Slow football, like the kind mom made: A guide on messaging, for next time

The NCAA Rules Committee's proposed speed limit on hurry-up offenses isn't done for. It'll be back on the table next year, but without needing to lie about being a safety rule. So how will slow-down coaches try to sell it in 2015? SB Nation's GIF Tournament V

Re: Arguments for slowing the game of football down/rhetoric

Gentlemen, you lost. You lost the argument about football, and thus lost the possibility of getting your clock rule passed this year. It's a temporary loss that we here at Frank Puntz Communications are going to turn into an enduring victory in one simple step: by changing the conversation into one we can win.

First, a question: Why do you keep harping on safety in sports?

Unless children or celebrities are involved, no one cares about safety in sports. All the viewer cares about as far as safety goes is not watching someone die live. The concept of safety is an aspirational concept, not an operational concept -- you know, like frugality, fitness, or fidelity. People like it, but they don't want to live it.

So if you want to sell something, it has to transcend aspiration. You have to tap into people's deepest desires. Bret Bielema's not far off when he calls his brand of football "normal American football," because deep down no one wants to be weird, and everyone wants their football to be theirs, and not Canada's or Russia's or China's. FYI: Russia's normal football involves Spartak fans. You don't want anything to do with normal Russian football.

You do want something to do with messaging properly, advocates of slow football. First, you must never, ever call it "slow football." Slow is bad. It highlights one of the advantages no-huddle football fans have from the start: they are fast, and you are not.

Fast is young, sexy, exciting, and vibrant. No-huddle football automatically turns the corner at 70 miles an hour with a barrel-sized energy drink in hand and a line of Adderall sliding around on the dash. Slow brings up the worst possible imagery for the listener. Slow football is your great-grandmother in a leather helmet, riding a giant turtle through a half-empty Jo-Ann Fabrics.

You have a big challenge, but not an insurmountable one. You may even have an opportunity here. Take it away, horrendous Cadillac ad.

You know what Cadillac's ad was supposed to do here. It was supposed to drive home the point that Americans work harder than anyone else on the planet, and that Cadillac is American, and that Cadillac, and American greatness, and look at those lazy foreigners taking a whole month off at once while we build hybrid Cadillacs. There is literally no French person with a pool like that, and if they do have one it is probably from money they made selling Liam Neeson's daughters into human trafficking, because wealthy Americans earned things while wealthy foreigners stole it all.

That is not, in fact, what Cadillac's ad did. What this ad did was remind everyone that other people in comfortable, well-off countries work less, take more vacation time, and don't have Neal McDonough trudging through their houses telling them how great all that deprivation is because ... because of who?

The man. That's who. He's the one who wants you to go faster for less pay. He's the one who wants you to only take off two weeks so he can get another fancy pool at his modular home filled with nice stuff you'll never have. He's the one who changes into his $3,000 suit and tells you lies about how we're going to go back to the moon and get that car, buddy.

He's the one who wants you to hurry up even during the last vestige of recreation in America: football. The bridge too far is under your wheels, my countrymen. It was built by men who mock the huddle, the great congregation of the team. Remember the team? At least part of Michigan never forgot the power of working together, and taking a moment to communicate what was really important before doing the slow, deliberate work of moving the metaphorical ball down the field together. 

Those men would want you to mock the care with which the bourbonieres of Kentucky age their fine liquor. They would scoff dismissively at the pioneers -- not because they basically stole whole swaths of the country from its rightful owners, no -- they would want you to laugh because they did it walking the Oregon Trail one step at a time, and not sprinting the whole way in their bear meat slippers.*

The no-huddle, no-vacation, no-sleep, no-life gangs want to maximize your life.

*I have no idea what people made shoes out of in the 19th century and neither do you.

The no-huddle, no-vacation, no-sleep, no-life gangs want to maximize your life to its fullest by telling you the oldest lie of all: that life and football are one continuous action, and not a series of actions punctuated by rest, contemplation, planning, and that rarest element of all, empty space to think, breathe, and relax into at the end of the day. Life is not to be flash-fried; it should be slow-roasted with care, and shared with your loved ones when it's ready in full disregard of the ticking clock on the wall.

You don't have to believe that, buddy. You and your fastball friends can go eat flash-fried food alone in your fast cars while you all jam the same highway looking for the quick score.

The Craft Football Movement™ doesn't believe in rushing any of that. See how much better Craft Football™ sounds than "slow?" See how you've already changed the conversation you were losing into one you win? Craft Football™ is the kind of excellence we've forgotten, a pastoral legacy of care, time, and detail a lot of us lost somewhere on the rush towards that promised land of the endzone. It's attached to what your audience thinks it wants most: leisure, time, and the freedom to do one thing at a time.

Suddenly you're not old football. You're Craft Football™, the real football, the one that made this country great, and the one people watch to get away from the pressure of constantly being told to go faster, put up more meaningless numbers, and still wind up losing in the end. You are the people's football, not the spreadsheet demanding more sales digits in the third quarter. You turned no-huddle football into a cellphone holster clipped to dad jeans, all with just a single word.

Messaging guidelines going forward

Use the following talking points and phrasing as often as possible when discussing Craft Football™:

  • "They call it the 'play" clock, not the 'work clock.'"
  • "We believe football players do enough running during the play."
  • "They have a word for the game our opponents want to play, and it's a four letter word where I come from: soccer."
  • "No huddle? More like all-muddle, [talk show host's name]"
  • "Haste makes waste and no crystal in the trophy case."
  • "Substitutes deserve respect in the classroom and on the field."
  • "Let's call the hurry-up no-huddle what it really is: a tax on togetherness."
  • "Numbers can say whatever you want them to. You see 58,008, but turn that calculator upside down and all I see 'boobs.' See what I mean?"

And most importantly, let them know this: You're the football some never forgot. Oh, sure, even Oregon, the land of the pioneers, went to a fast-paced, mass-produced, non-organic huddle. But it's never too late to come back. You forgot your roots, Oregon, but the Prodigal Duck can always returneth.

We'll all do it: you, me, Oregon, Baylor, Auburn, America.

We'll all get back to a better and simpler time, and we'll do it just the way our forefathers did it: 40 precious seconds at a time.

There's always next year, gentlemen, because bad rules don't die. They just keep getting rammed down the throat of committees until they have no choice but to be vomited into the rule book. It's not an attractive process, but that's democracy.

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