I logged onto YouTube yesterday to check out a few music videos and I noticed that ESPN uploaded a video of Ray Lewis on ESPN talking about how his pre-game dance came about and also how the game has changed. I have thought about doing a piece on this subject for awhile.
I love this game a lot, this is more than just a game to me. When I was a kid, watching games with my Father, Uncles or whoever was around, was great. We all have memories of us surrounded by our elders as kids, eyes glued to the TV, watching our favorite teams or even the Super Bowl. The hard hits, the competition and level of play back when I was a kid was totally different. There are way too many guys who were known to put a hurting on offensive players, to even list.
Being born in 1988, I can only recall memories of players who were in the 90’s, when I was actually aware of what was going on. But I know the history of the league, because of my Father and other guys I grew up around and the fact that I love this sport so much, I dig deep in history and got to know the style of play for different players who stepped foot on that glorious grid-iron.
Now with this interview Ray Lewis had on ESPN, I know he was there mainly to get people to vote for him to grace the cover of the new Madden. But the fact that they asked Ray about how things have changed, really drew me in and everything else around me was immediately zoned out. He said,
“The way this game was built, the way this game was played, MEN decided that this is what I wanted to do. And that’s why I love this game, because it was by any means necessary, now it’s kinda altered. Now you got to kind of be careful how you do this, be careful how you do that. I honestly believe, if you leave the game alone, the game will take care of itself. The more rules you add, the worse the game is gonna start getting.”
What really got to me, was when he said, “Go back to old school.” Old school, that style of play, being one of the reasons that I myself, also fell in love with this game. I loved laying hits on defensive players, laying them flat on their backs and getting a reaction from both the crowd and sidelines. Ray Lewis, besides my Father was a reason why I wanted to play this game. I wanted to become a linebacker like Lewis, but couldn’t due to the fact that junior tackle had weight limits, so I was put on the offensive line and fell in love with both the tackle and guard position.
That smash mouth play, putting all you can into a hit to stop your opponent, is truly beautiful. Now the health side of the game comes into play, but if you put on these pads, if you decided to play yourself in high school or whatever, or your parents signed you up, you will get hurt playing this game. Injuries are apart of this sport, so no matter how many rules this league decides to add, you can’t stop people from having concussions or breaking bones or having brain trauma later on in life, because this game has so much contact in it. The Lingerie Football League is a league full of females and they hit each other just as hard as these bigger and faster guys do in this league.
The rules have been changing since the 1970’s, but the level of play has kept up and most of our parents, even grandparents can still recall those hard hitting players who once were. Guys like Jack Tatum, Lawrence Taylor, John Randle, Reggie White, Bill Romanowski, Ray Lewis, just to name a few, are warriors of what this league once was. Fines are still handed out, players are still getting hurt. So what is the point really of these rules? To get more money? You know, if you have ever put on a uniform and stepped on the field, once that ball is snapped, everything is a blur, there is no way you can stop yourself from following through with a hard hit on someone, leaning in with your head or not.
Which is another rule that is being changed this season, the ‘Crown of the Helmet’ rule. No more putting your head down for running backs to run somebody over, if you do it, you get fined. Which made me shake my head, knowing that every back in this league, or players looking to get into this league, all lower their heads before impact to fight for that extra yard. What does that do for goal line situations? Guys like Steven Jackson? Matt Forte? Every running back lowers their head. And this rule with offensive linemen or every play blockers, no more low blocks.
In a way, not to offend anybody who has previously or is currently serving in our military, this game is like a war. You put them pads on, you throw on that jersey representing the team you play for and the name of that team, as soon as you step onto that field or line up before the ball is snapped, you are a soldier getting ready to go to war with the team across from you. The coaches are your generals, your teammates who are in the same uniform as you, are your brothers in arms. Each practice, each game is a battle, no matter what grade level you are in, from pop warner all the way up to high school/college and eventually a professional level.
Ray Lewis is definitely right when he said the game has totally changed. And I agree that it should scrap these rules that we all ‘hate’, are just going to take money out of pockets who put their heart and soul into every game they play. I am just lucky and proud that I played and watched this sport in its glory days, because honestly, if I would have grown up in a future generation that I’m sure will see even more changes to this game, I probably wouldn’t even come close to having the passion or love of the game, the way I do. If anything, I probably wouldn’t love it at all. All we can do is reminisce of what this game once was.