Over at CNN, an opinion piece by Bob Greene asks: why is the ’standard’ football tackle an endangered species?
Greene asks a few people. Bob Costas believes it’s because safety equipment lets young, stupid (and boy are the just-out-of-coasting-through-college types ever stupid!) players feel even more invincible than young, stupid males already stereotypically feel. Thus, they turn themselves into human wrecking machines, ignoring the damage to their own bodies.
Al Michaels and Andrea Kremer posit the thought that it’s simply an evolution of the game. The players are bigger, faster, stronger. However much of it is improved training techniques, however much is artificially drug-induced, the fact is that the “bigger, faster, stronger” players are out there. Combine that with the goal:
There’s a third possibility nobody’s considered here: the game is changing because the bone-crunching hits are exceedingly popular when compared to a plain old tackle. Look at Youtube, ESPN clip reels, 10 o’clock clip reels, and any other clip reels out there. For the aforementioned young/dumb males that comprise the starting lineup, seeing themselves on the clip reel has got to be absurdly satisfying. For the players, coaches and team, publicity is good - the more face/name time you get on clip reels and sports shows, the higher your profile, the bigger your endorsement deals.
He said that, although archetypal tackling still goes on, there is an irrefutable competitive reason for defenders hurling themselves into ball carriers instead of trying to pull them down.
“The idea is to separate the runner from the ball,” he said. “This is the way it’s done.”
Meaning the potential payoff from a standard tackle is not as great as the potential game-changing payoff from a speeding body hurtling into a ball carrier.
I do also think that Costas and Al Michaels had it right: this isn’t a new phenomenon. The NFL was advertising the physical damage done to their players, as a selling point, at least as far back as 1992.