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Extra point: what’s the point?

Posted by Doug on April 21, 2006

It's Friday, so I'm going to open up the Rant category.

Just for fun some time, try the following exercise:

  1. Write a paragraph describing why you like the sport of football and/or why you like watching it.

  2. Find someone who has never seen a football game before. If you don't live abroad or work on a college campus, this could be tough, so you can just turn this into a thought experiment if necessary.

  3. Show that person video footage of an extra point being kicked and ask him to write a paragraph describing it.

I dare you to try and convince me that those two paragraphs aren't exact opposites of each other.

Despite maintaining a site with a lot of moldy old football statistics, I'm not very educated on football history. But here is the situation as I understand it. Rugby is all about running with the ball, kicking the ball, stopping people from running with or kicking the ball, and stopping people from stopping people from running with or kicking the ball. American football evolved from rugby so, in its infancy, football was about those same things.

But then football evolved. It could have evolved into a sport where kicking was even more important than in rugby. It could have evolved into a sport where the people who run with the ball must also be able to boot it. Had it done so, the resulting sport might have been just as entertaining as what we now understand as football. But it didn't. It evolved into a sport about running, passing, tackling, and blocking.

When something evolves, that doesn't necessarily imply that it is getting better in any absolute sense. It just means that it's getting better suited to a particular niche. Rugby is about speed, strength, collisions, throwing, kicking, versatility, and continuous action. Football has evolved toward the first four of those and away from the last three.

To summarize: football players used to kick the ball. Now, the players that kick the ball are not football players. Yes, yes, I understand that by definition they are football players. They wear football uniforms and get paychecks from football teams. I get that. Kicking is football in the same sense that Anna Nicole Smith is a model.

Allow me to anticipate a few objections to this post and attempt to rebut them:

  • But Doug, kickoffs and punts are some of the most exciting plays in football. I don't necessarily disagree with that, but I claim that the kick itself plays no role at all in the excitement. It's merely a means of getting to the exciting part: the return.
  • But Doug, a potential game winning field goal attempt in the last second is super duper exciting. I don't disagree that it is, but again, the kick itself is irrelevant. Any last second event that determines the outcome of the game will produce suspense, tension, and excitement. The coin flip at the beginning of overtime produces a lot of suspense, tension, and excitement. That doesn't mean that coin-flippers are football players.
  • But Doug, this is just an example of specialization. You're not opposed to specialization are you? It is true that everyone's role --- not just the kicker's --- is becoming more specialized. Offensive linemen used to carry the ball occasionally. Running backs used to have to block, throw, and run inside and outside. Running ability used to be required for quarterbacks; now it's optional. How can I be opposed to Adam Vinatieri's specialized role while not being opposed to Ted Washington's or Jerome Bettis's or Peyton Manning's? Here's how: because Bettis' role, specialized as it is, is a part of why people like football. So are Manning's and Washington's. Vinatieri's is not. That was the point of the thought experiment that started off this post.

In my hot youth, I used to be a revolutionary. Now I'm older and have less energy, so I'm content with small steps in the right direction. With that in mind, I propose the elimination of the extra point. I see a few options.

  1. A touchdown is worth 7 points

  2. A touchdown is worth 6 points and is followed by a scrimmage play from the two yard line (or wherever) that might be worth one point or two points.

I can think of a few arguments for each choice, and I'm not quite sure which I like best. That's not really the point. The point is that less kicking equals more football. And I like football.

This entry was posted on Friday, April 21st, 2006 at 4:16 am and is filed under Rant. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.