It almost seems backwards of me to attempt any criticism of the NFL now that they have indeed given in to the calls of football geeks everywhere and released All-22 footage - but that's what I am going to do. Mainly because the release of the footage does not eradicate the elitism of NFL-insiders who fought to keep it hidden to begin with, and because we do not really know why they did it.
It wasn't but eight months ago that the Wall Street Journal wrote a piece discussing the necessity of All-22 for intelligent football analysis, and the altogether shady reasons NFL-insiders had for refusing to share it. It was written that the NFL simply "won't show you" All-22. It wasn't going to happen. There was no real reason to believe otherwise.
NFL spokesman, Brian McCarthy, wrote in an e-mail, "NO ONE gets that." Greg Aiello contributed, "[the footage] is regarded at this point as proprietary NFL coaching information." Former member of the NFL's competition committee, Charley Casserley, felt making the film public would increase pressure on coach's and become "a distraction..." "I was concerned about misinformation being spread...", he said.
There is a very powerful bank in this nation with the power to alter the value of the dollar and fund wars, bailouts through inflation. It operates in complete secrecy; its meeting are not privy to the public eye - and it has never been held accountable to even a single Congressional audit since its creation in 1913. Sometimes, however, the Chairman of this bank does hold public meetings and garners questions from Federal legislators; but the answers the Chairman provides are so notoriously vague that economists and journalists coined the term "Fedspeak." The answers are sometimes obtuse, sometimes wordy, sometimes even precise, but they are always meaningless.
Similarly, there is much information the federal government keeps secret from the public for "national safety" reasons. If you happen to provide an organization with such information, so that it may be released to the public, you end up forfeiting all your rights and subsequently are made to suffer through solitary confinement for months and forced to strip naked. We don't yet have a word, however, in the English language for the nonsense politicians feed us when they speak, probably because it so common that a separate word would be redundant.
When coaches in the NFL talk to the media, they employ similar evasive tactics. We call it, "coach-speak."
For years NFL insiders engaged in such "speak" - a speak I am not clever enough to coin a short, witty phrase for; but a speak which parallels that of other powerful individuals privileged to valuable information which they refuse to share.
Of course, this isn't global politics, and it isn't monetary policy - it's just football. Which, really, makes the whole thing even sillier. When the "safety" of a nation or the "stability" of its markets isn't at risk, then why not release the footage?
NFL insiders attempted to answer that question, but they stumbled over themselves for years. The excuse of All-22 being "proprietary coaching information" is absurd on its face - how does any one team gain advantage over another by fans having access to the same film that every coach in the league already has access to? Then there was the idea that the footage would lead to fans making grand conclusions with great conviction on limited information. Apparently, NFL insiders have never read anything from Bleacher Report.
Ultimately, behind all the "speak", there was no hiding from the honest sentiment: NFL insiders quite simply don't want you to have the footage because they think they're better than you. Only few men can step foot into the Garden of Eden that is All-22 and handle the Apple of Knowledge - us lesser mortals should enjoy the sport for its more fundamental qualities, and not worry our pretty-little-heads over its complexities and nuances. More information, in our hands, is poison - and with a poison as potent as All-22, we might lead not just ourselves down the Devil's Path, but take the whole Garden with us!
And that is truly what they believe.
Have you ever been part of a club as a kid? Maybe you and your friends had a tree-house or a blanket-and-pillow-laden fort in your living room? And without the secret password, others could not get in. Indeed, this club was yours. And it felt really great to exclude others - it made you feel special; it made you feel better.
As we grow older, we learn that there is a greater feeling: sharing. We learn the value of passing information on to others, and of indulging in our passions together. But some boys never grow up. It happens in politics all the time, where so-called "Old Boys' Clubs" maintain their petty power structures for no real reason than that it makes them feel good on the inside - but on the outside they speak very highly of the will to do good, and to serve the public. And if you spent years and years going to school, playing football, learning the sport, and on-the-whole having access to the privileged information so many of us fans seek - how's it going to feel when a bunch of podunk amateurs sitting at home with their laptops and their fancy "interwebs" start becoming more knowledgeable about the sport than you?
Uh oh. It's the same reason some public school teachers by-and-large don't like Wikipedia - because they're preferences as a teacher aren't necessarily spreading knowledge or information, but maintaining a power structure of privilege that says, "This is ours to give to you when we feel you're ready." The idea that anyone can have access to information and educate themselves without referring first to the privileged educators is absurd, it's dangerous, it's anarchy!
So why did the NFL finally give in? Only eight months ago Aiello said, "This is a long way from becoming a reality, if ever."
Well, a bit of time before that, as some of you may remember, the NFL quietly released a public poll asking people about their interest in All-22, and whether they'd be willing to pay for it. I remember that poll. I remember voting that I greatly desire access to the footage and would be willing to pay the top asking price for it.
So this is only a running hypothesis for now (and I'd like to see other people make a stab at an explanation for this out-of-left-field phenomena), but it would seem that enough people filled out that poll exactly as I did. The NFL, knowing full-well that its reasons for keeping the footage to themselves were nonsense to begin with, said:
"Hey, there's some money in this..."
So you shouldn't mind the man behind the curtain, and you should try to remember that he's still better and more intelligent than you are. Though we'll forgive you for your haughtiness if you fail in this regard. We are very patient, after all.
But, if you're willing to accept your own continued ignorance - and you're willing to pay - then sure, we reluctantly grant you access to the Apple. Do try not to stray from the Path.
To conclude, despite what might be my perceived bitterness, I am ultimately very, very excited. As you should be, too. This is going to be the best time ever to be a fan of the great sport of football. And, despite my criticism, I'll still bow and thank the man behind the curtain for giving us what should have been ours to begin with.
Can't wait for Week One.