In Mark Tracy’s brief article discussing proposed (and enacted) changes in professional football, “NFL Rule Changes: When is Football No Longer Football,” he discusses several possible changes to the game of football. These alterations include the banning of lowering one’s helmet to break a tackle, extremely limited contact in preseason camps, and the removal of the kick off from the pro bowl.
Now, in my opinion the third of those three rules is the most alarming. The first two are changes, nothing
more, nothing less, and they will have very limited effect on the way the game is played. However, the possibility of the kick off being removed is more than a change, it is an alteration to a part of the game that has not only existed for over a century, but has provided some of the most iconic moments in professional football: a huge part of American culture. In fact, as a Chicago Bears fan growing up near Chicago, I was able to experience one of my most memorable moments of spectating (albeit via television) simply because the kick off is part of the game of football (image to the left). By removing it, the game will not only be intrinsically different, but will also no longer be capable of providing such moments.
It is very possible that the great Irish philosopher Edmund Burke would agree with me when saying that this particular change would be detrimental to a long-developed game which is inherently American. He may even assert that any of the proposed changes discussed in Tracy’s article would be foolish to impose.
In his “Reflections on the Revolutions in France,” Burke states that “revolutions destroy the fabric of old society.” Because the French system of monarchical government was not developed over the course of a short period of time, but rather years and years of development and experience, Burke asserts that revolting and attempting to severely alter this government is reckless, ill-advised, and likely detrimental to French society as a whole.
So how would Burke look at these NFL rule changes? Perhaps the two less severe changes–the banning of helmet lowering and limited preseason contact–would simply fall under the category of natural alterations that occur over the course of anything’s (whether it be government or sports) development. It is likely, however, that Burke would see the removal of the kickoff from the game of football as a revolution that could be paralleled to that of France’s in the late eighteenth century. Maybe Burke wouldn’t be a football fan if he was around today. Either way, I guess we’ll never know.