If modernists ran the NFL

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Cartoon by Jacky Fleming. (jackyfleming.co.uk/product/football/)

To rev ourselves up for the Patriots and the Rams in the Super Bowl this weekend, here is what the game of football might be like if it were run by modernists. In “Driehaus prize goes to Culot” I noted that most human endeavors use precedent to feel their way forward into the future. What if other fields respected precedent the way modern architecture does? Then we would have “‘modern engineering,’ ‘modern football,’ ‘modern agriculture,’ ‘modern fashion,’ ‘modern automobile’ and the like.”

Since modern architecture “advances” by ignoring precedent, what would football be like if the National Football League employed modernists to set the rules of the game? I have suggested just one of the possibilities.

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Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Dezeen)

For one thing, all teams would have to play in stadiums that looked like anything except for a stadium. Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played on Sunday [update, Patriots beat Rams 13-3], may look like a camera shutter but those in the know locally say it is Falcons team owner Arthur Blank’s sphincter. It (the stadium) is ahead of its time because the rules do not require the not-stadium look yet. Nor have the rules been adopted for modern football, but if we take modern architecture as a model, a modernist football game might go something like this:

Teams would suit up in bikinis, because professionals would by regulation be females, and tackling an opponent would be illegal so pads would not be required. The football itself would be square, and the quarterback would have to wear a blindfold, as would all other players on both offense and defense. When the football is hiked to the quarterback, she would indicate her location by reciting lines from Shakespeare so that the backfield and the receiving corps would know where she was and what play she had in mind. For example, pass plays would have to be drawn from “Romeo and Juliet,” running plays from “Julius Caesar,” and the like. Defensive linewomen would be allowed to “rush” the quarterback or “tackle” the ball carrier, but only gently and in iambic pentameter. The defensive cornerbacks and safeties would be allowed to work on their tans. Excessive speed would be penalized, as would the illegal use of prose, ineligible kibitzing downfield, or failure to apologize for unintentional roughness. A first down would be to advance the ball 10 yards backward, a challenge to players and referees alike as the yard lines slant wildly and the number of hashmarks between yard lines differs on either side of the field. A touchdown would occur when a player with the ball accidentally wanders into her own end zone without being touched. The winning team would be the one that reaches its own end of the field the most times without any forward progress. At the end of the season, the two teams with the most losses would meet in an annual Stupor Bowl.

The game clock would run out after 20 minutes, and fans would be required to discuss the game by inventing limericks about the teams’ strategy and tactics, the quality of the two teams’ backfield in motion, and other game-related topics for 40 minutes, with occasional commercial breaks, until being asked politely to return to their cars.

This is just one scenario for what football would be like under the modernists, and it is not in the least intended to diss women in sports or Shakespeare. The cartoon refers to soccer rather than football, but I found it after writing the post. Really!

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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5 Responses to If modernists ran the NFL

  1. Alexander Bars says:

    Hey, I’d be willing to watch that. At least once, anyway. That sounds awesomely bizarre.

    And regarding Benz Stadium; I was under the impression that said Stadium had been received highly positively by players and patrons.


    • Maybe it has been well received by players and patrons, Alex. Most of them don’t want to poop in their own nests, and all of them have had to put up with architectural garbage almost everywhere for decades, eroding their ability to judge good from bad design. Or maybe it’s just more fake PR. Who knows?


  2. Steve Mouzon says:

    On the first image, there was the Lingerie Football League a decade ago. I’m not making this up. Saw fragments of only one game while out to dinner in of all places Berrien Springs.


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