Monday, April 17, 2006

So Long, Fumblerooski

Efforts to bleed all of the fun out of football continue unabated, as the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations announced last week that it has joined the NFL and NCAA in banning the so-called "fumblerooski."

As most of you know, the fumblerooski is a gadget play in which the QB takes the snap and surreptitiously places the ball on the ground, where it is then picked up by one of his lineman. The entire offense sells a fake to the wide side, while the lucky lineman who scooped up the ball proceeds--if things work as designed--to waltz into the end zone.

You'd never think something this insane would work, but every now and again it did--most famously in the 1984 Orange Bowl, where Nebraska used this play to score its first touchdown against Miami.

Gadget plays like this should always have a place in the game. They don't do any great violence to its integrity, but they do serve as an important reminder that the race is not always to the swift, and the fight is not always to the strong.

The fig leaf that the NFSHSAA is hiding behind is that plays like this are a burden to officials. Nonsense. Any experienced coach with a trick play or two in his arsenal will pull the officials aside before the game and let them know that he might use them. You walk the refs through what you intend to do, and point out to them that you (and your players) understand the applicable rules. Believe me, it doesn't bother the officials. In fact, my experience has been quite the contrary; for the most part, referees are connoisseurs of the rule book, and really enjoy it when teams take advantage of some of its more obscure provisions.

I'll give you an example. Last year, I put in a couple of plays out of the Notre Dame Box formation for the junior high team I helped coach. When we ran them, we lined up in a straight T formation, and then shifted into the Notre Dame Box. We told the ref we'd do this, but the first time he saw it, he almost swallowed his whistle--his eyes lit up, and after the play he turned to us with a big smile on his face and said "I haven't seen that in 25 years!"

So, I don't buy the party line. I have no idea how this decision was made, but the conspiracy theorist in me says that what's really going on here is that big time high school programs have used their juice to get rid of this play. These guys typically are more conventional in their approach, because they've got the athletes to win with power and speed alone. They also dislike having to devote practice time preparing for this kind of stuff, and frankly are unnerved by the thought that somebody with a disciplined group of kids and a deep bag of tricks just might put one over on 'em.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He he he ... He said "Notre Dame Box"