November 20, 2009

Frank Deford. SI.com, takes us back to “ought-five”- that’s 1905, if you please and says: “November 2009 marks the all but forgotten centennial of a moment that could have ended football in America, but instead forced the sport down a different, better path.
Football was so gruesome at the turn of the century that in 1905 President Roosevelt himself demanded the sport clean itself up. The notorious flying wedge was banned, but by ought-nine — as they said back then — it was still a brutal battle royal. The New York Times summed up the season’s championship match as “an indescribable tangle of bodies, arms and legs.”
That game, played on November 20 and arguably worthy of the “game of the century” label, pitted undefeated Yale and Harvard against each other. In then typical fashion, there were no touchdowns. In fact, when Yale won 8-0, it finished its whole season without letting up a score. The forward pass had been legalized in a limited fashion, but football remained mostly pounding scrimmage; few players wore helmets, and a close observer declared that as the Harvards and Yales pummeled each other, “It was the most magnificent sight … Every lineman’s face was dripping with blood.”
But the great game of a hundred years ago was overshadowed by greater carnage at other major universities. Three weeks before, when Harvard played at West Point, an Army lineman named Eugene Byrne was killed. Then two Saturdays later, against Georgetown, in the nation’s capital, Archer Christian, the University of Virginia’s star halfback, met his death. The Chicago Tribune reported twenty-six players were killed on the gridiron that year. How long would America allow its youth to perish for a silly game?
The president of Stanford, disgusted, called football “rugby’s American pervert.” Colonel John Mosby, who as the fabled Confederate “Gray Ghost” had seen his share of death and mayhem during the Civil War, was an even more fascinating critic. The old warrior called football “a barbarous amusement” that “develops the brute dormant in man’s nature and puts the player on a level with … a polar bear.”
In the face of such withering widespread criticism, the new NCAA was forced to find ways to reduce the game’s dangers. Although some of the game’s
powers — not unlike the smug football aristocracy in the Bowl Championship Series today — were relatively content with the gory status quo, other colleges took a more progressive approach. Rules liberalizing the forward pass were instituted for the 1910 season, and soon it became the weapon that opened up a safer game.
Of course, some things never change for the better. Canny old Colonel Mosby also made this point: “It is notorious that football teams are largely composed of professional mercenaries who are hired to advertise colleges. Gate money is the valuable consideration.”
Yes, college football was already an academic fraud when the Gray Ghost wrote that exactly a century ago, and although the NCAA could clean up the game on the field, it never has figured out how to manage the other abuses.”

Now we have a weeping Rex Ryan. Ron Borges of the Boston Herald tells of the difference between “The Weeper and The Reaper.” “Late Sunday night Bill
Belichick felt like crying. Monday morning Rex Ryan did.
That’s the difference between having three Super Bowl rings and having none. Belichick’s chuckle-headed decision to go for it on fourth-and-2 at his 28-yard line with 2:08 to play contributed mightily to a bitter 35-34 loss to the undefeated Indianapolis Colts but he could live with it. He could even stand firm a day later, insisting he’d done “what gave my team the best chance to win.”
If giving the ball to Peyton Manning 29 yards from the game-winning touchdown gave his Patriots the best chance to win then they really had no chance, or so he seemed to be saying. Whatever he said though, he could always fall back on his jewelry box for a soft landing.
For Ryan it’s different. He has no resume as the boss and so must live in the moment and, of late, those moments have been something to cry about. Ryan’s grounded Jets have lost five of their last six games, including a 24-22 defeat Sunday to the Jacksonville Jaguars. They appear ill-equipped to handle success, even if you only define success as starting the season 3-0 and upsetting the Patriots at the Meadowlands.
At that juncture, Ryan was running his mouth as if he was Terrell Owens on crystal meth. He talked as if his team had actually accomplished something. It hadn’t, at least not by Belichick’s standards. The Jets had won three games. He’s won three rings.
Since that start the Jets have lost nearly every weekend. They became what they hadn’t been for a long time — a team you could rely on. Talk all week, shut up on Sunday. Bank on it.
So now they stagger into the Big Razor Sunday afternoon 4-5, facing Belichick’s angry team in what has become a key game for both but for different reasons.
The Patriots must win because the thought of having lost two straight on their way to New Orleans on Nov. 30 to face the very likely still undefeated Saints is “not what you’re looking for.” Armed with a defense he no longer trusts, Belichick would be facing an offense similar to the Colts but more varied because its running game is far better than Indianapolis’ and he would be doing it in another loud dome with a defense whose confidence in itself would be shaken.
The easiest way to avoid that is to make Ryan burst into rib-shaking sobs Sunday by beating up his mystified rookie quarterback, Mark Sanchez, and handling the many blitzes of his still aggressive but nowhere near as growling defense.
Knowing that, this week is a sob story for Ryan. On Monday he dissolved into tears and then fired defensive line coach Kerry Locklin for “personal reasons.”
What’d he do? Run out of tissues?
It’s no wonder Ryan broke down and cried as he addressed his team after watching the way they’ve been playing. While the stone-faced Belichick was telling his players he does whatever he feels gives them the best chance to win so get used to it, Ryan was weeping as he urged his players to stick together because they didn’t know how good they were. The way they’ve been playing neither does anyone else.
According to the New York Post, Ryan’s speech led Jets lineman and ex-Patriot Damien Woody to remark, “Rex believes in our team so much I can’t even put it into words and it would be a shame if we didn’t capitalize on our opportunity.”
What opportunity? Does he really think coming to Foxboro to face a surly and seething Patriots team and a fiercely focused Bill Belichick is an opportunity?
It’s an opportunity all right. An opportunity to get a beating, which gets us back to that stinging loss in Indianapolis.
As bad as the Jets have played, if they upset the Patriots they’d only be a game behind them in the division and would hold a sweep in the season series. That would probably bring a tear to Bill Belichick’s eye, which is why it’s not likely to happen even if Ryan makes good on his threat to consult this week with his father, ex-Eagles coach and Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, Brian Billick and even Belichick’s mentor, Bill Parcells, about how to turn his team around.
It’s unlikely any of them will tell him tears are the answer.”


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