There is a cliché in sports that offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships. But is that still true?
Particularly in the sports of football and basketball, nearly every rule change in the past several years has been designed to help scoring. Fans like to see points on the scoreboard.
But when does it become too much?
Have both sports reached the point where things have come too easy.
In football, most of the rule changes have involved the passing game. What has happened, in our opinion, is that it has become ridiculously easy to throw the football.
In the late 70’s and early 80’s, 4000 yards passing was the gold standard.
When Brian Sipe and Dan Fouts threw for over that number in 1980, it was a huge amount of yardage. We remember ABC promoting a Monday Night Football game between the Browns and Chargers as “aerial warfare”.
This past season, 12 quarterbacks had over 4000 passing yards, and three more were right on the doorstep.
And this doesn’t take into account the large number of big gains as a result of defensive pass interference. It seems that most of the time, the receiver and the defensive back are both pushing and shoving, but the defense draws the flag.
In a playoff game this year between the Patriots and Chiefs, New England threw the football on their first 14 plays.
Yes, we realize they may have the greatest QB of all time in Tom Brady, but the reason they threw the ball this much, is that it is easy to move the ball through the air.
It’s time to let the secondaries around the league to play defense a little bit. This is not to say the NFL should go back to the time when players like Mel Blount could club a receiver off the line, and not allow them in the pattern at all, but let’s make professional football a little less like the touch football you played in the street as a kid.
In basketball, after the game was becoming too physical in the 90’s, led by Pat Riley’s overly physical New York Knicks, the NBA felt they needed to do something to get the game back to its free flowing roots.
So, they limited the contact allowed when guarding players on the perimeter.
Now, small quick players are virtually unguardable.
Here are some of the top 15 scorers right now in the NBA: Stephan Curry (1st), James Harden (2nd), Damien Lillard (6th), Russell Westbrook (7th), Isaiah Thomas (12th) and Kyle Lowry (15th).
That would be 40% of the league top scorers are basically small guys who can shoot, penetrate, and have the ball in their hands most of the time.
Basketball is a sport dominated by big men, but they are quickly being made obsolete in today’s game.
Is that good for the game? We would say no because there isn’t a penalty for playing small.
When the Cavs play Golden State, their smaller players are allowed to bang LeBron James when he gets in the paint, because the game is officiated differently for inside players than guys who play outside.
We aren’t advocating slamming smaller players to the floor when they drive to the basket, but allowing perimeter defenders to maintain some contact with these guys without being whistled might be appropriate.
Both leagues will tell you everything is fine based on ratings and attendance, and we get that. However, fans want to see professional athletes having to struggle at times too.
Only the best should make the game look easy.
Now, it seems anyone can.