What he said…

This has been making the rounds, but Dale Hansen GETS IT. That’s something I almost never say about sports journalists, including when they are opining about the sport on which they are supposed to be an expert.


The fact that Michael Sam’s sexuality has been this newsworthy – that we haven’t had an active, openly non-heterosexual NFL player until 2014 – is quite damning of NFL culture and American culture in general.

*Hat tip to Jen Hayden at The Daily Kos.

Fixing football

This is a repost of an article that originally appeared at The Paltry Sapien on 10 August 2012.

American football. Not proper football. We already fixed that once. We call it rugby.

Speaking of which, we were at a dinner party when the subject of my rugby career was brought up (not by me). A discussion about surviving a full contact sport without padding (don’t hit with your head and hit with forces below the physiological limits of the human body) transitioned into a discussion of how to reduce debilitating injuries in American football.

In the presence of a rugger, people like to suggest getting rid of the helmets and pads. It is the pads that allow American football to be so violent1. You could reduce the violence and, therefore, the injuries by getting rid of pads; but that’s not going to happen. American football is a violent sport. The fans like the violence. The players like the violence.

And, helmets and pads are necessary for the single most important element of modern American football: the forward pass.

Continue reading “Fixing football”

One small step for a coach, one giant leap for football?

With my background in evolutionary biology and genetics, it should be no surprise that I’m an advocate of variation. As an athlete, I really love seeing unconventional approaches to sports, especially because most sports involve so many variable that “solving” an truly optimal way to play is unlikely.

Convention and tradition are often held up by commentators as “the best” way to play because they appear to have survived the test of time. This is very true in football.

The conventions of football have almost never been put to the test. They do not reflect proven strategies for victory. They reflect strategies that are least likely to get the coach fired by the team owner or athletic director. Thus, almost every team in the United States punts on fourth down. A notable exception is Kevin Kelley at Pulaski Academy in Arkansas (notably, he is his own athletic director), who has been successful while refusing to punt or kick (104-19 with 3 state championships).

There may be a new, if limited, addition to this counter-culture. According to reports, San Diego State’s coach, Rocky Long, is considering “going for it” on fourth downs on his opponent’s side of the field. Continue reading “One small step for a coach, one giant leap for football?”

Fixing football at The Paltry Sapien

After a hiatus to move my family back across the Atlantic, I’ve got a new post up at The Paltry Sapien in which I lay out my proposal for fixing American football.

Prior to the NFL draft, pre-season training camp, and a player’s return after a concussion, NFL doctors will determine the medical eligibility of a player. Essentially, this has the NFL set the list of players that are available for teams to employ. The NFL has an economic incentive to declare players at risk of long-term issues from repetitive injuries (especially concussions) ineligible.

Read the rest at The Paltry Sapien.