Wednesday, March 11, 2009

And I brought you all my dreams

Dreams - The Game

The mutual admiration society that Cian over at fuhbaw and I have formed shouldn't really be a secret to anyone who reads either one of our blogs. Still, it's fun to find that there are still things on which we disagree. So, while I certainly agree with his dissection of why alternative professional football leagues have failed to draw any of the NFL's audience, I'm not sure I'm on board with his assertion that the premise of the UFL, that there is simply too much talent on NFL sidelines for an alternative league to NOT exist, is one that leads to a failed product.

Certianly there are parellels to be drawn to leagues such as the USFL and the XFL, but both of those leagues were different in spirit. The USFL was built to steal talent away from the NFL, something that the UFL seems to have admited is impossible. The XFL, on the other hand, was designed to create a NEW football audience while drawing from the old one, which is a perfect example of pleasing nobody by trying to please everybody. Here, however, the UFL is pointing out that, with the loss of NFL Europe and NFL rosters shrinking, there may be untapped talent eager for a stage on which they can perform.

This directly applies to who Cian refers to as the "discarded fruits of Roger Goodell's stringent Personal Conduct Policy." Looking at players like Adam Jones, Michael Vick, and possibly soo Matt Jones, all of whom are repeat violators of the policy but also singular talents in the football world, one has to wonder whether the UFL might be the perfect landing spot for them. Cian shows that extending them a shot could immediately draw the league's credibility into question, which could be fatal for an already risky proposition. He's not wrong either; making these players the cornerstones of the UFL is at best, incredibly dangerous and at worst, foolish. Still, in my opinion, if the league is going to remain honest to its fans (in this case, those hoping to see it succeed) and its essential thesis, it has no choice but to offer these players the chance to show that wild talents exist outside of the NFL's increasingly narrow scope (check the list of unemployed QBs if that doesn't make sense). Because bringing them in, even if it means that the UFL will have to work harder and harder to downplay their status to avoid them becoming the sole faces of the league (at first, anyway), is the only way to make sure that the league can build upo the core it claims that it wants.

My point is that it doesn't work if the UFL only makes successes out of ignored players, because their very typecasting as ignored NFL players means that fans will do to them exactly what they're already doing: Not paying attention. But a player like Vick or, to a lesser extent, the Joneses draws attention because these are not ignored players, whose talent is questioned, but rather players forced out IN SPITE OF their talent. And when their presence draws fans, then the play of a league of Troy Smiths (FREE TROY SMITH), Adrian Arringtons, JP Losmans, and other talents who can't seem to find a team willing to break rank and experiment with wild risks for potentially wild talents, will get recognition. Then, the league gets to survive or die based on just what kind of quality of play that produces, which is all any league could ask for. It's ultimately a question of which is the cart and which is the horse: Credibility or talent. Reasonable minds disagree, but in this case, I'm happy to unreasonably hope for a field for unreasonable risk.

1 comment:

Cian said...

Trust me, Zac, if you were running the UFL, I would have no such reservations. ("Submit a patent for the color of that post pattern!") But again and again we see that football administrators are the among the least visionary of all of the nebbish half-entrusted, half-public servants.

Things will get tough, as Obama says, and at that moment, the brass will strangle the teams for dollars... at least, that's what my historical empiricism tells me.

I think their folly lies shooting past what you hope for, they turn to the NFL too much... not just to skim of misfit talent. (Oh good lord, if Ricky Williams wouldn't have been given a second chance with Parcells, what he could've done to define this league!) Look at the coaches: Denny Green who somehow managed to not make the Super Bowl with Cris Carter and Randy Moss and John Randle; Jim Haslett, he who goes before the destruction fanbases and/or cities; Jim Fassel, Tiki Barber's best friend; and Ted "Norv Turner thought I was incompetent" Cottrell.

Part of my argument, and what I did a horrible job underscoring, is that the modest goals of these upstart leagues will in the end sink them. Whether it's the AAFL's a-college-degree-is-good-for-everyone obsession and their other dalliances with football irrelevance or the New USFL's nostalgia for a league that was never that good to begin with... or the UFL's "like NFL Europe! But here!" stance. Occupying a middle ground between what will give them a shot (nabbing Vick and other people who flunk out of Goodell's advanced football ethics course) and being subservient to the NFL's aims might be their undoing.

Given how Big East college football has tanked, I would love nothing more than to have a better option for football on Thursday nights. If it could be a place for genius misfit creation, spread-option offenses run with almost NFL-caliber talent... I'm still going to buy a ticket this year if they get it up and running.

(Have I told you about my dreams were the Titans line up in the wishbone, VY behind center, LenDale a true fullback, the Chrises, Johnson and Henry, at the halfbacks, then they just run the triple option over and over again? Ah. Some might caution throwing an NFL QB into such abuse, to that I say draft Pat White in the first round.)

In some sense, I think we're staring at the same exactly hall-full, half-empty glass.