Saturday, February 1, 2014

Five Failed Football Innovations

Football is one of those games that we love, whether it is watching huge dudes collide on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, or watching skimpy cheerleaders at a sunny game in California.  (Actually, the cheerleaders sounds a bit better.)  There are scary players that look like James Bond villains, little fast guys who look like they are being chased by the police, and thousands of fans who forgo all dignity to sit in the stands dressed up as Darth Vader, or wear a strap-on pig nose, or a viking bra.  For some reason, only when their team loses are they “embarrassed”.   

No sport is perfect, however.  Football is evolving, and there have been some great innovations that have helped increase the overall quality of the games like instant replay, coach’s challenges, and more cheerleaders.  Unfortunately, we are discussing none of those.  Instead, let’s check out some football innovations that didn’t quite last—much like a skinny lineman, they may look impressive for a few moments but ultimately they will be carried off to the hospital, never to be seen again.

1. Stickum

It doesn’t seem fair that most players would spend countless hours out on the practice field catching thousands of balls, while others would resort to slathering themselves in glue.  However, that is exactly what Raiders cornerback Lester Hayes did (who in all fairness, is regarded as one of the greatest cornerbacks of all-time).  Hayes, like many players in the late 1970s, would rub a sticky adhesive on their hands, arms, and any other place it would help.  The MVP of the football teams were undoubtedly the laundry personnel.

Lester Hayes was commonly referred to as “Lester the Molester”.  Kind of creepy, with the nickname and the fact that he was covered in goo.   
Why will no one shake my hand after the game?
 2. Field Goal Blocking / Hurling A Player

It used to be completely legal to throw another human being like a sack of cement up in the air in order to block a field goal.  This was known as the “good old days” when everyone wore skimpy leather helmets and every game was accompanied by a rag-time piano.  Hello, my baby, hello my darling… hey, I just dug my cleats into another player and they launched me in the air.  I’m boffo! 

It is now illegal for a defensive player to jump or stand on any player, or to be picked up by any teammate or use their hands on a teammate to gain additional height.  You can run into each other with enough force to crush a hybrid automobile, but do NOT under any circumstances jump two extra feet in the air.  Safety first.
Nice try, rocket man.  Illegal.
3. Tear-away Jerseys

Who wants to see naked guys running around on the field?  Anyone, anyone?  Okay… how about half-naked guys?  This was the philosophy behind the NFL banning the “tear-away” jersey that was made famous by a running back named Greg Pruitt. Although he was a great player, he also felt that having rinky-dink fabric would give him a competitive edge, which was completely allowed at the time.

The tear away jersey met with some success in the 1970s, as football players would try to tackle the ball carrier but would wind up with a handful of fabric.  At the end of the game, it was basically “catch the naked guy” and the NFL had enough of that. 
What a game!  OK, naked guys, get out there and shake hands.

 4. Any Name On Jersey
Remember this guy?  You may have seen him if you watched the XFL.  His name is Rod Smart, and he achieved some notoriety by wearing “He Hate Me” on the back of his Las Vegas Outlaws jersey.  The XFL was trying new things, and its long and colourful history stretches from opening kickoff in February 2001, all the way through to the franchise folding in May of 2001.  It may sound like only four months—how about we call it “120 days”.  It sounds longer.

It’s a warning sign when the biggest headline in your league are words on a jersey.

For one season... he watch me.

5. Barefoot Kickers

The NFL definitely has something against people wandering around naked.  For god’s sake, just keep your clothes on please.  Although technically barefoot kicking is allowed, the last guy I could find who did it barefoot was in 1990—Rich Karlis, kicking for the Detroit Lions.  Although if he was kicking in Detroit, I am wondering if maybe someone just stole his shoes.    

The advantage to kicking without a shoe on is that the kicker apparently can “feel” the ball better, but the downside is getting your toes crushed by a 400-pound linebacker, or even the 80-pound water boy on the sidelines.
There's always one partially naked guy at the party.