the pointspread speculation lies in the old College All-Star Game, which used to be played annually prior to the start of football season. In that game, the defending NFL champion played a charity game against all the top draft picks from college headed to the NFL that year. So, there was some parity in that all players were professionals. The game was played in Chicago between the years 1934-1976. I even remember watching a few games on television during the 1970’s.
Interestingly, in the 42 College All-Star Games that were played, the pros won 31 times, the All-Stars won 9 times, and two were ties — giving the collegians a .238 winning percentage. However, it should be noted most NFL teams played backups during the entire game. Even third-stringers with little playing time dominated the college teams. Moreover, athletes weren’t conditioned as well many years ago, as they are today. There probably wasn’t much difference between college and pro players in the 1940’s 50’s and 60’s. Those differences are monumental today.
The College All-Star game was discontinued in 1976 because rookie players began making more money and they feared injuries could derail their careers. The game was also played on a horrible astroturf field at the old Soldier Field, which only exacerbated the danger and even likelihood of injuries.
Finally, what would the pointspread be if NFL’s starters weren’t allowed to play? In other words, what if all the NFL teams had to play their backups? This would certainly change the numbers based on the pro teams lack of continuity. The backup units don’t play much together in real-game conditions, aside from a few pre-season opportunities. Some NFL teams have decent backup quarterbacks with experience. Others have backups who haven’t taken a snap since they were in college. There would be several question marks about the continuity and condition of NFL backup units, since there’s not much of a track record on their results.
Here are my hypothetical pointspreads on the NFL’s backups and reserves playing against Alabama at full strength.:
Oakland -17.5 vs. Alabama
NY Jets -19 vs. Alabama
Cleveland -20 vs. Alabama
New Orleans -24 vs. Alabama
LA Rams -24 vs. Alabama
Kansas City -24 vs. Alabama
New England -25 vs. Alabama
Pittsburgh -24 vs. Alabama
Finally, to anyone who thinks these numbers are too high, here’s a closing thought. Last Sunday, the New Orleans Saints won a road game at Cincinnati (a team with a winning record) by the score of 51-14. They beat another better than average team by a whopping 37 points. This example shows us what would likely happen if they played Alabama. Some games get out of hand when the losing team eventually recognizes they can’t win. So, they quit trying. It becomes so demoralizing getting beat every play that even the best athlete loses faith and surrenders to reality. One presumes the players on Alabama would become so fatigued and despondent, at some point they’d give up. This isn’t a dig at Alabama. It happens in most athletic mismatches. While the opening stage of the game might be close, any pro team would very likely roll up a large number of points in the second half when mental and physical superiority outmatches the weaker opponent.
What do you think? Care to venture a guess on any of these numbers?
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