SI Vault
Edited by Gay Flood
November 26, 1984
REVITALIZING THE NFL Sir: Paul Zimmerman hit the nail right on the head with Dr. Z's R To Revive The NFL (Nov. 12). It seems that the NFL game has become another victim of high-tech standardization in the '80s. The aura of pro football today is one of machinelike organizations performing on a synthetic field of conformity and non-emotion. What happened to Billy (White Shoes) Johnson's TD dance and Butch Johnson's California Quake? Where are the Otis Taylors and Paul Warfields, who could have had their uniforms ripped off and still would have made the catch? And what about Dick Butkus and Bob Lilly? Do you think anyone ever told them it was too cold to play outside? And get rid of the "in the grasp" rule that's supposed to protect the quarterback. Roger Staubach made some of his best passes from two inches off the ground.
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November 26, 1984

19th Hole: The Readers Take Over

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Better come up with a better idea on scoring, Dr. Z.
Silver Spring, Md.

Eliminate the field goal entirely and see who can really play the game!
North Wales, Pa.

Dr. Z leaves out the one thing that most prolongs games—while also rewarding the unworthy. Why, oh why, give a quarterback who can't complete a pass a time-out to think up his next goof? Start the time clock when the 30-second play clock starts on incompleted passes and you'll be watching 60 Minutes 17 minutes earlier every Sunday.
Lincoln, Neb.

I agree with Paul Zimmerman that the NFL is ailing, but he got carried away. The same results can be obtained with one rule change: Reduce the 30-second play clock to 25, which the colleges use, or even 20 seconds. The action will increase, and so will the number of viewers.
Loogootee, Ind.

One question for Dr. Z: Why do teams change field position at the end of each quarter in domed stadiums? Is the light better at one end? Does air conditioning play a big factor in point production? I feel it's just another way to get in 10 more minutes of TV commercials, which already have put most games over the three-hour mark.
Harrison, N.J.

Dr. Z failed to cover one point, the growing unrest among the fans at the stadium. While TV viewers have the choice of watching the commercials or doing something else in their homes, the stadium fans are stuck with seemingly interminable commercial breaks not just once, but many times during a game. Pete Rozelle should remember this.
Fortuna, Calif.

I'm amazed that writers of the intelligence and experience of Paul Zimmerman and William Taaffe spend eight pages writing about what's wrong with the NFL without putting heavy emphasis on the real reason for the league's problems.

Today's games take too long; it's as simple as that. In 1960, NFL games were two hours of intense, dramatic competition, the finest by far in all of sports. Now the average time for an NFL game is more than three hours. That's ridiculous!

Any industrial time-and-motion-study person fresh out of college could devise means—such as automatic breaks for commercials during time-outs for injuries and in certain penalty situations, and more expeditious use of the 30-second clock—to cut back NFL games to two hours and 30 minutes while retaining as many plays from scrimmage and as many minutes for commercials as there are in today's three hour-plus ordeals. The fans would get fast-paced, action-packed games again, and NFL owners and the TV networks would not lose a penny from current revenues. The best of both worlds!

But why have smart fellows like Pete Rozelle and his cohorts allowed America's best spectator sport to deteriorate? Lack of competition—monopoly, no competing league to force them to keep their product sharp and attractive—that's why. Yet Zimmerman and Taaffe seem to be rooting for an NFL that is devoid of competition from another league. For shame!

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