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Ben Smith

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Goodell needs to stop fiddling

So much for the notion that leaving well enough alone is a cradle-born reflex for men of power and success.

Clearly it’s a learned response. And clearly Roger Goodell, the majordomo of the Monolith That Dwarfs All Others – the NFL – still has some learning to do.

In the leaving-well-enough-alone department he’s still an utter rube, given that he seems constitutionally unable to do so. He presides over the most extravagant empire the world of games has ever known in this country, and yet he can’t resist meddling with it.

And so the other day Roger the Tinkerer floated the idea of doing away with the extra point, on account of it’s “almost automatic” and therefore not very exciting. And the NFL, see, is all about excitement – 24/7, 365, every hour and minute and millisecond up to and including the millisecond when Erin Andrews sticks a microphone in Richard Sherman’s face and whispers, “Go, dude.”

But a PAT?

Inconsequential. So, get rid of it.

Still on the table is whether or not the NFL will, as a consequence, jack around with a scoring system that has been in place for more than a century. Will touchdowns now just count 7 points instead of 6? Will they count 6 with the option of still going for 2? Will, as Goodell suggested, they count 7, after which you can run a play from scrimmage for an 8th point, but if you fail you go back to 6?

(Unless, of course, it’s a Thursday night in Houston during a full moon. In which case, if you fail, you go back to 5.5 points.)

Yeesh. Here’s an idea: If the PAT is so inconsequential, why not just leave it alone and keep doing things the way you’ve been doing them since 1920?

I mean, it has worked pretty well, all in all. So why start fiddling with it – especially in a way that alters the very scoring of the game?

If you get rid of the PAT, do your TV ratings, already stratospheric, zoom even higher? Will your product make more than the billions it already makes? Will it, in fact, change anything of consequence at all?

The answers: No, no, and hell, no.

Yet Goodell will fiddle. It’s what people in his position do.

At this very moment, for instance, the honchos in NASCAR continue to fiddle with their own scoring system in the vain hope of catching lightning in a bottle twice. Now they’re proposing expanding the Chase field to 16 and staging “elimination rounds” after the third and sixth races in order to make their sport more closely resemble, you got it, the NFL. And no one seems to get that at least part of what enabled NASCAR to capture lightning in a bottle the first time was that it wasn’t like the NFL, nor any other sport.

After all, the salad days for NASCAR happened before the Chase existed. What’s that tell you?

Here’s a guess: That good is never good enough. That outrageous success is never outrageous enough. That there’s always some mythic Better out there to go chasing after.

The problem with that?

Ninety-nine times out of a 100, it really is mythic.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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