Now that the high school, college and professional football seasons are in full swing, some video-programming geek (who probably never played a minute of organized football other than tossing a ball around in the backyard with his buddies) has added to the "excitement" by dreaming up a new game so kids can sit around on their collective duffs on the sofa in front of their X-Box, Game Boy or Playstation rather than going out for the team and playing the "real" game.

Apparently this particular programmer didn't think football was violent enough (never being on the gridiron will do that to you), so players in this new football video game throw punches at one another in an effort to knock their opponents backward for a distance of 40-or-so yards to be able to gain ground.

Programs have also been created for baseball where players, instead of sliding around the catcher to score, try to run over him and for hockey, which involves a lot of high-sticking as part of the action.

These two areas of sporting activity will be discussed in future columns during the appropriate seasons but for now, I'm going to address just the football angle.

People, if any of you have played the game of football at any level of competition, you know darn good and well you can't effectively pass-block on offense by punching someone. For that matter you can't effectively block your opponent on any offensive play by throwing a left hook or a right cross. Take it from a former player and high school coach, it simply doesn't work.

In addition several things, all of them bad, will happen to you.

First of all if you throw a punch and connect, especially if you connect with your opponents helmet or face mask, it hurts and chances are you'll end up sitting on the sidelines for several or the remainder of the games of the season after the doctor puts a cast on your wrist and arm to repair the broken bones.

Secondly, chances are if you throw a punch your opponent is going to throw one in return and if your luck runs the way mine does from time to time, the guy you took a swing at was probably the Golden Gloves state champion in the light-heavyweight division.

Finally, you have to be aware of the guys in the striped shirts. You know, the "Zebras" who carry the little yellow flags in their back pockets. If you keep on swinging, sooner or later, you're going to get caught and it sure is embarrassing having your team get 15 yards walked off because you were stupid.

An unsportsman-like conduct penalty can also be painful to the perpetrator.

You don't have to worry about the coach chewing you out on the sidelines, that's the least of your problems. A tongue-lashing doesn't hurt. Your major cause of pain will most likely come from some senior on the bench who isn't in the game at that particular moment who hauls off and slaps you on the ear-hole of your helmet, which makes your brain feel like it's going to explode!

On one of the teams in my home town when I was a senior in high school, the usual punishment for an underclassman who screwed up on the playing field and cost his team penalty yardage was that one of the seniors would grab the offender by the face mask and another would cross body-block him from the blind side. Now, that had to hurt, and I'll be willing to make a bet the offender never made the same mistake twice.

It was common knowledge among the college football fans back home in Michigan when I was growing up that the dirtiest game of the season was when Notre Dame went up against Michigan State.

Back in the era when Charles "Duffy" Daugherty was head coach at MSU, the first move his linemen made when they went up against the Fighting Irish, (no pun intended), was step, punch.

Sort of like, you know, the old joke about how I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.

Of course this was back when there were no restrictions on what type of padding linemen could wear on their arms, either.

My Dad used to say it looked like the linemen on both sides of the ball had old issues of Reader's Digests taped to their arms, and he was right.

As much padding as those guys had, they could have easily had crow bars or at the least blackjacks hidden away for use during pile-ups at midfield.

Also during this era of football, it was legal to "face block" your opponent.

I have a book at home authored by Paul "Bear" Bryant when he was the head coach at the University of Alabama, which describes how the block was executed and what techniques were used by the Crimson Tide linemen.

My Dad met the Bear at a coaching clinic in Chicago years ago and we used to get Christmas cards from him every year; but, as they say, that is another story.

To execute a face block, according to the Alabama technique, you hit your opponent with your head up and slammed your face mask right between the numbers on the front of his jersey. Then you brought the crown of your football helmet up sharply, catching him right under the chin.


I think this was one of the major reasons that mouth pieces were invented for football players. Now you understand when you are flipping through old copies of Sports Illustrated why a lot of the linemen in professional football back in the 1960s and 1970s had front teeth that sort of looked like picket fences.

Now, there's violence in football for you!

I can imagine some of the old NFL linebackers like Green Bay's Ray Nitschke, Chuck Bednarik from the Philadelphia Eagles and the Bear's Dick Butkus, wherever they are now-a-days, must be having themselves a good laugh at the stupidity of the new video football games.

Anyone with comments about "On My Side of the Plate" can contact Tim Adams by calling 575-0710 or by e-mail at

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