Quick … what happened on June 12, 1974?
A lot of things, I imagine.
The world population was 4,016,608,813 at the time, so a bunch of people were bound to be up to something.
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But as far as I’m concerned it’s one of the most important days in sports rulebook history, because this was the day the 7-point touchdown and action point were introduced.
Yep, World Football League commissioner Gary Davidson announced that his new league would be too cool for old school when it kicked off in July.
Touchdowns had an extra point, and that extra point was already included.
And the extra point kick was kicked to the curb, replaced by an “action point” conversion that would be executed via run or pass from the two and half yard line,“
There has been no suspense in football with the traditional point after touchdown being successful 99 percent of the time,” Davidson told the Associated Press. “Our new action point will provide a new and exciting element to the game.”
Not everyone was on board with it, though, including Southern California Sun coach Tom Fears.
“I don’t like it,” Fears told the Los Angeles Times. “Too much rides on that one play. You can go the length of the field to score in a close game and then, because they stop you on a two-and-a-half-yard play, you can lose a championship.
“The only reason we’ve got it is because the owners want to make the crowd happy.”
Speaking as a member of “the crowd” it certainly made me happy, which is rather important when you’re trying to get fans interested in a new product.
Over the last 47 years, various football leagues have come and gone, many with creative gimmicks. Yet none resonated with me like the kickless conversion after a 7-point TD.
The reasoning behind the scoring change for touchdowns was that the league rules committee decided a major score should exceed the total of two field goals. And I agreed with this. Not sure why, but I did and still do.
And the action point was a great change.
Despite the fact I was the placekicker for the L.M. Smith School 110-pound football team, PATs didn’t thrill me. Maybe it was because we never kicked them – we always just went for two. But beyond that, they really were mostly automatic at the college and pro level, and had an excitement level of zero.
In the WFL, a conversions would be anything but a sure thing. It was a solo point that took some work.
Over the next several days the WFL rolled out a bunch of great rules, such as no fair catches on punts, kickoffs from the 30, and a back allowed in motion before the snap.
But when I went to Legion Field on opening night (July 10), I was all about the 7-point TD and action point.
And I got to see them.
The Birmingham Americans defeated Southern California, 11-7, converting their lone action point of the night.
Jump to the end of the season and Birmingham’s 22-21 World Bowl victory over the Florida Blazers on December 5. The teams were a combined one-for-six on action points with an option sweep by quarterback Matthew Reed following the Ams’ second TD providing the margin of victory.
As a card-carrying goob (the card is in my wallet somewhere), I relish upending sports status quos. And while there was nothing overly outrageous about these changes, they were dramatic and damn near perfect.
The one scoring change I’d like to see more than any is the defense being awarded a point for a fumble recovery or interception. If that happened, it would be my favorite rule tweak in gridiron history.
Until then, the 7-point TD and action point hold the honor.
Long may they live – at least in my memories.