Ger Gilroy: Gridiron template is worth following
Last weekend the 32 teams of the NFL started their 16-game regular season. There were seven games within a single score at full-time and three more were just two-score games.
There were even some blow-outs. On balance, though, the chances are most teams have a shot at winning some games even against the biggest teams. The day was competitive, interesting story lines everywhere.
It's become apparent that the NFL grips America like no other sport. Dave Hannigan wrote a great piece recently explaining how the peculiar mix of patriotism, fundamentalist Christianity and violence has made it undeniably America's National Sport. It's so big, bloated and moneyed that it can scarcely teach us anything about our national sports, can it?
Maybe that's the case. The fundamental equality that exists in the NFL's profit-sharing and the very existence of the draft could never work in the GAA where counties jealously protect their own commercial income and rightly get rewarded for underage production. The parallels between the labyrinthine and ultimately not-quite-fit-for-purpose justice systems also isn't a great starting point for taking some learnings beyond Must Do Better.
There's always a nagging feeling that a 32-team group is such an eerie parallel that we must be able to learn something.
The NFL cleverly manipulate each team's schedule so you play teams of a similar standard as well as rotating the fixture list so you automatically build rivalries over a period of time.
The season lasts a fixed amount of time and rather than losing coverage in the down months absence merely makes the return more keenly felt. The brilliant live coverage spreads across multiple platforms.
This Gaelic football season has been a resounding reminder of the gulf in class between the top teams and the rest with blow-outs practically every weekend.
The individual counties will continue to fail until they accept their own responsibility and actually get something of a free pass in this a lot of the time, constantly pointing out the resource gap while offering scant resistance on the field of play. It's an issue but the structure also screws them.
Until there's a convincing argument made to the players in the second- and third-tier counties that getting hammered once a season is not living then we're stuck. In the meantime, maybe the bulk of the season could be run in conferences before burping teams into tiered play-offs at the end of the season.
The main thing you learn watching the NFL is that it's good to watch teams of a similar standard pit their wits against each other all the time. Get that right and everything follows.