The NFL doesn’t want “All-22″ game film — the “eye-in-the-sky” view that coaches use to analyze their teams and their opponents** — released to the public because “it would open players and teams up to a level of criticism far beyond the current hum of talk radio… [F]ans would jump to conclusions after watching one or two games in the All-22, without knowing the full story.”
This is, of course, ridiculous. Obviously the argument doesn’t work, because if anything the All-22 would clarify the hasty conclusions fans and commentators already jump to on the basis of poor angles and little information. And even if it did open them up to criticism, so what? It’s an arbitrary game played for people’s enjoyment. If the First Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens’ ability to criticize the actions and policies of government and government actors, even during times of war — something that could potentially have a cost in human life — I should think that people who are paid millions of dollars to coach and play an arbitrary game can stand a little bit of heat. The whole thing is silly.
The proffered reason — that it would result in too much criticism — is so silly that it can’t possibly be true. But if it’s not true, then what is the real reason? I struggle with this (though I shouldn’t overlook the Occam’s razor-esque possibility that it’s simply that the people with decisionmaking authority over these kinds of things at the NFL are not intelligent, thoughtful people and do it for no real reason at all), as the only apparent conclusion is that it’s simply to insult the intelligence of fans and people who enjoy football. In short, it leaves two possibilities: first, either we really would fail to comprehend the complex array of movement on the field by twenty-two supremely athletic but human men, and thus we need the gentle paternalism of the cameraman and producer to show us, in a kind of cinematic baby talk, “See, with this close-up the quarterback throws a pretty spiral to the receiver!”; or, second, football isn’t even a game so much as it is a product to be branded in a particular way, and by restricting the All-22 the NFL can by Orwellian imagery of extreme close-ups and slow-motion shots emotionally convey to us the narratives solely how they want to in the way they want to. In either case, it’s all about controlling the message; the only question is why, and all the answers are depressing.
**The discussion of “All-22″ is a bit misleading because game film is typically shown both from the All-22 angle as well as from ground level either behind the offense (to better observe the offensive line) or the defense (for a similar reason). What we want is access to both.