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Is the NFL Better than Ever Today?


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While I agree that nostalgia plays a part and the fact that it just meant more to you when you're a kid also weighs into the equation, but I have to say, even though I still enjoy watching the games and am still a die-hard Bills fan, I don't think the game is as good as it used to be.

 

I will take out the physicality factor. All of us older guys grew up with a much more brutal game, and it really changed the game to eliminate that factor. And although we lament that to some extent, for player safety, it kind of had to happen. So, I won't count that as a factor. Although I do find it interesting that there seem to be more injuries now than back in the day, overall. (I assume that is due to the size and speed of the players today, despite the improved safety measures. And some of it may be that we didn't hear about every single injury back in the day/less press, etc.---but it does seem like there are still more injuries now.)

 

In the positive category for today's game, I will say that overall the players are much more athletic. Some of the athletes in today's game are unbelievable.

 

But here is why I think the game used to be better:

 

1. Scoring: I'm sure a lot of younger fans love those 44-38 score games, but damn it, I like defense too. All of the rules to prevent CBs from doing their jobs, barely being allowed to touch QBs, etc. have led to over-inflated numbers, and most games become shootouts. Some of the best games I have ever seen were 9-6 defensive battles. But the average fan would be bored by games like that now, rather than appreciate those defenses and the strategy involved in a true field-position game. I stopped watching the NBA years ago when they took defense out of the game. What's the point if everyone scores on almost every possession. To me that is boring. Where is the drama and conflict of the game if you don't have defenses on an even footing? 

 

2. The NFL's own popularity: The NFL got too big and popular that, as others have said, there is way too much pre-game/post-game hype and talk, etc, etc. The Super Bowl has become completely unwatchable to me. At first, I could just skip all of the pre-game and just turn it on to watch the game itself. But now, because of the half-time shows, the TV timeouts, the extensive commercial breaks, the hype of the game, it just never flows like an actual game and has become boring to watch.

 

3. Refereeing/NFL story lines: Another reason I stopped watching the NBA years ago was because star players started getting special treatment. If you breathe on a star player driving to the lane, he gets the call; while a role player could get hacked by 4 guys in the lane and no call. I feel like the NFL has been heading in that direction too with players and teams. No one can tell me that Brady and the Pats didn't get preferential treatment over their dynasty run. It's not the reason for their success, but they definitely got a lot of help along the way. What about the thing with Cam a few years back where the ref told him he hadn't been in the league long enough to get that roughing the passer call. And there is no doubt to me that the NFL likes to push certain story lines. I'm not saying they out-and-out rig games (cause I don't think they do), but for marketing reasons, there are definitely scenarios they would prefer and are not above having the refs give a certain team a leg up in accomplishing that with a few calls here and there at key moments. The first time that became clear to me was when the NFL basically took a Super Bowl away from the Seahawks to give it to Pittsburgh, so they could have the storyline of the "Bus" driving off into the sunset wth a Super Bowl victory. Then there are things like the catch rules, Al Riveron and his bs replay calls, too many flags, just bad referees altogether, etc.

 

4. Free Agency: Although this is a necessary evil for the players' sake (it would suck to be stuck on a bad team your whole career), it did kind of destroy rivalries and loyalties. Things were a lot different back in the day when you had the majority of the guys on your team for like 10 years straight. They were like your family members, and the rivalries would get down-right nasty because these guys have been battling each other for a decade. There are no more real rivalries in the league anymore. Hell, now the guys all kneel and pray together after the games, swap jerseys, take pictures together. That stuff never would have happened back in the day; if you lost, you were pissed, hated the other team, and headed to your locker room.

 

5. Mythic Aura: This may be down to a bit of nostalgia, but I feel the same way about baseball. I feel like the game has lost some of its mythic quality, probably due to over-exposure, prima donna athletes, the money they make, social media, etc. For instance, Brady and the Pats will probably go down as the best QB/Dynasty ever. But, do they have the same aura of Lambeau's Packers, Shula's Colts or Dolphins, Bradshaw's Steelers, Landry's Cowboys, Walsh's 49ers, etc. The Frozen Tundra, the Galloping Ghost, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Billie "White-shoes" Johnson, Mean Joe Greene, Two yards and a cloud of dust, Johnny U, the "Ice Bowl", the "Comeback", the Steel Curtain. Great games still happen, players still have nicknames...but I just feel like that old mythic aura of the game no longer exists.

 

Having said that, the NFL is still fun to watch, but I just don't feel like the game is as good (overall) as it was back in the day. It has changed (not for the better imo), but it seems like younger fans might disagree with me on that, so it is what it is.

 

 

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I kind of preferred when the sport was a little more violent, when DBs could be more physical with receivers, when QBs could get laid tf out, etc.     Granted there were terrible physical an

Nostalgia is a powerful drug. But most things were better in our pasts because we were kids with no responsibilities and little understanding of the world. As for the NFL or other sports, I don’t thin

He hears that a lot.

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12 hours ago, folz said:

While I agree that nostalgia plays a part and the fact that it just meant more to you when you're a kid also weighs into the equation, but I have to say, even though I still enjoy watching the games and am still a die-hard Bills fan, I don't think the game is as good as it used to be.

 

I will take out the physicality factor. All of us older guys grew up with a much more brutal game, and it really changed the game to eliminate that factor. And although we lament that to some extent, for player safety, it kind of had to happen. So, I won't count that as a factor. Although I do find it interesting that there seem to be more injuries now than back in the day, overall. (I assume that is due to the size and speed of the players today, despite the improved safety measures. And some of it may be that we didn't hear about every single injury back in the day/less press, etc.---but it does seem like there are still more injuries now.)

 

In the positive category for today's game, I will say that overall the players are much more athletic. Some of the athletes in today's game are unbelievable.

 

But here is why I think the game used to be better:

 

1. Scoring: I'm sure a lot of younger fans love those 44-38 score games, but damn it, I like defense too. All of the rules to prevent CBs from doing their jobs, barely being allowed to touch QBs, etc. have led to over-inflated numbers, and most games become shootouts. Some of the best games I have ever seen were 9-6 defensive battles. But the average fan would be bored by games like that now, rather than appreciate those defenses and the strategy involved in a true field-position game. I stopped watching the NBA years ago when they took defense out of the game. What's the point if everyone scores on almost every possession. To me that is boring. Where is the drama and conflict of the game if you don't have defenses on an even footing? 

 

2. The NFL's own popularity: The NFL got too big and popular that, as others have said, there is way too much pre-game/post-game hype and talk, etc, etc. The Super Bowl has become completely unwatchable to me. At first, I could just skip all of the pre-game and just turn it on to watch the game itself. But now, because of the half-time shows, the TV timeouts, the extensive commercial breaks, the hype of the game, it just never flows like an actual game and has become boring to watch.

 

3. Refereeing/NFL story lines: Another reason I stopped watching the NBA years ago was because star players started getting special treatment. If you breathe on a star player driving to the lane, he gets the call; while a role player could get hacked by 4 guys in the lane and no call. I feel like the NFL has been heading in that direction too with players and teams. No one can tell me that Brady and the Pats didn't get preferential treatment over their dynasty run. It's not the reason for their success, but they definitely got a lot of help along the way. What about the thing with Cam a few years back where the ref told him he hadn't been in the league long enough to get that roughing the passer call. And there is no doubt to me that the NFL likes to push certain story lines. I'm not saying they out-and-out rig games (cause I don't think they do), but for marketing reasons, there are definitely scenarios they would prefer and are not above having the refs give a certain team a leg up in accomplishing that with a few calls here and there at key moments. The first time that became clear to me was when the NFL basically took a Super Bowl away from the Seahawks to give it to Pittsburgh, so they could have the storyline of the "Bus" driving off into the sunset wth a Super Bowl victory. Then there are things like the catch rules, Al Riveron and his bs replay calls, too many flags, just bad referees altogether, etc.

 

4. Free Agency: Although this is a necessary evil for the players' sake (it would suck to be stuck on a bad team your whole career), it did kind of destroy rivalries and loyalties. Things were a lot different back in the day when you had the majority of the guys on your team for like 10 years straight. They were like your family members, and the rivalries would get down-right nasty because these guys have been battling each other for a decade. There are no more real rivalries in the league anymore. Hell, now the guys all kneel and pray together after the games, swap jerseys, take pictures together. That stuff never would have happened back in the day; if you lost, you were pissed, hated the other team, and headed to your locker room.

 

5. Mythic Aura: This may be down to a bit of nostalgia, but I feel the same way about baseball. I feel like the game has lost some of its mythic quality, probably due to over-exposure, prima donna athletes, the money they make, social media, etc. For instance, Brady and the Pats will probably go down as the best QB/Dynasty ever. But, do they have the same aura of Lambeau's Packers, Shula's Colts or Dolphins, Bradshaw's Steelers, Landry's Cowboys, Walsh's 49ers, etc. The Frozen Tundra, the Galloping Ghost, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Billie "White-shoes" Johnson, Mean Joe Greene, Two yards and a cloud of dust, Johnny U, the "Ice Bowl", the "Comeback", the Steel Curtain. Great games still happen, players still have nicknames...but I just feel like that old mythic aura of the game no longer exists.

 

Having said that, the NFL is still fun to watch, but I just don't feel like the game is as good (overall) as it was back in the day. It has changed (not for the better imo), but it seems like younger fans might disagree with me on that, so it is what it is.

 

 

So fans forget that free agency is a two way street. It’s not always the player wanting to leave-if you think about it in most cases it’s the team wanting to get rid of the player because god forbid the player wants to make some more money. I also don’t see why people get so worked up when guys kneel after A GAME or trade jerseys after A GAME-should these guys be sulking and pouting every time they lose A GAME like an 8 year old child?

 

and I’m sorry but prima donna athletes are a recent thing? They have ALWAYS been a thing. I’ve heard tons of stories of how guys like Dick Butkus were just always a giant piece of crap to everyone they came in contact with, and there’s the guy from the dolphins who sprints to anyone who will talk to him as soon as the last undefeated team for the season loses....prima donna athletes are not a new thing at all. We just recognize it more because of their exposure and social media.

 

Just to make sure it’s known I’m 41 years old, so I certainly don’t consider myself a young fan. I’m just not a fan of people thinking that the older players were such better people than current players, that they were manlier men, that they didn’t (or wouldn’t have if they had the chance) take performance enhancing drugs...it’s just not true

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Officiating today should be better than it ever has been seeing that the same refs have been doing this since the 70's, they're like the Supreme Court and have a job for life.

 

The Shield also has instituted too many new rules that focus on creating high scoring games. If you hit a QB, it better be in a 6 inch area of their torso or it's 15 yards. CB's get run over and knocked to the ground and it's DPI instead of the obvious OPI. And the one that always raises BP is when a defensive player barely jumps into the neutral zone, gets back to being on his side of the ball, doesn't touch anyone, yet gets flagged because some player on the other end of the line starts pointing. It didn't used to be that way.

 

It's still the best game going, but I think it was better back in the 80's and 90's than it is now.

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6 hours ago, Ya Digg? said:

So fans forget that free agency is a two way street. It’s not always the player wanting to leave-if you think about it in most cases it’s the team wanting to get rid of the player because god forbid the player wants to make some more money. I also don’t see why people get so worked up when guys kneel after A GAME or trade jerseys after A GAME-should these guys be sulking and pouting every time they lose A GAME like an 8 year old child?

 

and I’m sorry but prima donna athletes are a recent thing? They have ALWAYS been a thing. I’ve heard tons of stories of how guys like Dick Butkus were just always a giant piece of crap to everyone they came in contact with, and there’s the guy from the dolphins who sprints to anyone who will talk to him as soon as the last undefeated team for the season loses....prima donna athletes are not a new thing at all. We just recognize it more because of their exposure and social media.

 

Just to make sure it’s known I’m 41 years old, so I certainly don’t consider myself a young fan. I’m just not a fan of people thinking that the older players were such better people than current players, that they were manlier men, that they didn’t (or wouldn’t have if they had the chance) take performance enhancing drugs...it’s just not true

 

Just wanted to respond to a couple of points.

 

Yeah, sure, free agency is good for teams too, especially ones that may not draft well. I just mentioned the players because a good player being stuck on a bad team was a more relatable aspect of the fee agency debate to fans.

 

Actually, I don't mind that the players are friendlier with each other now, and it makes sense, because of free agency, more of them have crossed paths with each other during their careers and due to media functions, etc. that are much more prevalent now. And I actually don't get worked up about the guys kneeling to pray with each other or whatever, I guess that I was kind of exaggerating a bit to demonstrate that rivalries back in the day mattered more (there would be actual bad blood between some of the teams and cities). You didn't want to shake a Bryan Cox's hand after the game. And since your guys had been in your city for 10 years, and their guys had been in their city for 10 years, it was more personal somehow. The game was heightened emotionally. I don't regret that the league went to FA, I think that it was a necessary evolution. But for all the good it brought, we did lose that deeper connection to our teams and rivalries. Guys weren't coming and going all the time, they came to your community and stayed for a decade...all of them. Now, it's only a handful of guys, if that, who will be with your team that long. 

 

And I guess I didn't explain well what I meant about prima donna athletes (and maybe that was the wrong word to use). Of course there have always been A-holes in the league, there have always been cocky players and showboaters. And by no means were the players better people back in the day (people are people), nor were they less prone to using performance enhancing drugs. We all know there was a time in the 70s-80s when most of the league was on steroids. What I was pointing at is exactly what you mentioned (more media exposure and social media) along with the salaries that these guys make. They have F-you money now and can act differently with coaches, teams, the league, the media, and some of that is good, but sometimes not. I was just trying to point out that because of the money and the knowing everything about these guys, their lives...the good and the bad (and of course the media likes to focus on the bad), the dumb things that people tweet or whatever, the playing up to the media (because it is there), etc. takes away a bit of the mythic quality that the game used to have imo. Sure, give the players back in the day that kind of money and media access and there would still be some of that stuff. It's more the environment/society and not any difference in players from then to now. But, to use an analogy, it's like in a horror movie, sometimes the violence that happens off-screen is scarier than when you get to see all of the gore. Or a story being a little more interesting when you leave some mystery to it and don't explain every detail. It's simply over exposure of the league again that I think that has watered down the product a bit and taken away some of the mythic quality it held. Look at the difference between the old NFL films and  the football shows or recaps of today. It's all part of the same idea I was trying to convey.

 

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2 minutes ago, Artful Dodger said:

Instant replay has significantly reduced my enjoyment of the game.  The refs are afraid to make calls, and it slows everything down. 

 

Some human error is OK as long as it's distributed fairly.  It also gives fans stuff to complain about.

This is where I'm at also. 

Replay has been just awful for the NFL, not to mention all of the constant officiating conferences throughout a game. Between that and the constatnly increasing number of commercials I've been finding the NFL in general unwatchable the last few years. About 3 years ago I cancelled my NFL Sunday Ticket for the first time in almost 20 years and I haven't really missed it at all.

When you let businessmen and lawyers start calling shots you can expect anything fun and interesting to be quickly pushed aside in the name of profit and uniformity. 😔

 

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On 11/20/2020 at 11:43 AM, May Day 10 said:

I was talking to my son in the car today about how people always look back to their childhoods and think everything was better (and often are correct).  

 

I used the NHL as an example.  My dad would always tell me how much better the original 6 was.  Now I tell my kid how much better the 80s and 90s were, with a lot of the fun stars of the day, high scoring games, lots of fights and rivalries, etc.  Hockey is boring to me now, and the quality of the players and coaching has made every game a war of attrition to see who makes a mistake first.

 

MLB the same way, although I much prefer today over the roid era.  Still long for the days of older ballparks and Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripkin, George Brett, Mattingly, Winfield, Strawberry, Hershiser, etc...

 

Then I got to the NFL and I paused...  I actually think it might be much better today than it was when I was a kid (Im 42).  I do think there would be an extra charm with the AFL days/1960s and 1970s that I missed... but overall, the sport has improved from the 80s and 90s.  It has gotten faster, more action, much more in quantity and quality coverage, ridiculous popularity, fantasy football/pools, and lots of stars.  

 

granted, there are things I dislike... mainly the extreme proliferation of video review.  It would also be nice if players had a longer shelf-life like they seemed to have in the past.   

I have to disagree. The whole social justice issue has totally undermined the league and has turned me off a lot. I used to watch every NFL game that I could,  but now only watch the Bills and even then I am troubled by my favorite team not honoring the national anthem. Ratings have also fallen. I also know that many of my friends have similar feelings. Will be hard to replace those Bills teams of the 90’s who played with so much heart to get to those 4 Super Bowls, even if they lost. Will probably never happen again as teams getting to the super bowl many times don’tveven make the playoffs the following year. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lots of interesting perspectives here on all sides.

 

 

I think part of me thinking the NFL is great today has something to do with the Bills being an actual relevant team after living in kind of a darkness/B league for about 20 years.  

 

I also see a lot of the great, young, exciting quarterbacks that have taken the stage and it is kind of an unprecedented time.  We get to see it first-hand all the time. because we apparently have one.  

 

 

The lack of 'violence' in the NHL kills it for me on an excitement level.  As mentioned, there was always a possibility a game could turn into a mess of fights, misconducts, excitement, etc, and it could happen at any time no matter the score (actually more likely sometimes in a lopsided game).  It made watching a crappy team bearable.  Things would truly devolve a handful of times per season, but it was enough to keep me glued to games from buzzer to buzzer.   It felt like we had our squad of warriors who represented Buffalo and would fight against 'evil' in the Bruins, Habs, Whalers, Flyers, etc.  There were clear villains.   I still hate Lyle Odelein.  I remember going to games, getting the lineup sheet, and first looking at which players on the other team could fight.

 

Now, nothing notable really happens.  There is a glut of young stars with immense talent surpassing even gretzky probably.... but they dont really shine that much as per the nature of the sport.  You could see a few amazing plays by McDavid, maybe a rush or 2 and even a goal every other game.  But he could be completely neutralized on many nights.  Contrast with the NBA.  You see the best players playing a large portion of the game and doing awesome things.  I realize there are great players, but not enough happens any given game to keep my attention for 2.5 hours 82+ games a year.

 

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I think it was better before.  I miss the more physical style  I know for player safety and their long term health  But damn watching someone get lit up across the middle got the juices going.  Also the constant barrage of NFL content kind of waters down the excitement a little.  I sort of miss waiting all week for Sunday with just inside the nfl as  the one mid week bit of content .  Fees the nfl used to have more characters too  Last officiating is just too intrusive  They kind of sissified the game

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I don't think it has gotten better. The players have gotten bigger, stronger, faster and more massive. And that means the sport is more dangerous for the players. The league has needed to compensate for that with stricter safety rules so they would continue to have enough live, healthy, uncrippled  players to deliver a decent product to the viewers.

 And at the moment we  are lucky enough to have a surplus of new dynamic, exciting, and talented QBs.  But I think that is just a short term bubble, after a few years of a serious lack of decent young QBs coming along to replace the older, decent retiring ones. Think about that time period where Luck was a true rarity coming out,, and injuries so quickly shortened his career.

Edited by simpleman
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An interesting point about the saturation of the NFL and sports in general.  I do agree with that.  Also, I do see that there was no other evolution to this point.

 

 

I remember the Sunday routine of ESPN NFL Gameday, 12:00 (or 12:30?) pregame show, then NFL Primetime on ESPN.  If you were a crackhead, you might watch George Micheal Sports Machine later.  That was all there was.

 

Watching the 1 hour loops of Sportscenter every morning, most of my sports memories from like 1988 - 1997 were directly from that show.  You had to wait to see the sports/highlights you wanted.   I still remember huge sports moments through the lens of Sportscenter and what the host said.

This was also the case with Empire Sports Network.  I remember waiting through a Syracuse Orange show, or Ivan the Impaler (RIP) talking about wrestling, to get to the Sabres portion at the top of the hour and it was like drinking from a desert Oasis.  

 

It all seems somewhat quaint, but the limited exposure made it better and more 'mystical' as someone said.  Now, I could probably tune into any of 4 or 5 syndicated sports radio talk shows, endless podcasts, twitter of every media member, can look at every thought that Tre White had this week on twitter, a team produced Cribs show about someone, countless sports websites, regional sports networks, national sports networks, and youtube.  It is great and also a curse.

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On 11/20/2020 at 11:55 AM, RoyBatty is alive said:

I dont think the NFL has improved, not from a spectators point of view, from a players, yes.  From a spectators point of view imo it has gotten worse.

 

Players cant hit as they used to and QBs, especially marquis names like Brady, have been grossly overprotected.

 

As far as player "shelf life" when was the last time we ha dueling QBs in the 40s matched up against each other.  Qbs can last a very long time with the current rules. 

 

Jack Kemp took more brutal hits in one year than Brady has taken his entire pro career.

I understand the violent sentiment of the ole' gridiron, I am 52 and remember it well. But the game is far more fun to watch when the star QBs can play. I once bemoaned the changes to defensive rules. Now, as the OP is suggesting, I think the game is faster, they score more points and the guys do not get as grossly injured. With their size and speed today, were it combined with yesterdays rules, we would see people dying out there, not interested in that.

 

It is good that Brady and Brees can still get out there. Just not in the AFCE :)

 

I think the game is actually better now, while there are wayyy less TO's without the crushing hits, the game is more precise, replay has helped as well. 

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