The Strong and the Smart on the Football Field

Stereotypes plague many places in our society, and nowhere is that more evident than the football field. The stereotype of the big strong jock – body like a refrigerator and head like meatloaf – still permeates our consciousness. However, anybody who has seen an NFL playbook with its X’s and O’s, patterns, timings, understanding and strategies knows that in order to play this game at the professional level you don’t just need to have a lot of strength. You need good brains under the helmet as well. Perhaps it is the complexities of the sport itself the lead NFL policy makers to make some of the wisest decisions in professional sports. Compared to other leagues, NFL decisions show excellence in structure, discipline and ensuring the future of the game itself.

Salary caps

Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association are frequently criticized for building teams of the rich by the rich for the rich. A team with more money to attract better stars is able to do become a powerhouse, while teams with less financial support or struggling records are unable to get the top-quality players to make the grade in the field. The NFL battled this long ago with their system of salary caps, salary minimums and contract requirements. According to the salary cap, each team has so much they can pay all of their players and must adjust salaries within the guidelines. This balances out the sources for each team and keeps any one group from building a dream team, while smaller teams suffer from lower salaries. Caps are based on a percentage of the revenue generated by the teams, but still ensure each team has to play within the same common grounds.

Tough drug policy

The NFL consistently has the toughest drug policy of any professional sport. This has led to it being one of the only sports not currently besieged by drug-related problems. The policy is so tough; many have protested that it is too hard on athletes caught using performance-enhancing drugs. However, the NFL maintains that it will not be a drug enabled sport, and will suspend anybody caught in its practice. The policy consists of suspending an athlete for four games, which is one fourth of the season, when they test positive for drugs, eight games for the second offense and 12 games or one season for the third positive result. A positive drug test after the third suspension calls for expulsion from the NFL. Although some have failed in this new drug policy only two players have ever failed a test past the third positive and both were allowed to retire from the sport. However, considering the performance-enhancing drug scandals in baseball, and the National Basketball Association, the NFL’s tough standards may be the model to use in the future.

Draft policy

The NFL draft has gotten to be such an interesting mix of mathematics, statistics and guesswork that they televise it because it’s almost as interesting as watching a football game. The draft policy, like the salary cap, insures equity between teams, which makes for more interesting competition throughout the year. Their policy allows the team with the worst record from the previous year to have the first draft pick in the next year. This inverted way of allowing people to choose the new talent coming out helps the teams to maintain a balance and also have leeway to contract with athletes and to work with other teams so that they can trade other draft picks. By using a draft policy based on an inverted paradigm the teams create an equality of basics and share some of that power.

Between drug scandals in baseball and basketball dynasties, fans are beginning to realize that the NFL’s stringent standards and rules have kept a balance that maintains a forward moving sport.

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