Oh, the life of an NFL goal post. Alone in the end zone, nobody paying any attention until an occasional ball flies through it or, lately, when a player decides it resembles a basketball hoop and dunks the crossbar. But the NFL has decided the goal posts are due for a change. Could we make them five feet higher, they ask, and suddenly everybody is studying the goal post like it’s a midterm calculus problem. But forgotten by the NFL, in their zeal to create the perfect field goal post, are safety issues. What happens if the additional five feet makes the damn thing fall over?
The field goal post was not always so under appreciated. Way back before the start of the 20th century, football was begun as an offshoot of rugby. When a scoring system was devised in 1883, the game was kicker-oriented and a field goal was worth five points, the touchdown only four. The field goal was dropped to four points in 1904, and then three points in 1909, while the touchdown became worth its familiar six points in 1912. Lucky for league officials around the turn of the century, nobody really complained about the scoring changes, the internet not yet having being invented. The field goal post did manage to keep its position in the front of the end zone until 1974, when it was made to go stand in the back of the end zone and stop hurting all the wide receivers.
So the NFL will put the spotlight on the goal posts again and add five feet to the top, making it easier to tell if the ball has gone through. League officials can go back to sleeping soundly at night, knowing the game has been made that much better. But wait, it is not so simple. Making the goals posts five feet higher could create safely issues.
Neal Gilman of Gilman Gear, a manufacturer of NFL goal posts, says there are many factors that go into the change. Every stadium is different and wind is a major factor in many, so the posts must be engineered not to fall down. Falling on the players is obviously a concern, but a nightmare scenario is if the goal posts are blown into the stands.
“I think the NFL thought, ‘Just weld on 5 more feet and everything will be cool. That’s not the case.” said Gilman.
There is also an issue of safety for college stadiums. College football usually follows the lead of the NFL and if adopted, besides wind, colleges will have an additional problem. Imagine students hanging from the new goal posts after finally beating State, and then image the goal posts falling on everybody’s head.
“Will the colleges be close behind in adopting this (five foot) rule,” said Gilman, “In the college game, there is a lot of rushing the field (and) jumping on the goal post.”
Other problems include re-engineering the bases, shipping, painting, installation, and overall costs. Right now a goal post costs $5,700 to manufacture and the new ones will be much more, although with the league bringing in billions of year, that should be the least of its worries.
Safety obviously has to be the NFL’s top priority- it is not like the league could use more lawsuits. But if the NFL wants them five feet higher, they will end up being five feet higher. Of note, one more goal post-related edict has been handed down by the league: no more dunking the ball over the crossbars after touchdowns. In the last few years, those have been the field goal post’s shinning moments. Now they are back to just sitting in the end zone, waiting for an occasional ball to fly through.
Commentary by Andrew Elfenbein
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyelf