As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of mixed martial arts, and particularly, the UFC. Ironically enough, I became a fan after playing the first “UFC: Undisputed” video game, and quickly latched on to the sport like I did to baseball, basketball and football as a kid, and hockey a few years back.
And those of you who know me know that when I become obsessed with a sport I take it upon myself to take in every bit of information I possibly can. I worked part-time at the Rockford Register Star back then and on our slow nights I would surf all the biggest MMA sites, learning about the history of the fighters, who were the former champions, etc.
UFC 100 featuring Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir and Georges St.Pierre vs. Thiago Alves was the first card I ever watched live. Not coincidentally, that’s also the most watched UFC pay-per-view to date. The sport is growing and I’ve grown as a fan with it. Maybe I latched on later than most of the other “die-hards,” but I still consider myself as knowledgable, or more so, than most of them.
So what does this have to do with anything relating to my NFL blog?
Well, MMA started out as very niche, and it kind of still is. But while MMA in its beginning was mostly appealing for its sense of “underground-ness” and the fact that it wasn’t accepted by the mainstream, it is vastly different now. Top UFC fighters routinely make hundreds of thousands of dollars per fight, especially when you factor in endorsement deals. While fighters in the mid-90s did so in their spare time and usually held full-time jobs as well, fighters today can train full-time in gyms that they sometimes even co-own or at the very least are geared toward their particular strength.
So how did MMA get so popular? Rule changes.
In past UFC events, everything was legal. It was considered “no holds barred, anything goes,” which was all fine and dandy for those looking for WWF-level entertainment minus the drama. But to be considered a real sport for mass consumption, things had to change. And they did.
Today’s MMA isn’t perfect. While they did away with rules such as eye gouging head butting, biting, hair pulling and shots to the groin, some of the rules they made have been considered too strict and have “pussified” the sport a bit.
For example, you can’t kick an opponent who is on the ground, and you can’t elbow him while on the ground if those elbows come directly from north to south. Most people understand these rules, although most also don’t like them.
Now, MMA and football obviously have their differences in relation to rule changes. MMA made these changes in an attempt to gain popularity. Football doesn’t need to get any more popular.
But the point of these changes is that they’re done because they’re necessary for the sport to continue without risking the lives of those who compete in them. Many call MMA barbaric, but no major organization has ever had a fatality, or even a near fatality during a fight.
The reason guys like Jack Lambert were allowed to take players heads off at will 30 or 40 years ago is because we didn’t know as much about the seriousness of concussions as we do now. James Harrison and others who have a problem with the rule argue that this is the way they were taught to play the game. Well, that may be unfortunate for the guys who play now, but a 10-year-old kid right now may be in the NFL one day, and if he learns how to tackle without launching himself into someone’s head, it makes the sport better 10 years from now.
It’s all about evolution. There won’t be a clean break from the current style of tackling to what is considered legal now, but 10 years from now, if everyone is abiding by the same rules from Pee Wee leagues on up, everyone will get used to it.
Does that mean a disadvantage to the defense? Absolutely. But does that matter when player safety is involved? No.
On to the week 7 picks:
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5)
I don’t care how close the Bills played against Baltimore. I’m picking against them until they win a game. Chiefs to win and cover.
Carolina Panthers at St. Louis Rams (-3)
I knew the Panthers would get a win eventually. And having Matt Moore and Steve Smith on the field together definitely helps. But none of that matters when the rest of the team sucks. Rams to win and cover.
Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers (-1)
The two worst teams in the two worst divisions in football. 49ers to win and cover.
Green Bay Packers at New York Jets (-6)
Here’s the week where the Packers take a leap and proclaim themselves as still being a contender. By beating a top AFC team on the road, they’ll be right back on track toward a Super Bowl berth. (I think I just invented the reverse reverse jinx. Let’s see how it works). Packers to win outright.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Dallas Cowboys (-6.5)
Now would be a good time to mention that I lost Tony Romo in fantasy football this week. While it hurts, it doesn’t kill my season. Chad Henne is a respectable backup, and I’m currently in serious trade discussions to acquire either Philip Rivers or Ben Roethlisberger. I’m telling you all of this because I know you really, really care. Cowboys to win, Jaguars to beat points.
Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals (-2)
I’m still firmly aboard the “Dolphins are going to the playoffs” bandwagon. Dolphins to win outright.
Washington Redskins at Detroit Lions (-2.5)
Easily the strangest line of the week. I’d like Detroit here if they weren’t favored. Redskins to win outright.
Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers (-3.5)
I’m finally starting to buy into the fact that the Chargers aren’t going to turn their season around like they normally do. Norv Turner is a dead man walking. Also, in the Roethlisberger trade I might be making, I’ll also acquire Ryan Matthews. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. Titans to win outright.
Minnesota Vikings at New England Patriots (no line)
I don’t care if Brett Favre plays or not. The Vikings suck. Patriots to win outright.
Seattle Seahawks at Oakland Raiders (-2.5)
I’m starting to buy into the Seahawks as the best team in the crappy NFC West. Either them or the Rams. Is it 2001? Seahawks to win outright.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals (-3)
I just realized I’m picking a lot of road underdogs to win this week. Uh oh. Well, you know what? These lines are stupid. Home-field advantage is so overrated. Bucs to win outright.
Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints (no line)
See: Packers-Jets. Saints to win outright.
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-5.5)
I’m shocked this line is so high. But you know ESPN is stoked that Houston won the week one game, adding a ton of intrigue to this game. There’s no way in hell Peyton Manning loses to the Texans twice in the same season, right? Colts to win, Texans to beat points.
Week 7 – 10-4 (9-5 against spread)
Overall: 56-47 (50-51-2 against spread)