Still, none of those restrictions have "ruined" football, and it is not a soft sport. We may still enjoy the game we enjoy without endangering the lives of the young guys who participate in it.
Most sports have seen a surge in rule modifications. In football, though, they have arrived slowly and have frequently encountered opposition from both FIFA, the professional game's governing body, and traditionalists who seek to preserve whatever purity remained in the sport.
For example, there are rules regarding how many men can be on a field at one time (11), what type of shoes you must wear when playing (no cleats) and whether or not it is legal to hit a player with your head (yes).
The most recent change came last December at the FIFA Congress in Brazil when members voted to allow players to be substituted during actual games rather than having to leave the field entirely. Previously, only injured players could be replaced, which meant they were unable to play while their injuries healed. The change was intended to give coaches more options in deciding who should go into games.
Another controversial topic is goal-line technology, which has been used by some American football teams as an alternative to flags for determining whether or not a touchdown has been scored. This system uses cameras, sensors, and computer programs to determine if a ball has crossed the line between the end zones. If it does, then the team with possession gets the touchdown. If not, then nothing has happened and no point is awarded.
This technology has been used by some American football teams but not others.
The NFL has informed clubs that it would now punish players who twirl the ball in celebration, as part of its ongoing effort to remove all pleasure from football. The rule change comes after many complaints from fans about the excessive number of flags thrown for this infraction.
Under the current rules, anyone who performs any kind of celebratory spin on the ball is entitled to take credit for a touchdown. Although these spins are usually done by coaches or teammates, if they are done well they can look impressive.
The problem with such celebrations is that they are often done too well. Every time someone does a great job of a spinner, officials notice and call a penalty. This results in the game being delayed while the play is reviewed. Over the course of an entire season, this type of delay could easily amount to hundreds of minutes, which is enough time to affect the outcome of a game.
From the beginning of league history, there have been calls to eliminate the spinner penalty. But every time this has been discussed, the NFL has refused to change the rule.
It's not clear why the league has decided to make such a move now, but one possibility is that it wants to avoid distracting fans from the actual game with lengthy delays.
Football's poor popularity among younger Americans, along with mounting proof of the physical and emotional harm it does, even at the high school level, may imperil its future status. There is one more sad fact to ponder for all spectator sports in the United States. They are all dying.
According to a report published by the Sports & Health Network, American children are spending less time playing sport and more time sitting on their asses watching television. The study also found that young people are drinking more alcohol and using marijuana than ever before. Is this what we have come to as a nation?
The number of students participating in varsity athletics has declined over the past few decades. In 1995, there were approximately 250,000 athletes competing in college sports programs across the country. This number had dropped to about 220,000 by 2005.
The decline has been particularly severe for football. According to data compiled by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the number of high school players in America rose from 790,000 in 1979 to 1 million in 1992. From 1992 to 2003, however, the number of high school players dropped by nearly 200,000.
During the same period, the amount of money being paid out under the college football system increased from $70 million to $150 million.
Football is one of the most loved and despised sports of the twenty-first century, bringing communities together and, at times, ripping them apart. Many people in many countries believe it fosters misogyny, racism, and violence, as well as fueling America's cultural wars. American football started in England as a violent sport using horses and a hands-off approach. Today it is a highly regulated sport with rules that can only be changed through legislation at the federal level.
Football has the unique ability to bring people from all walks of life together in a spirit of cooperation and community. This is particularly true in post-industrial cities where other major sports (namely baseball and basketball) are not as popular. It is also true in developing nations where football is used to unite people young and old during important ceremonies such as the World Cup. However, this same sport has been used as a tool for discrimination against blacks in America and against whites and Jews in Nazi Germany.
The influence of football goes beyond the playing field to touch the lives of millions of people worldwide. It is here that we see the dual nature of this beautiful game.