Fifty-five thousand rabid screaming spectators bent on reaching full catharsis in the weekend leisure to forget the turmoil of their daily lives. The Sunday games provide an escape. The legion is on hand. Blood will be spilt. The helmets agleam. Courage whet. The combat begins.
I could just as easily be describing the Roman Colosseum as I am CenturyLink field. I guess the difference would be that the CLink holds 67,000 plus, and we all know that's gonna sell out.
My point is that I think most of us view football players as modern day gladiators. There is no captive general, masking his appearance as "The Spaniard" to avoid imperial detection. The NFL however, does contains the best collection of real life candidates to fill out the army of Leonidas. Seriously, these body types can't be real. They look like they were all manufactured in the same machine that Doctor Erskine minted Captain America. I mean, we've all seen Robert Turbin's arms, right?
Ok, now I'm telling you this in my whispering voice. I'm not against HGH in the NFL. Shhhh, I know that sounds bad. But I like my gladiators looking like Lou Ferrigno. I love having behemoths on the gridiron laying wood to these other freakishly athletic monsters of human growth potential. I love Kam Chancellor removing years of life from Vernon Davis.
photo via columbian.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com
And before that, I loved Ken ‘Hammerin' Hamlin swinging his Mjolnir into the face of guys like Donte Stallworth.
photo via ts4.mm.bing.net
There's sweet carnal gratification from seeing faceless people get destroyed. But then I think about them as people with faces. I glory about the concussive blasts, and then think about the concussions they cause. There really are people beneath those helmets.
So ask yourself, how many players could you recognize if you saw them on the street? Well Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, of course. Pretty much all of the starting quarterbacks, obviously. Adrian Peterson and Patrick Willis, yes. Wait, I can't picture Novarro Bowman. He is perhaps the greatest player at his position in the NFL today, and he plays for our rival. Ok, how about our own team? Yea, I'm much better at that. Um, I'm having problems though. I can't picture Christine Michael or Jordan Hill or, wait those were rookies that didn't even really see the field last year. Holy crap, I can't picture Byron Maxwell and he is a legionnaire of boom. Dang, that visor he wears on game day. Ha, I just pictured Earl Thomas' crazy eyes after making a crushing hit. I love those crazy eyes.
The NFL has done a phenomenal job of taking the individuality out of the athletes. This is a "Next man up" league, where players have become faceless interchangeable cogs in the machine. The players are even punished as unsportsmanlike for removing their helmets on the field of play.
To be fair, we watch the game of football, for football and not human interest stories. I'm not even advocating for changes to the game to be made. I'm just pointing out that there is a lot to be gained by viewing our gladiators without their helmets on. Not only would this produce a better human connection with the product us fans love, but it would improve the marketing and merchandising element of an already robust league. Or in other words, win-win . . win. Fans, players and executives reaping benefits.
Here are my ideas:
The Pro Bowl. It currently fails, because although it is supposed to be about the best players, the NFL still somehow makes it about the teams that no one cares about. The NFC vs the AFC? Ok, I can see that, at least I can root for a conference. But this last year, Rice vs Sanders? I'm not even really sure what I'm watching. Emphasize the players, not the teams.
The NBA has the dunk contest, Baseball has the home run derby. Why doesn't football have any kind of skills competition? This alone would stir immense media conversations through the long and dreary wilderness which is the offseason.
- QB accuracy and distance competitions
- Receivers catching balls from multiple firing fastball machines
- Running backs running an obstacle course
- Linemen doing strongmen competitions
- The 40 yard freaking dash race
Who wouldn't want to see Percy Harvin lined up next to Desean Jackson and whoever else has earned a trip to the Pro Bowl racing for the NFL's claim to the fastest man? Or have the tight ends actually compete to see who has the tightest end. Ok, maybe not that one. But I would seriously love to watch anything and everything that these insane athletes have to offer. Water polo, miniature golf, spelling bee, anything to let their personalities shine a little more.
The NFL could even incentivize the games. The individual winners would obviously get supreme bragging rights but the League would also donate a sum of money, I dunno, $10,000 to the player's charity of choice. This would create pressure and incentive for everyone involved to perform at their highest levels. Win-win-win-win. NFL, players, fans, charities.
This brings me to my second idea: Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.
Players are always seeking for endorsement deals. Shoes, cars, even local plumbing companies. They obviously want to get paid, but they also want to build their brand. Many of them want to be more than just a jock. The NFL can help provide that, while reaping major benefits for themselves.
Establish an emissary program that would send star athletes to other countries to build the awareness of American football. The NFL desperately wants to globalize. I'm not exactly sure how this would work but if the NFL, NFLPA and other minds smarter than me got together, I believe this could be an avenue of great benefit.
And this is where my intelligence fails me. I'd like to hear your feedback on all of this. It's like my mind can see a connection between the League collaborating with its players but I'm not exactly sure how, other than what I've already listed.
I'd just like to see more of the players. When I watch the Real Rob Report, I see people and personalities. I like seeing a human side to my gladiators.