Is the door open for an old-school football league?

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Thirty years ago, the NFL fended off an aggressive challenge from a football league involving Donald Trump. Now that Donald Trump is preparing to become the President of the United States of America, his attitudes toward football coupled with the appetites of the same group of overlooked and ignored Americans who propelled him into power while the media was overlooking and ignoring a large swath of Americana could present a new threat to the league.

The NFL’s ongoing efforts to make the game safer must always be balanced against preserving the fundamental nature and appearance of the game. In other words, the league must at all times consider whether the game will still look and feel like football.

In several respects, the current product doesn’t look like football — at least not like the football with which America had grown accustomed before Commissioner Roger Goodell was summoned to Capitol Hill in October 2009 with the not-so-subtle message that if he doesn’t clean up his sport Congress will do it for him. Hits that previously were celebrated now trigger penalties and fines (and ultimately suspensions), a dynamic fueled by the NFL’s quest to placate the politicians and assuage the fears of football moms by trimming as many concussions as possible out of the game.

Now that everyone who puts on a helmet knows the risks and, perhaps more importantly, the political meteorology has shifted from a stiff breeze in one direction to gale-force winds in the other, the NFL no longer has to worry about governmental representatives worrying that the game is too rough. Instead, the NFL has to worry about the man seen as the ultimate face of government peppering the league with criticism that it’s not nearly rough enough.

Lurking between the lines of an excellent and incredibly lengthy article from Greg Bishop and Michael McKnight of SI.com regarding the current state of football in America is a vague sense that plenty of Americans would welcome the return of old-school football. If the league won’t or can’t do it, then maybe someone else will. Someone who would compete with the NFL by embracing the violence and the brutality in the same way that the UFC does, making no apologies for it and ensuring that every participant signs all appropriate paperwork acknowledging in plain terms a warning as bold and as clear as the Surgeon General’s message on every tobacco product that has been sold in the decades since the dull sense that smoking may not be good for you was backed up by actual science.

At the risk of this blurb becoming an incredibly lengthy article before I ever get to the proof for the hypothesis that the time possibly has arrived for someone to launch the Old School Football League (trademarked . . . not really), consider some of these quotes from Bishop and McKnight.

“The fans are more interested in football,” Goodell told them. “We are the ones who make safety a priority. They support that because they want to see their players play. . . . I’d be fooling you if I don’t say: I hear guys that say, Just let them play.”

And so if the NFL won’t “just let them play,” maybe someone else will.

The President-Elect, who chided the NFL’s approach to concussion safety on the campaign trail, shot his mouth in Reno that “the whole game is so screwed up.” While that may be another example of Trump the Candidate saying things that Trump the President won’t, it makes sense to pay attention to anything and everything Trump the President says about football. If, after all, it was newsworthy when Barack Obama said that he wouldn’t let the son he doesn’t have play football, it will be newsworthy whenever Donald Trump speaks on the subject — especially since his youngest child is a boy who is approaching football age.

Consider this from Hall of Fame president David Baker, who met with Trump in September. The two men discussed among other thing the efforts of Theodore Roosevelt to “save football” more than 100 years ago.

“We may be at another Teddy Roosevelt moment,” Baker told Bishop and McKnight. “We understand the game has been under attack. Because of concerns over concussions or the violence in the game, it has somehow become politically incorrect to speak out for football.

“I believe there is an incredible silent majority out there that loves this game, that think it’s valuable. If you ever tried to take it away from them, they would stand up for it.”

Taking that in another direction, that “incredible silent majority” may flock to watch football the way it used to be played, with all of the big hits and other moments that the NFL has been steadily scrubbing out of the game.

Peppered throughout the article are quotes from fans who express regret regarding changes to the rule that have altered the football-watching experience. Those attitudes from fans coupled with the messages that invariably will be sent by the incoming Commander-in-Chief suggest that the time may be right for someone to roll the dice with $250 million or so in the hopes of launching a football league that would essentially operate like a modern-day XFL — loud, proud, violent, brutal, bloody, and everything that the NFL was before political, legal, and social sensitivities forced the league to change.

It’s an experiment that would be interesting to watch unfold, especially since it wouldn’t be my money that would potentially be disappearing in the same way that each dollar invested in every alternative to the NFL since the merger has. All circumstances considered, however, the time may be right for someone to round up any and all willing gladiators and give the silent majority something that will make them cheer loudly.

49 responses to “Is the door open for an old-school football league?

  1. anytime the Media and 90% of the residents of Washington DC are unhappy….that is a good thing for the rest of the Country.

  2. There have been few new leagues this century but people just don’t watch. And this is number 1 sports. I don’t get it. I live in Europe. When Champions League or domestic league is not on TV, people would watch 2nd Polish league or something. They don’t care that competition isn’t great, they want more soccer.

  3. Are you kidding me its never been wider !

    If someone had the money to put together a real league all they’d have to do is put the teams in medical marijuana states, allow the players to get cards, and offer an additional signing bonus to NFL starters maybe smaller bonus to backups and there would be a rush of players jumping ship to another league.

    Especially if said new league agreed to not fine the players at every turn if they violate any tiny rule, there would really be a rush of players. Let them celebrate, let them wear shoes with a message supporting a charity, whatever.

    Do that and the NFL would take a big hit.

    Now the games would have to be good to keep interest and be successful, but the immediate impact on the NFL would be huge.

  4. The NFL needs a developmental league and several rules changes to the game to make a better product.

    Easy fix.

    Full-time zebras wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

    And another thing, Drumph is a buffoon and those who follow him are lemmings.

    Carry on.

    Go RAIDERS

  5. I caught a few of the televised LFL (Legends Football League) – 7 on 7 Women’s football games last year..

    The majority of the games were competitive, hard hitting, and highly entertaining. I wish I could say the same thing about many of the NFL games that I’ve seen this season.

  6. There was no “silent majority” in this past election. Trump lost the popular vote. People whom voted for him were in the minority. So, the overall basis of this article doesn’t make much sense, given that fact.

  7. A Legends Football League (Lingerie) game would get better numbers than an NFL game and you can make book on it.

  8. I would love for someone to start a new leauge.i want old school football back . I follow the game and love my team but im not as the die hard watcher anymore it makes me sick to see what the game has become. The people i watched and grew up with would be thrown in jail if they played today. I love defense and hate the fact that they are not allowed to play the game anymore. Todays leauge is about offense and thats it the game flat out stinks anymore for more reasons but my list could go on and on .

  9. There are several obstacles, first which stadiums does the new league use and in which markets? And with the high rents can the new teams make their money back?

    Which TV networks would pay for the new league? Cause all of the big ones already pay big money for NFL rights, and the NFL is a cash cow for them, those networks aren’t going to roll the dice on a new league and risk ticking off their ATM machine.

    The final point, the league would have no trouble finding players, there are plenty of them. However the players they’ll have are the guys who are equal to the 35-53rd player on every NFL roster. So you’d be creating a new league with fringe guys. Can the new league find enough money to bring star players over? And if given the choice between making their NFL salary with the current rules or making the same or less in a new league with rules that are more violent, can they tempt offensive star players over to the league?

  10. Donald Trump’s wealth of ignorance about government is topped only by his stupidity about football.

  11. “…a warning as bold and as clear as the Surgeon General’s message on every tobacco product that has been sold in the decades since the dull sense that smoking may not be good for you was backed up by actual science.”

    Science that the league’s favorite engineering and ‘scientific’ testing firm cheerfully refuted in their findings on second hand smoke. Meaning don’t discount the league’s willingness to see and hear only what it wants to while attempting to project the image it thinks it has to. The reality is there is probably not a player entering the game today that would not sign waivers to play.

  12. The NFL has the most valuable thing- the team brands. The Cowboys. The Raiders. The Packers. The Steelers. That could never be replicated.

    I would recommend allowing creative celebrations, that would go a long way. Also, get rid of some commercials after possession changes. I know they can afford it because they didn’t use to have replay review commercials, but now they do.

  13. Both the NY TImes and Washington Post admit that Trump could have won the popular vote if it had mattered and if he therefore had campaigned in blue states. But it doesn’t matter, because the Founders in their wisdom designed something else. That some people still can’t figure out 200 year old rules is funny. Listening to them tell the rest of us how smart and educated they are is less so.

  14. The helmets are the weapon.

    There’s a reason rugby players don’t have the same rampant concussion problem.

    THEY TACKLE.

    The NFL player has spent three generations “hitting.”

  15. phoogaboom says:
    Nov 16, 2016 5:46 PM
    There was no “silent majority” in this past election. Trump lost the popular vote. People whom voted for him were in the minority. So, the overall basis of this article doesn’t make much sense, given that fact.
    ________________________________________

    Has anyone mentioned to you that the candidates would campaign differently under a different system? Like Trump would have set foot in CA and NY?

    He would have schlonged her.

  16. Just an FYI, not only was Trump involved, but his insistence that the USFL move to the fall and compete with the NFL was the killing blow. Teams in cities with NFL teams knew they were doomed, many folded and others moved. But hey, his antitrust lawsuit was won and got them…a dollar! Well done Don, well done.

  17. “But it doesn’t matter, because the Founders in their wisdom designed something else”.
    So now we are stuck with a system created because the populace at the time was mostly uneducated illiterates and deemed by white landowners as too ill informed to make an informed decision. So they instead elected someone to make that decision for them. Yeah, 240 years later, that seems wise. And it also means that voting one way or another in certain states is about the same as not voting at all, your vote counts as much. Vote for a democrat in Idaho or Alaska, or Republican in Hawaii or NYC, and see if you feel your voice has been heard…

  18. It would be fairly easy for anyone with enough money to put the NFL out of business within 2 years, tops.

    Reduce the amount of greed amongst the owners and increase the players pay. Allow marijuana, etc and create a better environment for the players. Players from the NFL will come.

    Once you have the players, everything else is fairly easy.

    It’s funny, because the owners and commish have a monopoly right now but they’re getting closer and closer to killing the golden goose.

    If another option presented itself, the NFL would crumble almost instantly due to poor leadership amongst the owners and the commish.

  19. An old school football league would be great if it were full of good players.

    Problem is there aren’t enough good QBs for the NFL as it is. Which means that a competing league would likely be filled with boring run first offenses (being stymied by defenses that know the opponent is going to run, run, run the ball).

    What I would settle for at this point is letting DBs and WRs hand fight for the ball.

  20. atwatercrushesokoye says:
    Nov 16, 2016 5:53 PM
    There are several obstacles, first which stadiums does the new league use and in which markets? And with the high rents can the new teams make their money back?

    Which TV networks would pay for the new league? Cause all of the big ones already pay big money for NFL rights, and the NFL is a cash cow for them, those networks aren’t going to roll the dice on a new league and risk ticking off their ATM machine.

    The final point, the league would have no trouble finding players, there are plenty of them. However the players they’ll have are the guys who are equal to the 35-53rd player on every NFL roster. So you’d be creating a new league with fringe guys. Can the new league find enough money to bring star players over? And if given the choice between making their NFL salary with the current rules or making the same or less in a new league with rules that are more violent, can they tempt offensive star players over to the league?

    3 2
    Report comment

    Not sure what you said deserving of down votes. This is well said, accurate and exactly my thoughts….

  21. The XFL had both financial and television (both network and basic cable) backing 16 years ago when the country was widely more conservative or “old school” than it is now.

    The idea that a modern day XFL would thrive today just because we have a reality TV star as President is a laughably poor thesis.

  22. “So now we are stuck with a system created because the populace at the time was mostly uneducated illiterates and deemed by white landowners as too ill informed to make an informed decision. ”

    Actually what you show is you are “uninformed” as to a lot of the history of our country.

    In fact the founds were I believe all literate, and the reason that they created the electoral college was that at the time most people saw their state as their first identity and that of an American only after that.

    They were a New Yorker, or Pennsylvanian etc first, an American second. So they created a system that reflected that.

  23. It was widely reported that Robert Kraft was visiting with Trump today. How awesome would it be if Kraft was the one to start the new league and give the NFL the big ole bird on his way out?

  24. This is a football site. please keep politics off of it. Whichever side you’re on, I for one, don’t care. On this site all I care about is football. Thank you.

  25. That’s fine and well to claim to want “old school football”, but all it takes is one big lawsuit, and you’re back to the draconian rules of the NFL. Remember, all the rules against defenders, big time hits, hitting QBs, etc started because of the concussion lawsuit. If Roger did one major thing wrong, it was to let the lawyers run the league and make football rules. Why? There were 1 billion reasons. Money talks.

    Also, the USFL was doing fairly well until Trump killed off the league. Don’t forget that.

  26. Its not the big hits that are missed… its the fact the offense has an unfair advantage, less practice = poor performance, catch rule just sucks, too many tv timeouts kill all momentum a team may have. You see the teams run on the field as they go to a commercial. They just stand there waiting for four to five minutes for the tv timeout to be over. That is a momentum killer so it now becomes who can get the most precision out of a handful of practices. Not very interesting to watch. I miss the days when a 300 yard passer was a great day.

  27. tomtravis76 says:
    Nov 16, 2016 6:22 PM

    Let’s just get a gladiator league going, forget old school football
    ————————————————————-
    Do you mean UFC fighting? I think that’s been done already.

  28. So now we are stuck with a system created because the populace at the time was mostly uneducated illiterates and deemed by white landowners as too ill informed to make an informed decision.
    ————————-

    And it hasn’t changed a bit.

  29. Football is a game with obvious risks (pain, sacrifice, injury, bells being rung, etc.).

    It is not for everybody.

    It was never meant for everybody.

    If you, or your kids, want to be safe – go enjoy a game of ping pong. Go take part in an evening of Dungeons & Dragons. Go play miniature golf and try to putt the ball through the clown’s mouth. Football is not meant for guys like you.

    It’s football. Let’s just play real football. Those of us who have played recall it fondly and involving some of the best moments of our lives.

    Now that the risks are widely known, only have athletes willing to sign the waiver papers – and let the fur fly.

    There’s a reason why the highlights show the big hits and the physical football – and get the best ratings. And similarly, there are no ratings; there is no market for miniature golf mastery.

  30. This only works if they pay some aging stars no longer wanted by the NFL to come play. Which would give you a slower but, probably better product. Guys like Mike Vick could come play. Maybe pull whoever the top 2 CFL quarterbacks down. And get a couple sports networks involved. FS1 who does not have cable football might be one. But, no CBS sports nets, no spike tv’s, no CW’s. It’s got to be a sizable easily reachable channel.

  31. pftfan says:
    Nov 16, 2016 7:02 PM
    The XFL had both financial and television (both network and basic cable) backing 16 years ago when the country was widely more conservative or “old school” than it is now.
    ==============

    One of the XFL’s greatest impediments to success was it’s inherent lack of credibility due to it’s association with wrestling and Vince McMahon. Ironically among the darker reasons ratings are suffering is many long time NFL fans are questioning the integrity of both league leadership and game results.

  32. Most other startup football leagues have been ill-conceived as they were basically the same game as the NFL without the star power, traditions, history, rivalries, cachet, crowd excitement, etc that the NFL has built up for almost 100 years.
    But this approach could DEFINITELY work. The league’s core fans have been ignored in just about every respect while Roger courts overseas markets, soccer moms and any other demographic. A bold new league in the mold of the UFC could definitely make some waves.

  33. 1. Summer League.

    2. Full contact. Make defense legal again, throw out half the rule book and make every penalty 5 yards. Lose instant replay.

    3. Keep rosters at 90 players. Eliminate the holder position, field goals have to be dropkicked.

    4. Bench seating only. No luxury boxes for the golf-clappers.

    5. Surround the field with a barbwire fence, and have an ambulance outside with the motor running and the lights on. No one under the drinking age allowed.

  34. “Actually what you show is you are “uninformed” as to a lot of the history of our country.

    In fact the founds were I believe all literate, and the reason that they created the electoral college was that at the time most people saw their state as their first identity and that of an American only after that.

    They were a New Yorker, or Pennsylvanian etc first, an American second. So they created a system that reflected that.”

    Obviously thats not the case today, so another reason to do away with it. But to support my point:

    Alexander Hamilton described the framers’ view of how electors would be chosen, “A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated tasks.

    According to Hamilton, the selection of the president should be “made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station of president”.

  35. Wow, lot of Snowflakes still having a rough time. As far as football, remember the players themselves were the ones suing the league causing the flag football league that has been created.

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