Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Commentator Frank Deford has a modest proposal for the NFL.

FRANK DEFORD: Now that football season is upon us again, I would like to start off by saying let's get the foot out of football. It's time to call it, say, passball or smashball. Then we Americans could, like everyone else, call soccer by its proper name - football. Everybody would be much happier this way.

The trouble with our football is that the foot has gotten too prominent. If the feet in soccer were as accomplished as the feet in football, scores would be nine to eight or 12 to 11 and we'd all be watching Monday Night Soccer. But when I see an American football game now, I'm reminded of the old Fats Waller classic, "Your Feet's Too Big." What the football feets is doing is too big for the good of the game.

For decades now, the extra point has been called automatic. But no more is that just a hyperbole. In the NFL now, 99 percent of point-afters split, as they say, the uprights. That's ridiculous. Nothing else in sports is automatic. Nothing in sports should be automatic. For that matter, nothing in life should be automatic.

Field goals have gotten almost as tedious. Now, 80 percent of attempted field goals in the NFL are successful. Good grief, two-thirds of field goals tried from at least 40 yards out split the uprights. Make field goals count only two points. Or, since the goal posts can't fight back, let the defense jump up on each other's shoulders and form pyramids like those walls in soccer. Make those kickers have to learn to bend it like Beckham.

And punts. Aren't you tired of scaredy-cat coaches with fourth and inches always punting? You've got these great running backs churning out yardage down the field, but as soon as it's close, the coaches punt. You might as well have cleanup hitters in baseball bunt. Kicking makes wimps out of football coaches.

Kickoffs are fun to watch, but they're automatic, too - automatic mayhem. You've got 22 guys averaging about an eighth of a ton each, wearing armor, colliding at full speed. The soldiers at Antietam and Gallipoli had a better chance.

The colleges are moving kickoffs back to the 30-yard line this year in order to create more fun and brutality. Some coaches have already professed deep concern. The Department of Orthopedics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York is decrying this insane added danger.

What we should do is only allow those squibbly little onside kicks where the ball bounces around all crazy and it's fun and goofy and altogether un-automatic. Or hey, let's just kick the foot out of football and play the game with the good hands that God gave us red-blooded Americans.

(Soundbite of song, "Your Feet's Too Big")

Mr. FATS WALLER (Singer): (Singing) Man, oh, man, them things are too big. Oh, your feet's too big. Don't want cha 'cause your feet's too big. Mad at you...

MONTAGNE: Frank Deford's new novel is "The Entitled: A Story of Baseball, Celebrity and Scandal." He joins us each Wednesday from member station WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford