Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Slowly Eradicating Defense in Sports

Offense is sexy. Especially when it is fast paced and high scoring. More offense in the NBA means more dunks, more three point shots, and unfortunately more free throws that stop the action. More offense in the NFL mean more touchdowns, field goals, and passing yards. It has led to the monster passing era that we are now witnessing. It also means more penalties that again, stop the action.

I realize that the commissioners and rule makers of these sports are trying to drive up interest in their sports by shaping the rules to significantly benefit the offense, but is it good for the for the sport?

The commissioners like to use the "safety of the athletes" excuse, and I do believe that to be a positive by-product, but money and viewership is what drives these decisions. These business men, and make no mistake, that is what they are, think solely about the profits.

I am not against the leagues and owners making money. That is what allows the athletes to be paid so handsomely. (This is another issue I have, but that is for another blog) I do however, have an issue with money getting in the way of what is best for the sport.

I miss the Pistons of the 1980's, even though I am an avid Bulls fan. I miss the New York Knicks of the 1990's, again regardless of my fandom. I miss the Pat Riley led Miami Heat of the 90's. The 90's Bulls themselves were a ferocious defense that would have multiple people fouled out every game under today's offensive coddling NBA rules. I miss the New York Giants of the late 80's and early 90's. The Steel Curtain could never be as effective under today's rules.

One reason I have an issue with defense going by the way side, is that I loved watching defense as much as I love watching offense. Even more, I loved seeing players be so good that they overcome incredible defense to make spectacular plays. Think the "Jordan Rules" employed by the Detroit Pistons, and Jordan learning to overcome the beatings he took, to sweep the Defending champions out of the playoffs. The closest thing we have seen to that type of defense in recent years was the 2008 championship when the Celtics stifled Kobe and the Lakers. Kobe had no idea how to overcome that kind of defense. The Lakers of 2004 didn't have any idea how to overcome a similar defense from Detroit. The bottom line is that today's stars don't know how to handle good defense, yet they are still being compared to the former stars who had to learn. Not only did they have to learn how to overcome those defenses, most of them had to learn how to play that kind of defense in order to be successful. Even if there were no individual defensive stalwarts on a team, team defense was immensely important.

I hear fans use zone defenses as support for the defense of today's NBA. If any person listens to sports talk radio, and has heard the vast majority of former NBA stars who have been interviewed, they say that Michael Jordan would average 50 against today's defenses. Those same former players have stated that players like Magic, Larry, Kareem, Hakeem, Isaiah, etc, would destroy the zone defense. (Keep in mind, they all played zone defense in college, and understood as well as today's players do)

I am in no way saying that players like Kobe, LeBron, Dywane Wade, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, or Derrick Rose are not great players. They are. I am only suggesting that they may not be as high on the list by the end of their careers that they will be given credit for being.

The NFL has had some of the same issues with offensive favoritism. I understand the concern for concussions. It is a real issue that needs to be addressed. Defensive players now have to ease up, change their body position, think rather than react. Having played football, and spoken with doctors and trainers, this can be dangerous to the defensive player as well. Tensing up, changing head position, or easing up at the last second leads to injury.

Speaking for my own viewing pleasure, I miss seeing the big hits. I don't want to see anyone get hurt, but there have been years of football with big hits, where no one was hurt. I understand the dangers. I myself was taken off the field on a stretcher because I couldn't feel anything below my neck for ten minutes. I still would not have wanted the rules to have been changed. If safety is the desired goal, then teach these guys proper tackling technique and head placement. Even at the NFL level.

All in all, I know what the changes are about, but I do not like them. I feel the integrity of these games are being damaged.

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