Field Theory by Hadyn Green

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Field Theory: It's called Super for a reason

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  • Megan Wegan,

    I can't think of another sport where players normally only play offense or defense, not both.

    Netball.

    But not to the same degree, It's not like the goal keep runs off at the end of every play, and the wing defence and goal defence are pretty integral to getting the ball up the court.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    would the game be any worse?

    Would the game be any better? Should we let baseball fans rewrite the rules of cricket to conform to their expectations of what a sport should and shouldn't be?

    Football is a sport of the industrial age. There is a strict division of time, space and labour. Although each player has individual athletic ability, the key to success is not individual performance but the ability for everyone to perform their individual task as well as they can so that the whole team acts like a machine, sort of. And they do this over and over again, in different permutations, as many times as it takes to score a touchdown.

    The entire sport is founded on a rigid system of specialisation. I watched Generation Kill recently, and it struck me that that same degree of specialisation exists in the modern American military. Each person has a role in their particular context -- only one guy drives the humvee, one guy sits behind him with a particular weapon, another guy sits in the passenger seat with a different kind of weapon. This level of organisation exists throughout the chain of command. A similar mentality pervades American Football.

    Rugby also works on this logic, but to a lesser extent. The machine isn't reset all that often, and the space and time in which it operates is less strictly controlled. What that means, of course, is that the whole game has to be orchestrated by a referee in real time, which leads to this sort of thing.

    This contrasts with baseball, where the only really specialist players are the pitchers, and there isn't any time discipline. A game can go on for as long as it takes to get a winner. And, baseball is always played in parks, football on fields. Just like in test cricket -- and of course both of these sports have roots beyond the industrial age.

    So, the degree of specialisation reflects the underlying logic of the sport, and it doesn't detract from it. What I still haven't quite come to terms with is the extraordinary amount of rules surrounding penalties that have arisen to deal with the fact that the sport attempts to replicate this logic in time and space with fallible human beings.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    This level of organisation exists throughout the chain of command. A similar mentality pervades American Football.

    The beautiful, beautiful bit by George Carlin about the language of football versus the language of baseball immediately springs to mind. It ends thusly:

    In football, the object is for the quarterback, otherwise known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use the shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.

    In baseball the object is to go home! And to be safe! "I hope I'll be safe at home!"

    (All on YouTube, for those who can be bothered to enter the relevant keywords)

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7412 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    Should we let baseball fans rewrite the rules of cricket to conform to their expectations of what a sport should and shouldn't be?

    Oh yeah. We did, and it's called Twenty20, and it sucks.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    The beautiful, beautiful bit by George Carlin about the language of football versus the language of baseball immediately springs to mind.

    Hee. I was reading Jake's post, and I was all 'I'm going to have to pipe in with that George Carlin bit here', but you did it for me!

    Just like in test cricket -- and of course both of these sports have roots beyond the industrial age.

    I'd argue that baseball, despite having roots beyond the industrial age, really only became 'America's sport' by dint of the way its parks were built within easily accessible city neighbourhoods, poising it to become a part of the early twentieth century's obsession with different forms of urban mass leisure and entertainment (like amusement parks). A happy confluence.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3665 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    Very true. There's a reason all of Kevin Costner's neighbours thought he was mad for building a baseball park in his corn field.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • Naly D,

    Jake, if I could pay you for that excellent write-up I would. Until the day I move to the US, consider this a legally-binding IOU for a beer.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2008 • 307 posts Report Reply

  • Hadyn Green,

    HG;

    You're getting a bit sensitive there.

    More I was aiming at a ridiculous argument by countering with ridiculous one.

    I wasn't sure how many times I could write: "If you want to watch rugby, watch rugby"

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2081 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Of course there is. They're not playing international rugby because tackling is all they do and that ain't good enough, but why would you think it impossible?

    I don't think it's impossible. Indeed, there's sufficient breaks in rugby that it would be possible. If the rules changed, you could have a specialist goal kicker who only came on to do that job. You could have different offensive and defensive first-fives, who changed when there were stoppages of play.

    But I suspect everyone would think it was silly. And wouldnt' add anything to the game. And yet this is the way American football works, which strikes me as very curious.

    Netball, hockey, football are all sports that don't change teams when they go from offense to defence. There are players in those sports that are primarily there for one purpose, but they don't sit down during the rest of the time.

    Ice hockey goalies (who can't pass half way) occasionally score goals, and frequently get assists. I've seen a soccer goalie score as well.

    I wasn't sure how many times I could write: "If you want to watch rugby, watch rugby"

    I was ignoring it because it's a silly argument Haydn.

    If you took American football, and both made the players play both ways, and reduced the breaks, it clearly wouldn't be rugby. It would be American football with some minor rule modifications. Indeed, the game would largely look the same, the players would just have to play it a little differently.

    You could have a similar effect by changing the interchange rule in League, or the replacements rules in Rugby, both of which have been done with it still staying essentially the same game.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6227 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    If you took American football, and both made the players play both ways, and reduced the breaks, it clearly wouldn't be rugby. It would be American football with some minor rule modifications. Indeed, the game would largely look the same, the players would just have to play it a little differently.

    I'd like to know why in these tough economic times you want to get so many people out of work. Have you no heart?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7412 posts Report Reply

  • Naly D,

    If you took American football, and both made the players play both ways, and reduced the breaks, it clearly wouldn't be rugby. It would be American football with some minor rule modifications. Indeed, the game would largely look the same, the players would just have to play it a little differently.

    And a much reduced audience. Why would we want to change American Football to be like rugby? Is rugby superior in some way? Best game ever? Or should we change rugby to be like American Football? Why not have hockey players use cricket bats instead? Basketball and netball are similar, but they're not the same, but still, why not have a three-point line put in place in netball?

    Because they're all different sports, even though they appear to be the same...

    Wellington • Since Sep 2008 • 307 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    Anyway, here's the heart warming story behind the Terrible Towels.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    <i>Is rugby superior in some way? </i>

    Fewer long term health problems, I should imagine.

    Which is actually a good reason to go back to 15-odd player teams in the NFL -- less bone-crunching.

    By the way, it isn't particularly true that's baseball's pre-industrial; baseball as we know it is as much a product of the Industrial Revolution (esp. the railways) as American Football. (In fact possibly more so; American football is imaginable as just an Ivy kind of thing, but baseball is intrinsically connected to industrialisation.)

    Since Jul 2008 • 1395 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I'd like to know why in these tough economic times you want to get so many people out of work. Have you no heart?

    Yes, we should all be concerned for professional footballers and their multi-million dollar contracts in these difficult times ;)

    Why would we want to change American Football to be like rugby?

    I never said to be more like rugby. I said rugby, rugby league etc all demonstrate that some of the peculiarities of American Football aren't there for need, they're just peculiarities.

    Which isn't a bad thing, but my thesis is that changing them would make the game better. It wouldn't be any more like rugby, it would just take an hour less and have half as many players.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6227 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    Keir, how so railroads? I was pointing specifically to underlying logics, such as the absence or presence of time discipline, rather than factors in the development and popularisation of a sport. Nevertheless, the most commonly told story is that baseball was developed in the camps of the American Civil War, away from the pressures of the clock (although the outfield had its dangers should fighting break out, apparently). And, fair cop, the Civil War happened in the industrial era, but nevertheless the logic of baseball reflects, I think, work regimes that were not bound to the clock and the production line. And, um, working from home.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Because you need railways to have a National Game -- before rail, you didn't need to standardise rule or anything.

    Also the urban working class as an entity.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1395 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    When did the various national leagues become national? Ice hockey was way after railway, but that had more to do with the difficulties of having an ice rink in California, Texas, Florida etc.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6227 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie,

    Does anyone have any liveblog recommendations please?

    Ta in presumption...

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    damn work busy period. Seems like it would have been a good close game.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    I've had a bit to much yuengling to comment at length, but if anyone saw that game and thought it was anything but the epitome of drama in sport, they need their head read. Ho. Ly.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    And, if you want to check out riot coverage, do so here.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

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