It is difficult for me, as a completely chauvinistic New England sports fan, to tear my mind away from the specific news related to my particular teams long enough to pay attention to the larger national picture. Luckily for me this week, not much else is happening (besides the beginning of baseball season, of course--Go Sox!), forcing both me and Mike Reiss to turn our attention to the national stage and the NFL owners' meetings in Phoenix.
Among other things, the NFL owners voted to make instant replay a permanent part of the game, a ruling that will necessitate the rewiring of stadiums. A wire story puts the estimated cost of the new rule at $300,000 per team for high-definition video equipment. According to a NY Post article, three stadiums, including Giants Stadium, the Colts' RCA Dome and the Cowboys' Texas Stadium, which are "soon to be replaced" will be exempt from the ruling.
I am shocked that instant replay was not already a permanent part of the NFL. It's 2007, after all--and film is an integral part of football, as much a part of the way our culture processes the sport as writing is to baseball. When the Red Sox won the World Series, the major effect was the felling of countless extra acres of rainforest to produce the massive library of books documenting every aspect of that postseason. Baseball is the only major sport with regular coverage (via the masterful Roger Angell) in The New Yorker. Football-related books are far fewer and further between, a fact that, as a writer and a reader, I have often lamented.
The consolation, though, is the artistic heights to which people have taken football through film, the shining example of which, of course, is NFL Films. Every year there seems to be new video technology making football explode off the screen in ever more vivid color, until finally the filmed version of the game has become somehow clearer than the in-person experience. I can attest to this from personal experience, although this might also be because my first-person experience tends to be on the third deck.
Film is the chosen medium of football, and the sport has been designed to match, from the visually impressive players to their gaudily colored uniforms to the sharp artifice of the turf on which they play--it's all for the camera's benefit. There's a reason they don't hang video cameras on wires over baseball diamonds, but they do over football stadiums.
And, of course, video has become part of the game itself, whether it's instant replay on game-day or film study by players and coaches leading up to weekly games. How many times have we heard Coach Belichick answer a question on a particular play at a press conference with, "I'll have to watch the film"? No longer do we trust the eye-witness view of even the experts on the field more than we do the video feed. It's as if the authentic experience of football now lies in the finished, filmed, edited, slow-motion product of the cameras rather than the information fed the old-fashioned way to our brain through our actual eyes.
The only reason I can think that film hasn't been recognized as a permanent and vital tool for the understanding of the sport is that maybe there was some about the reality of football as the highly modernized industry it's become, an unwillingness to let go of that romanticized image of old-fashioned leather helmets, Vince Lombardi puffing out frozen breath on the sideline, a time when men were men and what was ruled on the field stayed the ruling. Maybe that's what kept the league from making this ruling years ago. Then again, didn't all those images we hold so dear get passed down to us on grainy film?
Purists may still find fault with the role of technology in play on the field, but I agree with Falcons general manager Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee that recommended the change, when he says of instant replay, "It's what we are."
Another ruling from the owners' meeting Pats fans might have an interest in is the revenue-sharing deal that was finally hammered out in detail this year (after the bare bones language specifying the general intention of the agreement was voted through last year). According to an article in, of all places, The Jerusalem Post,
Ultimately, it was a plan by Patriots president Jonathan Kraft that called for higher revenue owners to contribute money to a pot that was to be allocated to lower revenue teams based on a set of qualifiers that allowed owners to come to an agreement last year. The agreement was, however, ambiguous because it simply said that money would be shared between NFL teams, but was vague about how the money would be shared.
NFL owners finally agreed to a set of qualifiers at last week's meetings. The plan allows low-revenue teams to receive additional money based on ticket sales, the age of their stadium, and the amount they spend on players...Kraft was instrumental in both agreements.
Excuse me while I put on my homer hat for a moment: one of my favorite things about being a Patriots fan is the pride we can take in our team's organization, above and beyond the wins and losses.