4

June

Four Things the NHL Playoffs Teach Me About the NFL

NHL and NFL LogosThose of you who regularly read my posts know that I live in Pittsburgh. I arrived here after making a few different stops in my life journey, though my mom did grow up in Western Pennsylvania, so I do have roots here. And while I am a football fan to the extreme, I have grown to enjoy watching ice hockey. Put two and two together, and you should not be surprised to know that I have been following the Pittsburgh Penguins in their run towards another Stanley Cup championship.

Right now, the Penguins are favored to win, despite their disappointing loss on Saturday against the Boston Bruins. It was the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals, so they’re down but certainly not out.

However, as I was watching the game, my mind couldn’t help but explore the similarities and differences between the two sports. Football is far and above more popular, and you could probably even rank hockey below baseball and basketball in terms of viewership. Nevertheless, here are some things I learned about the NFL as I watched the NHL playoffs:

1. Individual games hold more value.

I probably should have noted in the beginning that I am a very, very casual fan of ice hockey. In fact, I generally only tune into games when the playoffs roll around. Each NHL team plays 82 games in the regular season, for a grand total of 1,230 games across the league. In short, I simply don’t have the time to commit to my team.

Contrast that with the 16-game schedule of NFL teams, and it’s easy to see why each game holds more value. Now, this it not a new revelation, but it’s a model that has helped football become the biggest sport in the nation. When so few games are played, each one carries more weight in determining playoff chances for a team. And that means more fans will feel the urgency to tune in and see what happens.

Like the NHL, the NBA teams also play 82 games each in the regular season. Meanwhile, MLB teams see nearly twice the action, with 162 games per season. It’s great for the statisticians, because the large sample size makes the numbers more meaningful, but it can be too much to follow for the average fan.

11

March

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

Surviving Sundays With No Packers Football

I was watching the Minnesota Gophers play the Michigan Wolverines in the Big 10 tournament on Friday night and somehow the end of the game made me think about the NFL.

It was one of those down-to-the-wire college basketball games that makes the sport so exciting, or at least should make the sport so exciting. Unfortunately, whenever the intensity got ratcheted up to 10 and you were getting to the edge of your seat, a timeout would be called. Or the refs would need five minutes to review a play. Then another timeout. Then another review. And so on, and so on…

The end of what should have been a memorable game was ruined by meddling coaches and refs who relied too heavily on the crutch of instant replay.

So what does this have to do with the NFL? I guarantee you if a similar problem existed in the NFL, it would do something to correct it. The NFL isn’t afraid to innovate, even if it means upsetting some people in the process.

If I was in charge of college basketball, I would ban timeouts in the final two minutes. Actually, I would still allow timeouts, but only to stop the clock. Once a timeout is called, the clock would stop, the team that called the timeout would get the ball out of bounds, and play would resume. There would be no long break as the players wandered over to the bench, listened to their coach draw up another play, then wandered back onto the court.

This would be a fairly major change to college basketball, one that would causes coaches and longtime fans resistant to change to start whining. Loudly.

They would claim the new rule alters the way the game is played. I would say, damn right it does. It makes the game better.

They would claim coaches need those timeouts to set up crunch-time plays. I would say that is what practice is for and admonish the coaches for not properly teaching their players how to function in high-pressure situations without someone holding their hand.

They would say the new rule is only to placate casual fans. I would say all fans will appreciate a more exciting game, except maybe for you and your fuddy-duddy friends.

26

February

Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

Sundays are rough without football, especially after how the Packers season ended.

I love Sundays, but I love Sundays more when football is on. Football makes you forget about your hangover from Saturday night and the fact that you have to go back to work on Monday. Football also makes you feel less guilty for lazing around on the couch all day, eating food that raises your cholesterol and swearing at your TV.

Now we’re stuck with the NBA, NHL, MLB and golf on Sunday for the foreseeable future. I like all of those sports, but none of them makes a Sunday like football. Those other sports are for the other six days of the week.

Sunday is for football.

To kill the time on these offseason Sundays, I’m going to publish Surviving Sunday: Packers New, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived.

It’ll be a regular notebook-style column that opens with a random thought or rant (like the one you’re reading now), followed by some quick opinions on a couple of key issues related to the Packers that I didn’t have a chance to cover with a full post during the week. From there, I’ll include links to must-read/must-see stories, videos and blog posts from the previous week and a preview of possible Packers storylines for the upcoming week. I’ll close each Surviving Sunday with a few words on a subject unrelated to the Packers.

I hope you enjoy reading Surviving Sunday as much as I enjoy putting it together. Anything to get in a little football on Sunday, right?

Scott Wells, Bryan Bulaga and the NFL Combine

  • Ted Thompson needs to sign Scott Wells. Unless Wells is asking for the moon because he wants his comeuppance after the Packers were mean to him early in his career, Thompson needs to make this one work. Wells is an upper-echelon center. If there’s one thing that occasionally rattles Aaron Rodgers (or any QB), it’s pressure up the middle. Wells does a good job of setting the Packers pass protection and keeping those interior pass rushers out of No. 12′s face. For what the Packers need him to do, he’s worth a 3-year deal in the $17-20 million range.