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Steps Toward an Amish NFL???

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

This is my latest article for Technorati.com

America loves football – specifically the brand of football produced by the National Football League (NFL) .

In fact, research shows that the number of football fans in this country continues to grow faster than in any other professional sport.

The action, strategy, athleticism – and let’s be honest – the violence, makes the NFL must-see-TV for most households in this country every Sunday during the football season.

It’s interesting, however, to note that several developments during the past few months may lead some fans to think the NFL leadership has some pro-Amish leanings.

Let me explain.

I’m not asserting that the league will be swapping out helmets for quaint Amish straw hats or make players travel to games by horse and buggy – but consider the following Amish-esque policies the NFL has recently enacted.


Head coach for the New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton, has just begun a season-long suspension at the hands of the NFL administration for allowing his defensive players to systematically target and injure competing players via paid “bounties” offered by assistant coaches.

While Payton kept his job, the punishment forbids him from engaging or even talking to anyone associated with the NFL from now through the Super Bowl in 2013. Now if that’s not the same as an old-fashioned, Amish shunning I’ll gladly change my name to Jedidiah Zechariah Stolzfus.

Less Violence

Last year the NFL rules committee announced a change in kick-offs, requiring these plays occur at the 35-yard line to slow player speeds and reduce the risk of severe injuries – specifically concussions. This rule change seeks to make one of the most exciting plays in football, less violent.

And now, team owners and league officials are discussing eliminating kick-offs altogether to further reduce violent collisions. The NFL seems to be getting in touch with its inner pacifist, similar to the non-violent Amish who practice a pacifistic lifestyle.

Submission to Patriarchal Authority

One of the key distinctions of Amish culture is captured in their use of the German word Gelassenheit, or “submission,” which they define as obedience to the will of community authorities and patriarchs.

This Amish approach for order ironically mirrors the leadership model of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. During his nearly six-years as head of the NFL clan, Goodell has meted out penalties stiffer than a Mennonite minister’s collar for a variety of infractions ranging from performance-enhancing drug use to player conduct off-the-field.

Goodell has laid down the communal law, and expects strict adherence or else he’ll dispense his brand of justice faster than the crack of a buggy whip.

Having said all that, I’m not expecting the NFL to go hardcore Amish:

  • Don’t expect the NFL to institute half-time butter churning extravaganzas or barn-raising celebrations during the playoffs.
  • NFL rookies won’t be given the opportunity to experience Rumspringa, nor will there be team quilting bees or scripture readings.
  • I also don’t think NFL stadiums will swap out beer and hot dogs for Amish goat’s milk and soda cracker pudding.

However, the reality is that the threat of class-action injury lawsuits from past players against the league is spurring this kinder gentler devolution of the NFL.

Who knows, in a few years perhaps a rowdy game of Amish horseshoes may have more action than an NFL season opener.

Question: Is the NFL too violent? If so, what should be done about it?

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  1. Good stuff Tor.

    I saw this tweet from Charles Robinson yesterday (investigative reporter for Yahoo sports)

    “High ranking legal source w/ strong ties 2 NFL owners says concussion litigation has grown into biggest financial threat in league history.”

    Makes you wonder what the league will look like in 5 years. 10 years.

    • That’s high praise coming from a guy who wrote the book on football…literally ;-) It’s much appreciated, Chad!

      As far as the future goes, I honestly think they’ll look toward a technology solution that has physiological sensors embedded within helmets which allows an IT medical expert to monitor player health in real time.

      Then after a certain number of violent hits a player has to sit out.

      Kind of like radiation badges for employees at nuclear facilities or damage points in a video game.

      Regardless, the NFL will change because there’s too much money at stake and the risks are too high….

  2. too funny, Tor. I agree with Chad that one can only wonder how different things will be 10 years from now.

    Hope everyone loves flag football!

  3. Now, here’s a subject about which I know and care nothing. However, my son just wrote a paper (for his economics and law class) about the NFL, it’s insane contract (which truly limits its liability- and with the short time frame involved, renders it nearly impossible for the players to receive disability [which is also peanuts, I might add]), and the need for violence to get folks to watch it (remember your article yesterday- of course, you do) which is to the detriment of its employees (for which, in my opinion, they care not a whit).
    Don’t trust my son’s analysis (which I am sure I can share with you), but read the work of Schwarz (from the New York Times).

  4. Great insight! Too bad they’ll never see it on TV! :)

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