King Kaufman's Sports Daily

NFL technocracy watch: League mulling yet another way to take fans out of the game. Plus: Bummer of a tattoo, kid.

By Salon Staff
Published January 29, 2007 5:00PM (EST)

Welcome to Super Bowl 41 Hype Week II, when the hype gets really hypey.

Prepare yourself for Media Day Tuesday, which will result in 16 stories about football, 379 stories about oddball reporters -- kids, celebrities, talk-show mascots -- doing interviews on Media Day and 2,927 stories about how Media Day has become nothing more than reporters doing stories about reporters doing stories about how Media Day isn't about anything except reporters doing stories about each other.

And then on Wednesday ...

Let's cast our minds forward to Sunday, when between the pregame extravaganza and the postgame celebration, wedged in there somewhere with Prince and the free-spending contestants in the Super Bowl of Advertising, some football will be played.

Think about however many of the first XL Super Bowls you've watched and ask yourself if you've ever been impressed by the in-game stadium atmosphere. I'm guessing not. The Super Bowl stands are filled with corporate fat cats, random rich people chalking up a life experience, friends, fans and functionaries of the other XXX teams and, like little islands in all of that, die-hards for the AFC and NFC champs.

Now compare that with the stadium atmosphere during the best day of the football year, in the parks where the Conference Championship Games are being played. Which do you like better, 75,000 screaming fans pulling for the home team or a small percentage of that number mixed in with a vast majority that's looking forward to seeing Prince?

Well guess what. The NFL would like more games to have crowds more like the Super Bowl crowd. Quiet. Irrelevant.

The league is considering a rule change designed to lessen the effect of crowd noise. It wouldn't be the worst rule change in NFL history. That one, enacted in MCMLXXXIX and still on the books, though rarely enforced, actually punishes rooting for the home team, penalizing the home team if the visiting-team offense can't hear signals because it's too noisy.

This change, reported in the New York Times in September and in the Cleveland Plain Dealer last week, would only remove a big incentive for the home fans to cheer and stomp and scream and yell. It would simply be a slap in the face to the most dedicated customers. Standard NFL operating procedure.

What the league is considering is allowing a communications system in the helmets of all offensive players. The quarterback would have a microphone, the other players speakers. No more need for silent counts. No more quarterbacks not being able to audible to a new play because their teammates can't hear them.

The home crowd would still be free to yell and scream all it wants. The fans just would no longer have the feeling that they're part of the game.

But hey, who cares about the fans? The most important thing is for every NFL team to be able to have its entire playbook at its disposal on every single down of every game. The prime directive in the NFL is to achieve machinelike perfection, with all variables, particularly the human type, scrubbed away.

That's the thinking behind instant replay. It's the thinking behind playing the Super Bowl on a neutral field, preferably indoors, on a rug. It's the thinking behind trying to take the crowd out of the game.

Humanity and unpredictability are all well and good, but these are NFL games. Too important for such childish considerations. You can do your yelling and stomping and other silly little activities, fans, but what's really vital is that David Carr must be able to check off to the draw play.

It's hard to believe that this would come up so early in the commissionership of Roger Goodell, a dashing, swashbuckling lifetime bureaucrat. That's just the kind of unpredictability the NFL hates. What a paradox!

It's a testament to how good the NFL's on-field product is that it can so routinely deliver slaps to its most dedicated fans without its status as the colossus of American sports being even slightly threatened. This is a league whose teams have been known to charge people for the privilege of being on a waiting list for season tickets.

Here's hoping this idea is shelved and visiting teams are forced to deal with hostile crowds forevermore. You get a home crowd half the time, after all. Get them rocking -- which you have to do by navigating the NFL's anti-fun rules prohibiting the home team from pumping up the crowd with scoreboard exhortations and the like -- and you have as much of an advantage at home as you have a disadvantage on the road.

And if the idea goes through, here's hoping the helmet-com systems work about as well as my cellphone does.

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No mirror? Go for the piercing [PERMALINK]

A teenage soccer fan walks into a tattoo parlor in Argentina. Sounds like the opening line of a joke, but if news reports are to be believed, it isn't.

The kid wanted a tattoo on his back of the logo of his favorite team, Boca Juniors. But there were three problems:

1) The tattoo artist was a fan of Boca Juniors' rival, River Plate.
2) The artist didn't mention this vital bit of info to the kid.
3) He also said there was no mirror in the joint.

Imagine Junior's surprise when he went home to show the tattoo to Mom and Dad. Actually, imagine their surprise. Their immediate response has so far gone unrecorded, but it was probably something along the lines of "Excuse us, son, but why is there a tattoo of a penis on your back?" Only with way more swearing and screaming and maybe even fainting.

The kid's suing.

I'm thinking there's a lesson somewhere in this cautionary tale but I can't quite figure out what it is.

I'm also thinking about that Golden Bear I had tattooed on my ass last year in Palo Alto. Maybe I should finally have a look in the mirror.

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