Monday Morning Quarterback: Let’s Treat Football Like People Treat Science
Talk Show Host Bob: Today we have with us blogger Kimberly Moynahan who wants to talk about her concerns with football. Also in the studio is Bret Ingalls, former quarterback for the Miami Dolphins and now head coach for Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bret and Kim, welcome to our show. Kim, let’s start with you. I understand you are here because you think there is something wrong with the way football is played. Can you explain?
Kim: Sure Bob. But I don’t think it’s something that has to be explained. It’s pretty obvious to everyone that it makes no sense what the players do out there on the field.
Bob: What do you mean?
Kim: Listen Bob, I’ve never watched a football game and I don’t know how it’s played, but when I hear the sports announcers talking about it, I can’t make head or tail of they are saying. Seriously, does anyone understand this game? <laughs>
Bob: Bret, I’ll give you a chance to respond to that, but first, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Bret: Bob, I’ve been in football for more than 30 years. My dad took me to a game when I was 7 and I was hooked. I started playing at 13, then played in high school, college, and professionally, and have been coaching for 9 years now. Football has been my life.
Kim: You see this is exactly the problem. Bret here has no idea how the real world works. He spends all his life holed up in a gym or out on the field with other football players. He’s not out here with the rest of us trying to make sense of this game.
Bob: Bret, do you think you could explain to Kim how the game works?
Bret: Sure. So, the game involves two teams of 11 players. One team starts with the ball. They are the offense. Their job is to advance the ball down the field-by running with the ball or throwing it – and score points by crossing the goal line and getting into an area called the end zone…
Kim: Do you see what’s happening here Bob? Did you understand a word of that? Because I sure didn’t and I’m sure nobody else did either. Bret is using all kinds of sports jargon that makes no sense to regular people.
This is the whole problem with sports people in general. They are notoriously bad at explaining what they do in everyday language.
Bob: But don’t you think, before you criticize the game, you should learn a little about it? Maybe go watch a game and have someone explain it to you?
Kim: I don’t need to watch a game Bob. I’ve read blog posts and watched talk shows with other people who don’t understand the game and we all agree that something is very wrong with it. Football is too complicated and the public has no way to make informed decisions about it.
Bob: What kinds of decisions?
Kim: Well, just last week I saw a poll that asked, “Who do you think will win the Super Bowl?” and it named two teams I had never even heard of. How is a person supposed to know what to do?
Bret: You could have Googled the teams or asked someone who follows football..
Kim: I am not a sports person Bret. That’s not my job. It’s YOUR job to make sure we understand the game, how it’s played, and who the teams and players are. It’s too complicated for us to figure out by ourselves.
Bret: But you don’t seem to want to learn about the game..
Kim: I know as much as I need to know Bret. You don’t have to be a baker to know if a cake tastes bad, you know what I mean?
Bob: Kim, why do you think it’s important for sports people to make their game more clear to regular folks like us?
Kim: Well Bob, I think the public is being misled. All this money for stadiums, college teams, scholarships – all for what? For something that has no practical use in the real world. It doesn’t create jobs or grow the economy. And it’s confined to a small group of elite people who don’t know what’s going outside their stadiums and locker rooms.
Bret: But a lot of people enjoy football ..
Kim: That’s because they’ve been brainwashed.
Kim: Listen, we all know who backs the sports industry Bob. I’ve watched the Super Bowl ads on YouTube. Need I explain more?
Bret: What are you talking about?
Kim: You know as well as I do Bret. The players, the sponsors, the whole sports industry is conspiring to draw in the public, twisting their minds into believing everything they’re told. I know how this works Bret.
Bob: Ok, let’s change the subject here. Kim, you told me earlier that you had concerns about the ability of sports people to judge the quality of teams.
Kim: Yes Bob, I do. In such a confusing game with no clear rules, how are people supposed to know which teams are good and which ones are bad?
Bret: By seeing who wins of course! In a game, the team that plays better wins. As we proceed through the season, teams that lose lots of games get eliminated and winners move up the ranks. Finally only two teams are left. Then, in the Super Bowl, they play each other to see who wins. That’s the best team.
Kim: But how do you know you have all the teams? What if someone has an great team but you’ve never heard of it?
Bret: It doesn’t work that way. You can’t have a good team without financial support and years of development. If there’s one in the works, we’d know about it. Winners don’t just come out of nowhere.
Kim: So with your system, a team that has a bad day could get eliminated without being fully tested.
Bret: No, that’s why we play so many games. To eliminate variables like weather, injuries and home advantage. If you play enough games in enough combination, then statistically, the system works.
Kim: Statistics. Ha. We all know how you can manipulate those. Besides, if you’re all so smart, how come you can’t predict who’s going to win a game? I recently heard a sportscaster say that the odds favored Pittsburgh. Then Pittsburgh lost. So the sportscaster either lied or didn’t know what he was talking about.
“Sports people are notoriously bad at explaining what they do in everyday language”
Bret: But odds aren’t supposed to be accurate predictions …
Kim: Don’t get all technical on me here Bret. Then what are these sportscasters even doing? It’s all just a guessing game.
Bret: No, we look at statistics and past performance. We look at the team’s players. We look at the relative strength of their offense and defense. We have all kinds of ways to measure the strength of a team. Then we predict using what we know. It’s like an educated guess.
Kim: Well I’m no rocket scientist <laughs> but I’m sure most people will agree with me when I say that that doesn’t make any sense at all. A guess is a guess. Where do you find these people Bob? <laughs>
Bob: So Kim, to wrap up, what do you propose we do? How should we fix football?
Kim: First of all, simplify the game. I shouldn’t have to watch a football game or have to look up complicated things online. Regular people should be able to follow the game without needing a PhD! <laughs>
Football is too complicated and the public has no way to make informed decisions about it.
Bob: Ha! You’re right about that! What else?
Kim: Stop having sports people explain the game. They are terrible at it and they can’t be trusted. Instead, let people like you and me do the explaining — people who have never seen a game, who can speak plain English, and who have no commercial ties. That’s what the public deserves.
Bob: Those are some great ideas Kim. Now, I understand you’re tackling baseball next, is that correct?
Kim: Yes Bob, I’m very excited that I am going to have the opportunity to speak to the MLB about my concerns over the infield fly rule.
Bob: Well that’s certainly a worthy cause. I’m sure all kinds of games have been won or lost over that incomprehensible rule.
Kim: I don’t really know Bob. I’ve never watched baseball. I just know that my friends and I can’t figure it out.
Bob: Well then you are certainly the person to take it on.
Alright, we’re going to open up the phones now. Does anyone have any questions or comments for Kim or Bret today?