Big Three losing their lure in modern era
‘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.