Why 1984 was better . . for the NFL

I used to follow professional football. Admittedly, this was back in the time before Christ. Or as he is referred to in modern day, Peyton Manning.

The eighties was a halcyon decade of football to my way of thinking.  The game was still a rugged bit of ugly played by men who hit the snot out of pretty boy quarterbacks without fear of yellow flags or cash penalties. I believe it’s why Terry Bradshaw went prematurely bald, and senile.

Hence, in the case of Ray Lewis vs. Tom Brady, I have to take the side of the former. Lewis is right to voice his anger over the kid glove treatment of quarterbacks as mandated by the league. It’s football, a collision sport. It isn’t “Dancing with the Stars”. Today’s game is no safer than it was, say,  twenty five years ago. It’s just packaged as such. Like nicotine in cleats.

Commissioner Goodell says the rules have been fitted to protect all players, but in reality, the rules have simply created a protected class: quarterbacks. The commish is being disingenuous when he blathers on about safety being tantamount and that’s why Lewis and his defensive mates protest so vehemently. They know the deal.

It’s not about safety as much as it is about selling. Quarterbacks are the top of the food chain when it comes to pitching the product. It’s not nearly so easy to sell sell sell when you’re lying on your back–unless you’re Jenna Jamison.

Sure, plenty of forgettable stuff happened in the eighties- two work stoppages, replacement players, Buddy Ball. But it was still football. It hadn’t turned into the billion dollar concern that has transformed the fandom into serfdom.

Games were played in cavernous, multi-purpose stadiums with no aesthetic value because, let’s face it, a football game can be played in a parking lot and it wouldn’t matter. Today’s state of the art palaces that  house world class eateries, microbreweries and clothiers are supposed to enhance the fan experience. The fans who’ve been priced out of the game will have to take the league’s word for it, I guess.

And these throwback uniforms? Back in the eighties, they were IT. And it was home and away, there weren’t scores of alternate versions. In the eighties, the Chargers were disco lemonade. The Pats were Norman Rockwell solid.  The Falcons wore red- not ‘check me out gangstah black’.

There were no salary caps for the owners to circumvent. Chris Berman was some guy on some funny sounding sports network. The tick tock of Sixty Minutes signaled the end of Sunday business and there was ONE Monday Night game. Conspicuously absent from the production- studio shows, five minute intros, sports tickers, pregame concerts and fireworks. None of these things were missed since none of these things were relevant to the game you had tuned in to watch.

We didn’t celebrate cold weather games in the eighties. We simply survived them. Hosting a cold weather Super Bowl? They tried it with Detroit and it was a miserable failure. And Detroit had a dome.

But this is a new, transparent age for the sport. And by transparency I mean to say, ripe with contradictions.

On the one hand the league sits any player with signs of a concussion. With the other hand they fist bump in determined unity while claiming that two more games must be added to an already rigorous schedule.

It’s difficult to understand what the narrative of the new NFL is supposed to be, what with the talk coming from both sides of their mouth.

Where have you gone Joe Montana?

Tonight’s drink: Brooklyn Pennant Ale

Looks like honey and goes down just as sweetly. This pale ale was the perfect way to go on a Monday night sans football. It’s got a quick trigger but a friendly payback. I just love Brooklyn Brewery.


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