Have you ever sat close at an NFL game? Bottom 20 rows or so?
If so, you know. You've seen a different game than those glorious Sunday afternoon battles aired every autumn on NFL networks.
You've seen the brutality of the sport. I've been on the sideline for the final five minutes of many a pro football game. And it's straight out of Gladiator. Braveheart has nothing on NFL players.
The hitting is fierce, the collisions extreme.
The question is not why so many NFL players get hurt, but why so few.
Which brings us to the labor negotiations and the owners' desire for an 18-game schedule. They've got to be kidding.
Pro football annually is a season of attrition. Sixteen regular-season games, plus playoffs. Last man standing wins.
“It would be absolutely ludicrous to go to an 18-game schedule, especially with the way my body's feeling now,” Steeler linebacker James Harrison said during Super Bowl week. “Depending on what position you are in the playoffs ... you're looking at 22 games before it's all said and done. That takes a terrible toll on your body.”
NFL owners trotted out the 18-game schedule as a revenue enhancement: replace two exhibition games with games that have meaning.
Season-ticket holders would love it; they long have griped about having to pay for preseason games that don't have a tenth the entertainment value of the regular season.
Networks would jump at it. More inventory. America loves its pro football. The more games, the better.
But the price is too high. Too many crushed bones and torn ligaments and subdural hematomas.
The 18-game proposal comes at an inconvenient time for owners. The NFL talked all season about minimizing the danger and health risks for players. Started policing all kinds of hits, some legal even, in the name of player safety.
So how does the league now ask those players to play two additional games? Who's going to be able to play these games?
“If you want to talk about players and safety, then don't talk about adding two more games,” said Steeler flanker Hines Ward. “That's when you're being contradictory.
“I'm scratching my head. You're talking about concussions and safety and all that, but yet you're talking about adding two more regular season games.”
Injuries would increase with more games. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has countered that the overall number of games remain the same, but that's nonsense. Exhibition games aren't as fiercely contested, and the veterans most susceptible to injury play sparsely.
I'm not overstating this. An 18-game schedule is inhumane. These guys already play a sport that has serious health ramifications. Adding two weeks of exposure to injury and two weeks of strain to an already worn-down body would be physically dangerous.
The 18-week schedule is a partial compromise. Build two bye weeks per team into the schedule. That would increase television money, which would have more viewing windows available.
The 18-week schedule would not alleviate the exhibition problem. Cut back to two preseason games, and owners would have less ticket revenue, though fans would be pleased.
Some have suggested increasing the number of playoff teams, which would pad revenues. I'm not crazy about 16 of the league's 32 teams making the playoffs, but that's a lesser evil than an 18-game schedule.
“You always have to keep safety as a priority, under any format,” commissioner Roger Goodell said.
If that's true, the 18-game schedule has to leave the table.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.