Big Three los­ing their lure in mod­ern era

Bangkok Post - - GENERAL - By Dave ave Wigg gins Con­tact Wig­gins’ World at [email protected]

‘It’s the beau­ti­ful game,” pun­dits have of­ten rhap­sodised about soc­cer (Amer­i­cans em­ploy that term — and they also say to-mayto, while the rest of the world says foot­ball and to-mah-to).

If that glow­ing de­scrip­tion still holds true, then soc­cer/foot­ball is ap­par­ently re­tain­ing its good looks much bet­ter than any of the US sport­ing big three — bas­ket­ball, base­ball and Yank foot­ball.

To hear San An­to­nio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and for­mer home run king Hank Aaron, two of the most re­spected voices in their sports, the NBA and MLB are both cur­rently los­ing their glam­our.

Em­bold­ened by that pair, Wig­gins World would like to make it a hat-trick by ad­ding Amer­i­can foot­ball to that duo. More on this in a bit.

First, though, an ex­am­i­na­tion of the cha­grin ex­pressed by Popovich and Aaron.

The source of Pop’s angst: what he sees as the overuse of the three-point shot in to­day’s NBA.

“I think it mucks up the game,” Popovich said re­cently. “There’s no beauty any­more — it makes bas­ket­ball bor­ing.”

Mean­while, Ham­merin’ Hank doesn’t un­der­stand MLB hit­ters’ ob­ses­sion with home runs.

What’s with this “launch an­gle” (up­per­cut) swing that is all the rage, he asks.

Aaron wor­ries that the “com­plete hit­ter” in base­ball is now go­ing the route of the Dodo bird.

Opined Hank: “Play­ers need to learn to hit the ball to the op­po­site field and do the lit­tle things that help their ball­club win.”

Wig­gins’ World agrees. See­ing MLB bat­ters strik­ing out at a nearly 40 per cent clip — the price of swing­ing for the fences — is not a pretty sight.

Now, to com­plete the un­sightly tri­umvi­rate, WW takes Amer­i­can foot­ball to task — for its lack of va­ri­ety in style of of­fen­sive play.

Watch any col­lege or NFL game on the tube and vir­tu­ally ev­ery team runs the SAME plays out of the SAME of­fen­sive for­ma­tion: “The Spread”, which con­sists of a shot­gun quar­ter­back with one run­ning back next to him and four re­ceivers. YAWN! BOR-ING! De­spite the marvel­lous tal­ent on dis­play, Wig­gins’ World can’t sit through an en­tire game in­volv­ing any team but its home­town Philadel­phia Ea­gles with­out fight­ing off a Dag­wood Bum­stead-type couch nap — see Blondie in the Bangkok Post comics.

And some­times even the “Ig­gles” (Philly pro­nun­ci­a­tion) make WW feel drowsy.

The of­fen­sive style of play has be­come THAT te­dious and mo­not­o­nous.

But it wasn’t al­ways this way — at least not on the col­le­giate level.

The NFL has long been guilty of prac­tis­ing a one-size-fits-all schematic ap­proach of­fen­sively.

It utilised the Pro-set (QB un­der cen­tre, two run­ning backs and two wide re­ceivers) for more than halfa-cen­tury — ZZZZZZ! — be­fore switch­ing to The Spread over the last decade.

Con­versely, until re­cently, NCAA ball used to be a model of of­fen­sive di­ver­sity.

Dif­fer­ent col­lege teams were fa­mously as­so­ci­ated with spe­cialised for­ma­tions and philoso­phies. Some ex­am­ples. South­ern Cal had their vaunted I-for­ma­tion. With a string of run­ners that in­cluded OJ Simp­son and Mar­cus Allen, USC be­came known as “Tail­back U”.

Mean­while, the Wish­bone was Texas’ pre­ferred modus operandi on O Slick quar­ter­backs such as James Street en­gi­neered the Triple Op­tion ground at­tack to per­fec­tion.

In t heir salad years, Mi­ami favoured the Pro-set. With QBs like Bernie Kosar sling­ing passes all over the lot, the Hur­ri­canes were al­ways ex­cit­ing — though ob­nox­ious — in win­ning nu­mer­ous na­tional ti­tles.

And there were myr­iad other for­ma­tions as well: the Wing-T, the Split­back Veer, the Power I.

And on and on.

Each Satur­day, Wig­gins’ World used to be able to count on an in­trigu­ing clash of of­fen­sive sys­tems and philoso­phies at work.

No more, though. Now, each Satur­day AND Sun­day is like Ground­hog Day.

Popovich, Aaron and Wig­gins’ World are all self-ad­mit­tedly old school.

De­fend­ers of the style changes in the big three call it “evo­lu­tion” at work in these sports. We get it. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it.

Go­ing with the flow, how­ever, def­i­nitely re­quires some ad­just­ments.

Like, when view­ing Amer­i­can foot­ball, rather than quaffing Sing­has (of­ten with na­chos topped by diced to-may-toes), WW must now pound co­pi­ous amounts of Red Bull in­stead.

Ea­gles quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz, left, throws a pass against the Jaguars.

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