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Sunday, December 28, 2008

No Such Thing As Platonic Ideal Football

I originally wrote this as part of my lengthy (lengthy!) piece on the A-11 offense, but I think it probably got buried. This is something that I depart from many football coaches and purists about. Despite the fact that I have beef with the A-11 offense, one of those contentions is unequivocally not that it is not real football. That's a bogus reason. I have stated many times that football is just a game, and all its rules are arbitrary. I call those who believe otherwise the Platonic Idealists. Below is a reprint of what I previously stated about the offense.

The Platonic-Idealists

[There exists the argument that some offenses are not "real" or "true" football and therefore is bad.] Yet, haven’t we heard this charge before? Yes we have: The spread isn’t real or true football and therefore it is bad. And the run and shoot isn’t real or true football and therefore it is bad. And the West Coast Offense isn’t real or true football and therefore it is bad. And the wishbone isn’t real or true football and therefore it is bad. At one time the argument was that the entire T formation with a quarterback behind the center wasn’t real or true football and therefore it was bad!

[I]s there some pure, true, Platonic-ideal football? If not, then why? The answer is [no] because football is a game; all the rules - except ones designed around safety - are arbitrary. They might have in mind competitive balance, but this doesn’t make it “true” or “real” in any meaningful sense. What are the most fundamental, “true,” important, or essential rules in football that you can think of? For me, short of the shape of the ball used, my tops would probably be the 100-yard football field, the limit on both sides to eleven players on the field, and the limit on offenses to four downs to score or get a first down. Certainly, all would rank higher than the number of players who might possibly be eligible to receive a forward pass pre-snap, which logically must also rank lower than the number of actually eligible receivers.

Yet, setting aside eight-man football, flag-football, and Arena football, look at Canadian football: the field is 110 yards long, each side has twelve players with six – aside from the quarterback – who are eligible to receive forward passes, and the offense has only three downs to work with.

Now, if the line of scrimmage was abolished and instead of scoring touchdowns by carrying an oblong ball into the end zone teams were instead required to either kick a round ball into a net or by to throw a round ball through a hoop aligned ten feet above the ground then the game could no longer be called football simply because we wouldn’t be able to recognize it as such. But obviously the ability to recognize the sport as football is something far looser than what the “true football” ideologues advocate as eight-man football and Arena Football, to say nothing of the spread, the wishbone, the West Coast Offense, or even, yes, the A-11 offense, are clearly recognizable as football.

So, again, there simply is no such thing as “real” or “true” Platonic football. The next time someone next to you says, upon seeing someone successfully employ a double-reverse pass or some next-wave offensive system, that what you just saw was not “real” football (this group includes many football coaches) you can safely think to yourself that this person has no idea what they are talking about, and you can decide for yourself whether to let them know it (if it’s your Boss or Father-in-Law, I suggest agreeing or simply staying mute). Football is a game designed for fun and its rules are designed for no other reason than to promote fun and safety for players and spectators.

This view is buttressed by the fact that the primary reason for a sport’s rules is tradition, and nowadays most sports, including football, have ruling bodies that establish the law of the land and continually adjust those rules. If there was Platonic-Ideal "true” football, then the believer would have to view these rulemaking bodies as either improperly tampering with the immortal or, somewhat more likely, that they were continuously tinkering with football in its current form to achieve in this world something more closely resembling true, idyllic football through a process that would have to be described less as rule making and instead as divination. Both are, of course, ridiculous, just as the base claim that there is such a thing as Platonic “true” football is ridiculous. I certainly don’t imagine that this is what such rule makers actually see themselves as doing, but if you accept the “true football” argument, those are your inescapable conclusions.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not sure if I agree, but I enjoyed this.

Ted C is Me said...

"Now, if the line of scrimmage was abolished and instead of scoring touchdowns by carrying an oblong ball into the end zone teams were instead required to kick a round ball into a net[...]then the game could no longer be called football".

Well, not in North America, perhaps...

;)