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10 Things We Don’t Miss About Football
#1: Original AstroTurf
When AstroTurf was introduced in 1966, it was dull green and completely lacking in depth or texture. Football games played on the synthetic stuff looked like they were taking place on a pool table. Even if we concede that the sport doesn't need mud and grass-stained uniforms to feel authentic (though, really, it does), football should at least appear like it's being played on the real stuff. First-generation AstroTurf killed the aesthetic of the game. It also tore up too damn many knees, although the manufacturer, Monsanto, always disputed it. Eventually, scientists improved the product (adding nylon yarn fibers, among other things), and we came around.
#2: Lawrence Phillips
Phillips was given multiple chances (first as a star running back for Nebraska's 1994 national championship team, and then with multiple NFL and CFL teams) before the coda to his career: after assaulting an ex-girlfriend in college, feuding with coaches over playing time and being charged with multiple counts of domestic abuse, he allegedly struck three teenagers with his car in 2005 near the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum after losing a pickup football game to the youths. Two years after he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, Phillips was sentenced in 2008 to 10 years in prison.
#3: Celebrity Guests in the Monday Night Football Booth
Rule of thumb: Jackie Slater belongs in a football booth; Christian Slater does not. ESPN's decision to host celebrities in the Monday Night Football booth (such as Russell Crowe, James Denton, Sylvester Stallone) was an exercise in self-promotion and a byproduct of Disney execs' egos run amok. Thankfully, the practice was discontinued after the 2007 season.
#4: Prairie View A&M's Losing Streak
The Panthers lost 80 straight games between Oct. 28, 1989 and Sept. 26, 1998 -- nearly double the previous I-AA record of 44 set by Columbia (which went winless from Nov. 12, 1983, to Oct. 8, 1988). There comes a point when losing week after week after week is no longer charming or humorous.
#5: Sterling Sharpe (the player)
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander once described Sharpe as "the rudest athlete this media creature ever was forced to attempt to interview." As a player, Sharpe habitually refused to grant interviews or to sign autograph for fans. He was rewarded for that obstinacy with a job as a TV analyst at ESPN, and later with gigs at NBC and the NFL Network.
#6: Tie Games
The current overtime system in college football, which calls for tie games to be broken by teams alternating possessions starting 25 yards from the end zone, still isn't universally embraced. SI once called it Football Lite, a quick alternative to the real game that is played on a short field with no kickoffs and no punts, and a seemingly unjust way to decide a game after 60 minutes of conventional football. But the upshot is infinitely better than a tie, the most anticlimactic result in sports.
#7: Howard Cosell
The bombast. The pomposity. The lectures from on high. As much as some craved Cosell for his showmanship, there's an equally passionate group that doesn't miss his predilection for dominating the air time on Monday Night Football and making himself the story over the game itself.
#8: Extra Preseason Games
If you think the NFL exhibition slogs on today, consider that teams played six preseason games -- instead of the current four -- before the regular-season schedule expanded from 14 to 16 games in 1978. There has even been a push recently to reduce the preseason to two games. Fine by us.
#9: The XFL
It showcased subpar players, celebrated trash talk and encouraged sexual innuendo during in-game interviews. The XFL debuted in Feb 2001 to enormous television ratings and sold-out stadiums in Las Vegas and Orlando. That was the league's apex. "Fittingly, these are the twin capitals of make-believe, and Americans, after Week 1, tune out, almost to a man," wrote SI's Steve Rushin. The plug was pulled on the league three months later, after it drew the lowest prime-time ratings in the history of network television.
#10: The 2008 Detroit Lions
In an era of parity across the league, it is a numerical stain unlike any other: 0-16. Last year's Lions were the first NFL franchise to finish with 16 losses, topping the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-14) for all-time futility. We bid them a not-so-fond adieu.
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