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JOHN STEIGERWALD: NFL's real issue is the field goal

by on March 09, 2014 1:59 AM

The NFL and the media covering it got me to thinking about the Earl of Sandwich. Actually they reminded me of a story in Woody Allen’s ridiculously funny book, “Getting Even.”

Allen tells a story about a guy who reads in a magazine that the Earl of Sandwich invented the sandwich and then spends the next three months writing the Earl’s biography.

His notes begin in 1718 with the Earl’s birth and continue through his school years and his marriage to Nell Smallbore, who teaches him all about lettuce.

It gets interesting in 1741, when the Earl places bread on bread with turkey on top. The Earl knows he’s close to a major breakthrough but the experiment fails.

In 1745, he introduces bread with turkey on either side.

Everyone rejects the idea.

The Earl refuses to give up and, in 1758, the queen asks him to make something special for a luncheon.

At 4:17 a.m., on April 27, 1758, The Earl of Sandwich creates ham between two pieces of rye bread with mustard.

The sandwich was born and, at the Earl’s funeral, a German poet says that the Earl had freed mankind from the hot lunch.

What does all of this have to do with the NFL and the media who cover it? Have you noticed all the attention being paid to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s idea to move the extra point back to the 42-yard line?

There has been lots of chatter on all the national talk shows about how statistics show the extra point is almost automatic, with a conversion rate around 99 percent. Some of the really smart people in the media see how this might make the game a little more exciting.

That’s the football equivalent of the Earl’s bread with turkey on either side experiment. So agonizingly close to the ham sandwich that’s sitting right under their noses.

Extra points have been almost automatic for 60 years. It’s the field goal that’s dragging the NFL down.

How many in the media realize that the field goal accounts for 600 percent more scoring now than it did in the late 1940s? That’s right. In 1948, the highest-scoring year in league history until last season, field goals accounted for 4 percent of the scoring. In 2013, it was a little over 24 percent.

And these guys are still focusing on bread between two pieces of meat.

Major League Baseball lowered the pitching mound in 1969 after a decade of pitching dominance. The NBA increased the value of a 20-foot shot by 50 percent. The NHL eliminated the two-line pass.

The NFL moved the goal posts from the goal line to the back of the end zone more than 40 years ago. When it changed the overtime rule to prevent the team with the first possession from winning on a field goal, it was an admission that field goals had become too easy.

Now they’re messing with the extra point when anybody with the IQ of a ham sandwich should recognize that field goals are the problem.

Somebody has to step in and prevent Goodell and the league from putting a piece of turkey on top of two pieces of bread and thinking their job is complete.

I’m trying, but, like the Earl of Sandwich, I’m only one man.

• The Penguins spent Thursday and Friday night playing in cities that shouldn’t have NHL franchises.

The San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks have TV ratings that would make infomercial producers nervous. So do the Los Angeles Kings. Forget the success of the teams and the attendance.

Cities that size shouldn’t have trouble finding 16,000 to show up to see a good team. TV ratings are a better indicator of the overall interest.

The hockey is too good to be wasted on people who don’t care. It’s a pretty safe bet that the Penguins have more people watching their games than the Sharks, Kings, Ducks, Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils and Tampa Bay Lightning combined.

Last year, a game with the Penguins got the Devils their highest rating for a game in three years — a 1.25.

That’s about one sixth of the Penguins average.

In 2012, the Devils put up a .025 for the season. That means that, when the Devils were on TV in the New Jersey market, 99.75 percent of the people with TV sets chose to watch something else.

It’s ridiculous for the NHL to have five teams in the New York/New Jersey and Los Angeles markets.

• By becoming a transition player, Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds will make right around $10 million this season.

That’s $200,000 a year for 50 years. And that’s just the first year of what will be a multimillion dollar contract.

That’s before taxes, of course.



John Steigerwald's blog can be found at www.justwatchthegame.com, and he is the author of "Just Watch The Game." His column appears each Saturday.
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