So Lauren and I were sitting in the living room this morning, watching Manchester City dissect Bournemouth in the English Premier League, because that’s what we do on weekend mornings when we’re not rushing off to some event, project, or commitment. It’s a nice way to start a day, really.
“How many teams are there in the first two divisions in England?” she asked. And let me tell you how pleased I am just by the fact that she knows about those divisions.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe 40 or so.”
“That’s about as many teams as there are for football here,” she pointed out. “We could have that thing they do where teams move up and down.”
“Relegation and promotion?”
And the more we thought about this, the better idea it became. Think about it. Leaving aside the fact that American football is a giant marketing scheme designed to produce profits by addling the brains of its participants and fleecing the taxpayers into building palatial stadiums for owners who are already billionaires, this isn’t a bad idea. Split the NFL in half and make them play for the right not only to win a championship but also to move up or down in their leagues. Sheer brilliance!
We’d only need two leagues to make that work, really. Yes, English football has anywhere from half a dozen to a gross of the things, depending on how you count, but soccer requires far less equipment than American football and it’s much more widespread on a professional level to start with. Two would work at first, and if it catches on we can be more inclusive.
Eventually we can get rid of college football altogether and devote university resources to actual education. Radical, I know, but maybe sometime down the line we can think about it. Seriously - you don't think the Crimson Tide are ready for promotion now? We could improve the professional game and end the embarrassing charade of Division I college football "student athletes" all in one fell swoop.
Really, this might work.
For one thing, it would improve the level of competition, in a couple of ways. First, you’d have more games with like talent going up against like talent. The NFL prides itself on parity – on an “any given Sunday” mentality – but seriously, when Cleveland plays the Patriots this season is there anyone in America who thinks that game will be anything other than a glorified practice for New England? No, give them more games against the Eagles, a team that still isn't sure which end of the field is theirs, and let New England play the Steelers a few times. And second, it would eliminate the “mailing it in” that you get over the last month or so from teams at the bottom. Teams at the bottom of the first division would still have something to play for, while teams on the bubble in the second division – teams that aren’t going to win the championship but still might be promoted – would as well. Yes, the folks at the bottom of the second division are still going to mail it in, but now you’ve got four teams doing that instead of twelve.
For another thing, it would be a boon for NFL expansion. 32 teams breaks down into two 16-team divisions, which is doable but still kind of small. You could add as many as 8 teams to that mix to bring it up to EPL standards. This adds jobs and profits, so everyone wins except the people who get addled brains.
Yes, this whole thing might be moot in a generation as fewer and fewer people want to play the game at all, for obvious and wholly justified reasons, but nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people so I’m going to assume there will still be football.
Lauren and I spent some time deciding where to locate these new teams, and I introduced her to the concept of “where are you going to get a paying crowd to show up for games?” This put something of a damper on putting teams in the Dakotas, for example, but did add a pleasant degree of difficulty and geographic knowledge to the activity.
We decided that Portland, Oregon could use a team. You could put one in Las Vegas – why not, prostitution is already legal there – and perhaps in Salt Lake City, although we did get sidetracked as to what one would call a Salt Lake City team since “Jazz” was already taken (I know!). There ought to be one in the midwest that can pull from places like Iowa, Nebraska, and Oklahoma, so perhaps Omaha (no, not Lincoln – that would be like putting a team in Madison). You could probably put a dozen teams in the deep south.
Seriously, this could work.