Gino's Blog

59 minutes of hell

I’ve coached football for 40 seasons and never have or never will understand football’s contradictions and myths. That’s why my teams have a 20-year no-kicking streak.

Last week’s soccer games called NFL conference championship playoffs were boring. The Baltimore Ravens were taught a lesson that will never be learned – never leave a game in the hands/foot of a kicker. I’ve got no sympathy for anyone who loses with a missed kick. If the NFL banned field goals in the last two minutes and in overtime, the NFL would dramatically improve instantly. The thought of a kicker making or breaking an NFL season is a joke. If you love kicking, watch soccer.

The NFL and the entire football culture is one of the greatest contradictions in all of society. Lots of tough talk, smash-mouth, etc. then they trot out a kicker to boot a ball over the heads of guys who bloodied themselves for over 59 minutes. Foolish. Height of stupidity. No sport operates like football. There is no equivalent in any sport of a non-factor player deciding the outcome of a game. 59 minutes of hell decided by a player who has never been through hell. Makes no sense whatsoever. The reason why kicking is accepted instead of going-for-it is the Power of Conformity. Following aimless, fearing being different, and horribly misusing the word ‘risk’. Risk involves actual life-and-death, not what to do on 4th-and-1 with elite athletes on your offense.

Kicking field goals to win games is worse than shootouts winning hockey games and soccer games. It’s unimaginable to have the Super Bowl participants decided on a missed chip shot and a made OT chip shot. No team should get or be excluded from the Super Bowl because of a kicker. Anti-climatic and downright boring. Football is the biggest evidence of conformity – fear of breaking from conventional thinking, fear of being different.

Last week, the Baltimore Ravens had 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1 on the New England Patriots 15…the vaunted Ravens running game versus the worst defense in the NFL. If the NFL banned field goals in the last 2 minutes, the Baltimore Ravens would be in the Super Bowl, assuming their alleged vaunted running game could gain a mere one yard against the worst defense in the NFL. By the way, I am not a fan of any NFL team, just anti-kicking.

Same with overtime. How does football justify allowing tough guys like the New York Giants to end a game with what amounts to a soccer kicker? No idea how anyone can get excited about a kicker winning a game with Manning, Bradshaw, Jacobs, Cruz, Nicks et al standing on the sidelines as spectators. Who would you rather watch – Giants offense or a kicker? Cheapest way of winning in all of sports. And watching a kicker celebrate like he just won the lottery is the most annoying image in all of sports.

Winning with field goals in overtime is the equivalent of a 15 round title fight won by throwing sand, swinging purses, or name-calling. Field goals are the passive solution to an aggressive sport. The ultimate contradiction. The cause is the fear factor – fear of the rectangle on the ground. There are two rectangles that let you score points in football – the ground rectangle (end zone) and the one upright (between the goal posts). The upright rectangle is the past of least resistance. Football coaches and players use all the tough-talk clichés, war metaphors, but when faced with 4th down they take the path of least resistance under the disguise of “safe-call.”

Our two-decade no-kicking streak continues because the football culture passes itself off as the ultimate test of manhood with its smash-mouth ground & pound facade but allows, invites, and even wildly celebrates the tenderness and softness of kicking the ball through the path of least resistance – over the heads of the enemy instead of through them.

I hope that whoever wins the Super Bowl wins it in the right rectangle – the one on the field, not the one upright. Win it outright, not through the uprights.