Tag Archive | "Roger Goodell"

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NFL kicks fans in the face with Super Bowl XLV

Posted on 06 February 2011 by Drew Forrester

Well, the Steelers lost the Super Bowl.

That was about the best thing that happened on Sunday.

The rest of it…the fiasco with the seats, the national anthem, the halftime…it all brought a crashing halt to what was supposed to be America’s most celebrated Sunday party.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s true:  The NFL somehow f**ked up the Super Bowl.

It took 45 attempts, but the league finally wrecked their showcase event.  If I didn’t know better, I would have thought the Orioles were running it.  In their never-ending attempt to squeeze every available dollar out of every interested fan, the NFL botched the construction of temporary seating and left 400 folks without a seat to the game.  They’ve known for four years that this game was coming to Dallas on February 6, 2011 and somehow they didn’t have the stadium ready.  The excuse-makers will say “yeah, but 102,000 other people got in and they were happy”, but that’s not the point, particularly if you were one of the 400 who got hoodwinked out of your seat in the rafters.

Then there was the national anthem.  No longer is just playing the song good enough.  These days, because the carnival has to have a sideshow to keep everyone interested, someone has to sing the Star Spangled Banner with their own special flair and unique sound.  This year, that someone was Christina Aguilera.  She’s a great singer.  But she botched the song Sunday night by goofing up the lyrics.  That stuff should happen at a minor league hockey game, where a local 19-year old girl wins the chance to sing through a radio station promotion.  It should NEVER happen at the Super Bowl.

And just to fully support the “when it rains it pours” theme, there was a wretched halftime performance by Black Eyed Peas to give twitter nation plenty to tweet about during their 13-minute performance.

Everything about the Super Bowl these days is related to excess.

The tickets cost too much.

The commercials are overpriced.

The TV coverage is too long, too boring and almost puts too much emphasis on one 60-minute game.

The national anthem singer forgets the song is more important than her.

The stadium has four years to prepare for the game and even then they’re not ready.

And the halftime show chases people away instead of keeping them glued to the set.

Super Bowl 45 will be remembered as the one that had Green Bay winning over Pittsburgh, 31-25.

Unfortunately, that was about the only part of the day that went off appropriately.

The rest of it was a clusterf**k, with the most important flop coming before the game even kicked off when the league had to inform 400 people they didn’t have a seat for them.

Those folks came from Pittsburgh, Green Bay and points beyond, all hoping to see the game in person and no doubt paying inflated prices for everything from airfare to hotels to tickets and everything else in Dallas all week.

The NFL, of course, has promised to reimburse those people three times the amount their tickets cost.

That’s not good enough.

When you’ve risen to the heights that the NFL has attained and you put the game and making money ahead of the fans, you’ve lost your way.

If the game has gotten too big for the league, they should scale it back and get it right for everyone.

Leaving out the fans, disrespecting our national anthem, and making the game more about entertainment isn’t what the league’s premier football contest should be about.

The NFL’s black eye – no pun intended – is shining brightly.

They screwed up their biggest event.

And worst of all…they probably don’t even care.

Everyone got rich on Sunday.

Except the 400 people who didn’t get in.

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Super Bowl Sunday …. or Saturday ???

Posted on 02 February 2011 by Rex Snider

We have all considered ways of improving selective sporting events, right? From reducing prices for Orioles tickets, to allowing fans to bring food into Ravens games, all of us have ideas for making our experience more enjoyable.

And, as far as opinions and suggestions go, EVERYONE has an idea or two when it comes to improving the presentation of a Super Bowl …..

Let’s face it, the NFL goes thru a lot of painstaking planning to pull off the biggest party and celebration of any and every sports year. For the most part, they get it right. But, they also make some questionable calls.

I understand some of the decisions are rooted in tradition, and historic habits are hard to break. But, some creations and orchestrations are just mind-boggling, if not silly.

Here are my suggestions for improving the BIGGEST EVENT OF THE SPORTS YEAR …..

Super Bowl Saturday – Why does the NFL stick its head in the sand on this subject? I realize an overwhelming majority of football games are played on Sundays, during the regular season. But, this is an event that is witnessed by football and non-football fans, alike.

Some traditionalists will say “Sunday is for football.” And, the business savvy might view Saturday as an evening of social events and personal entertainment. But, I don’t think a single soul who enjoys the Super Bowl will forsake it for an opportunity to enjoy “movie night” at the local theatre.

If the Super Bowl was played on a Saturday evening, the populous of America would have a day to recover from partying, before starting a new work week. And, those who travel for the game would also have that built-in day to get home, before Monday arrives.

Am I alone in wanting to see a Super Bowl on Saturday, instead of Sunday?

Halftime Entertainment – Yeah, I realize this is a trivial component.  But, who really selects the musical artists performing at halftime. After five successive years of great acts, including the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Prince, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, the NFL has struck a DUD in these past two shows.

Last year, we were subjected to an awful performance by The Who, as they failed to deliver on an extravagant stage. Perhaps, the Roger Goodell could’ve sent someone to see The Who perform or audition to see if they still had “IT” – which they don’t !!!!

This year’s selection, The Black Eyed Peas, are an obvious step down in the legendary quality found among recent performers. Are the Black Eyed Peas really the best act the NFL could imagine? I can see an intent to provide a more relevant artist, in today’s market, for the worldwide audience.

That said, veteran acts, such as ACDC, Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Madonna and Def Leppard would have been better choices. In the realm of more current acts, Jay-Z, Coldplay, Kenny Chesney and Green Day would have been more resonating, as well.

For the record, none of the above mentioned acts have ever performed at a Super Bowl.

Ticket Distribution – Is there a more equitable method for ensuring FOOTBALL FANS get access to Super Bowl tickets? Under the current system, every NFL player gets tickets to the game and thousands more are distributed to sponsors, partners and bigwigs.

Only a fraction of tickets are actually available to the very people who pay the freight and ensure the National Football League exists; THE FAN.

I’m imagining nearly every football enthusiast would love to attend a Super Bowl in their lifetime. But, the secondary market appears to be the only viable way of getting tickets. Based on this year’s sales, how many of us can afford $2,000 for a single seat? Not me ….

Well, do you have ideas or suggestions? I will bounce this subject off Thyrl, when we spend a couple mid-day hours together, around lunch time. Have a GREAT Wednesday and stay warm !!!!

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Just in the nick of time, it’s Friday Mud

Posted on 28 January 2011 by Drew Forrester

Boy, oh boy, do I have just the thing for those tired, aching muscles.

No, it’s not Vicodin.

It’s Friday Mud.

On a 1-to-10 scale right now, how sore are you from shoveling on Wednesday and Thursday?

Be honest.

I was about an “8″ on Thursday as I sat down to put this edition of Friday Mud together. By the time I was finished — and I had read it to myself 2-3 times — my pain level was down to a “2″.

Seriously.

I went from a 10 to a 2 in the span of about 15 minutes. I hadn’t felt that good in a long time.

OK, who am I kidding…I took a Vicodin.

But you should still try the exercise anyway…rate your pain right now. Read Friday Mud. Then tell me how you feel. I’m interested to know.

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>  If you see Orioles pitcher Troy Patton in Fells Point, toss him a pair of your boxers and say, “Just trying to help, dude”. Then point him to THIS TIP in Friday Mud. He’ll thank you later.

>  By now I’m sure nearly all of you have picked up the latest copy of Baltimore Magazine which features “Baltimore’s own” Jen Royle of MASN as one of our city’s Sexy Singles.  Evidently Jen’s photo shoot didn’t go so well.  When she arrived at the location, the magazine staffer handed her an outfit and asked her to get dressed.  Royle replied, “But I brought something that I think depicts my style a little better.”  Fortunately, the editor wouldn’t allow Jen to wear THE CLOTHES SHE BROUGHT TO THE PHOTO SHOOT.

>  Not sure if you heard or not, but Roger Goodell told the NFL owners this week that if there’s a lock-out on March 4, he’ll work for THIS until a settlement is reached.  Within minutes of that news hitting the street, Goodell was offered a job at double that salary by THIS GUY.

>  The President of our country is perhaps the most polarizing figure this side of Merton in Indianapolis.  You either love Barack Obama or…well…you don’t.  If you’re on the fence, THIS should fix things for you.  Yep, he’s a rat fink.

>  So I like going to Google and typing in random phrases to see what pictures pop up.  For instance,  I typed the words “How stupid can you look with a cigar in your mouth?” and THIS GOOF SHOWED UP.

>  Song #8 on my all-time favorite CD is THIS GREAT SONG from John Cougar Mellencamp.  The video is pretty cool, too. Check out the three farmers in the beginning.  The dude on the left never says a word or moves a muscle — until the end of the scene when the guy on the right says “Wanna buy a farm?”.  Anyway, I think JCM has been EXTREMELY underrated in his career and to me, this song sort of best represents what he’s always been about — singing about the common man, the blue-collar guy, the worker.  I love this freakin’ song…

>  Orioles FanFest is this Saturday.  That’s the good news.  The bad news?  The club went over-budget on signage for the Convention Center.  Evidently, they ordered 1,000 OF THESE SIGNS just to make sure they get their message across. Umm…message received.

>  We’re always thinking about new marketing themes at WNST.net.  Recently we splurged and went big-time, hiring an ad agency out of Chicago to craft our new 2011 corporate message.  The ad agency met with all of our on-air staffers and then pledged to come up with a theme for each of us.  This past Tuesday, they came to Baltimore and unveiled their suggested marketing slogans for each of us.  When it came to me, the woman in charge said, “And we have GREAT news for you all. We were able to take one of our Burger King themes and just mesh it perfectly with Drew’s morning show.  That will save you time and money as we didn’t have to bill you for any of the creative or production work.  I agree with her, THIS CONCEPT fits perfectly with me and the morning show.

>  Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau recently asked me to come down to Kettler Ice Rink and speak to the Caps prior to a practice.  I told Bruce, “That’s such a long drive…why don’t I just fax you down something simple and you can hand it out before the practice.  It will be self-explanatory.”  Boudreau said, “That’s fine.  Just keep it simple.”  I remarked, “It will be simple and easy to understand.”  So I faxed THIS MEMO to Boudreau.  I hope he distributed it to his team.

>  Derrek Lee recently signed a one-year deal with the Orioles and moved into a nice, quaint home up in Lutherville.  Our WNST staff photographer managed to squeeze his way past the security gate and snap a photo of Derrek’s new digs.  And you have to hand it to Lee, he’s already making plans for next October, as THIS PICTURE proves.

The “Shoot” Section (Anyone who has ever watched wrestling knows a “Shoot” interview is when the wrestler offers a real, out-of-character discussion).

Do me a favor. CLICK RIGHT HERE if you would please.  See that?  That’s what the Orioles want you to give them on Saturday at FanFest in exchange for getting four autographs from their baseball players. Understand this:  I want you to go to FanFest. I’m recommending you go to FanFest.  It’s a terrific way to get baseball in your blood in late January when there’s snow on the ground.  Go to FanFest on Saturday. OK? But under NO circumstances should you give those creeps $15 of your money in order to be graced with the signatures of four players.  And yes, I’m well aware that the $15 “fee” goes to OriolesREACH, the club’s charitable organization.  That’s awfully noble of them.  Here’s what I think you should do.  Do NOT give them $15 for those autographs.  It’s a joke.  They should be ashamed, charging people to get IN the building and then charging adults for autographs.  Disgraceful.  But I DO think you should give Nick Markakis $10 that he can use for his RightSide Foundation.  So that’s what I’m suggesting you do.  Make a $10 check to “The RightSide Foundation” and give it to Markakis or an Orioles official that you see roaming around…and tell Markakis you’d rather give HIM the money than to be bent-over by the club for four autographs of players.  You’d think the Orioles would be THRILLED to have people come in to the building and actually want to engage with their players.  $15 for autographs.  Laughable.  Don’t do it.

End of “Shoot Section”


> Karns High School squandered a huge 4th quarter lead and fell to Clinton High School last night.  It was a shocker.  It even made the headlines in the sports section.  Oh, you don’t believe me?   PROOF IS RIGHT HERE.

>  I realize it’s chic to pick on the Steelers and their fans.  I get it, I really do.  But you have to give those folks in Pittsburgh a lot of credit.  The big game isn’t until next weekend and they’ve already descended upon Dallas in record numbers, as our WNST staff photographer proves RIGHT HERE with his latest picture from the Cowboys Stadium parking lot.

>  This has no business being in Friday Mud.  But I typed the words “Girls in unique positions” and THIS PHOTO showed up. I have no idea what it is.  I pulled my quad muscle just looking at it.  Then I typed “Ben Roethlisberger on the beach” and this PICTURE was displayed.  I don’t remember having Ben having blond hair, but the rest of it looks right to me.

>  Last but not least.  Cam Cameron has come under great scrutiny since the season ended a few weeks back.  Recently he asked the Ravens chief custodian, Reverend Slappy, to paint a new catch-phrase on the front door to his office.  You might not agree with it, but here’s Cam’s 2011 PERSONAL SLOGAN.

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The “Controversial Sports Personalities” of 2010 …..

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The “Controversial Sports Personalities” of 2010 …..

Posted on 16 December 2010 by Rex Snider

As we make our way into mid-December and the final weeks of the year, excitement starts to build with many people, young and old. From the anticipation (or stresses) of the holidays, to the culmination of another NFL season, many of us look forward to this part of our annual calendar.

In my own way, I look forward to this time of year, because I’m a “list” kinda guy …..

Be it BEST OF, WORST OF, MOST INTRIGUING, MOST OVERRATED, MOST POPULAR, MOST HATED and just about any related combination, I like compiling lists of my personal rankings regarding people and events of any given year.

Of course, my lists revolve around sports, in one context or another. From the famous to the infamous, and the champions to the chokers, I’ll give you the spin on how 2010 shakes out in my conflicted mind.

Today, we’ll begin with the “TEN MOST CONTROVERSIAL SPORTS PERSONALITIES OF THE YEAR” …..
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10) Lane Kiffin – The ultimate coaching mercenary, huh? Many of us were snookered into believing Kiffin was the sympathetic figure depicted in his dysfunctional ride with Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders. Little did we know his loyalties would tend to run as deep, or shallow, as his former boss …..

Oct 16, 2010; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lane Kiffin gestures during the game against the California Golden Bears at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated California 48-14. Photo via Newscom

Earlier this year, Lane Kiffin deserted the University of Tennessee – the institution that gave him a second chance – on a whim to return to his coaching roots, at the University of Southern California. Kiffin garnered a lot of rightful criticism for switching jobs, midstream, while so many people, in Tennessee, depended on him.
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9) Cam Newton – Well, we all know this name, huh? Yet, a year ago at this time, only the hardcore college football fans really knew anything about Newton. Only in America …. can a sports personality rise from anonymity to celebrity, in the span of a few months.

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 11: 2010 Heisman Trophy candidate Cam Newton of the Auburn University Tigers speaks at a press conference at The New York Marriott Marquis on December 11, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

I suppose we should really be recognizing Cam’s father, Cecil, for being the “straw that stirred this combustible cocktail.” He obviously lobbied for money in exchange for his son’s services, and regardless of what the NCAA might be saying, most of us don’t really believe young Cam is blameless.

Hmmm …. how long will it take for him to surrender that trophy?

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Can the Ravens count on James Harrison and his bag of blunders?

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Can the Ravens count on James Harrison and his bag of blunders?

Posted on 02 December 2010 by Rex Snider

As the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for their prime time showdown, on Sunday evening, some interesting storylines are beginning to unfold …..

Will the Ravens finally beat Ben Roethlisberger in a meaningful game?

Will the Steelers be able to stave off a plethora of injuries and retake the AFC-North lead?

Can Joe Flacco drive a second straight stake through the collective hearts of every RAT-FINK Baltimorean who calls this town home, yet they root for the Steelers?

Can both teams live up to the hype surrounding the National Football League’s most riveting rivalry of the past decade?

We’re gonna find out in just three days.

Yet, amid all the hoopla and anticipation that accompanies a Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh matchup, another factor or storyline is emerging …..

Can James Harrison finally start abiding by the NFL’s newest policies, as they regard the defender’s helmet in tackling?

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 28: James Harrison  of the Pittsburgh Steelers rises after hitting Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Buffalo Bills during their game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Orchard Park, New York. Harrison was flagged for roughing the passer during the play. (Photo by Karl Walter/Getty Images)

I don’t like the new rules …..

You don’t like the new rules …..

Most players, with exception to quarterbacks, don’t like the new rules …..

But, opposition and dissent will not change things. The new rules are firm and if players cannot abide by them, they’ll fork over cash, as a result.

While I don’t particularly care for these changes, especially considering the hard-hitting nature of football, I absolutely understand the NFL’s mission. They’re obligated to protect the players from themselves, and their equally obliged to protect the league from future lawsuits.

Our sports society is well aware of the NFL’s mission to address concussions and subsequent brain injuries. A vast number of former players serve as prime examples of the detrimental effects concussions can have on life AFTER FOOTBALL.

Technological advances have discovered a correlation between brain injuries and dementia. And, the NFL is under the spotlight when it comes to dissection of this health concern.

It’s really only a matter of time until a former player sues the league over a perceived negligence, as it relates to rule changes or measures taken to prevent brain injuries from occurring.

Sure, it’s quite easy for us to bemoan the new rules, while proclaiming …. “THIS AIN’T FOOTBALL.” Heck, we’re right in our assessment. But, we’re not the ones who’ll be defending our respective livelihood when the lawsuits start trickling into the NFL’s offices.

That’s the spirit of the new rules …..

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The best seat…In the house (Wednesday Edition)

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The best seat…In the house (Wednesday Edition)

Posted on 01 December 2010 by Thyrl Nelson

Here’s a look at the night that was on Tuesday and the one that lies ahead on Wednesday along with a few random musings from the best seat in the house, literally, at home in front of the TV.

Yesterday, I speculated here that there was little chance that Pat Riley had any intentions of replacing Erik Spoelstra on the Miami Heat bench because their level of chemistry, commitment, and overall play, and the lack of assuredness that Riley himself would be able to get much more from this squad. With 24 hours to think on it, I might amend that line of thinking and say that Riley may replace Spoelstra, but he won’t likely jump back onto the bench himself. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojinarski wrote this piece about how James’ me first act is a safe bet to wear thin pretty quickly, and speculates that it was James’ inner circle that began floating the “Spoelstra is panicking” rumors in the first place. With the Heat, and James headed to Cleveland on Thursday, the drama, and attention are bound to continue.

 

Speculation also abounds today that perhaps Roger Goodell’s main motivation behind not suspending Andre Johnson and/or Cortland Finnegan for their brawl on Sunday is because the Texans are playing on Thursday night. As it related to Johnson, Finnegan or even a possible James Harrison suspension (that won’t happen either), it would seem that the NFL’s appeals process would have allowed all 3 the chance to play this week, and every other until their appeals were heard. Maybe the NFL was afraid that Johnson would decline an appeal and serve his suspension to spite the league. I wonder if Goodell is compiling a manual of precedents for the punishments that the league is dishing out, seemingly at random, this season.

 

Jim Harbaugh, the Stanford coach, former Ravens’ quarterback and brother of Ravens head coach John Harbaugh projects to be one of the hottest commodities on the market as schools begin to make and fill coaching vacancies. Michigan seems like the natural fit, if they choose to part company with Rich Rodriguez, but some believe that Harbaugh would be crazy to leave Stanford, where success is measured in academics and his feet aren’t likely to be held to the fire anytime soon, even if his now successful program took a dramatic U-turn. I would be at least mildly surprised if Jim Harbaugh didn’t have at least one eye on the NFL if he has any desire to change jobs. It should develop into an interesting off-season story line.

 

With all of the purple towel resistance building before Sunday night’s game, crowd noise is becoming topical. Now there are talks of a “No means no” chant for Ben Roethlisberger. On the surface, it’s funny, hilarious actually, but that’s from my perspective. I’m guessing there’s another side of this issue that would find it tasteless and appalling. In other words, it might make the Steelers fans that are on hand a little more comfortable. Count me out on the “no means no” chant, but I’ll be listening, and laughing a little inside.

 

I have to say that no matter how the Derek Jeter negotiations work out, I am amused. I’m not sure what Jeter’s value might specifically be to the Yankees, but I’m pretty certain that 4 Derek Jeters wouldn’t be worth the kind of money that both sides are discussing to any other team. His legend is intact, his skill set is declining, and we’re talking about projecting him beyond his 40th birthday. The one thing that has never failed Jeter in his opportunistic Major League career has been his timing. From the ball hit to Jeffrey Maier, to the inexplicable flip to get Jeremy Giambi at the plate, to seeking out his last payday with hit #3000 on the horizon, Jeter’s always been the guy in the right place at the right time.  

 

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Spitgate: It’s time for Goodell to get the clowns in order

Posted on 09 November 2010 by Drew Forrester

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.

Or pregnant.

Or, now, spit on.

I was a little stunned at the reaction both in Miami and Baltimore yesterday as details emerged about “SpitGate” involving Le’Ron McClain and Channing Crowder.

People in both cities were “appalled” and “shocked” and “stunned” by the fact that McClain might have spit on Crowder during Sunday’s Ravens-Dolphins game in Baltimore.

Really?

Shocked?

You’re nuts.

I’m half expecting to see one of these guys pull a piece out and fire a shot into the other team’s huddle one of these days.

I don’t know if you’re watching the same NFL as I am, but the level of professionalism amongst the players has dropped dramatically over the last few years.

And that’s not a low blow…it’s a fact.

To my eyes, having watched the “ground level” footage somehow captured by a Miami TV station, it’s very apparent to me that McClain spit on Crowder. He lauches forward at him, his head rises up and it’s clear he makes some sort of projecting move towards Crowder’s face. Crowder reacts as if he’s a man who has just been spit upon. If I sat in the juror’s box and that was the ONLY piece of evidence I had, I’d convict McClain.

Or I’d just send those two clowns back to the circus and tell them to both do 5 shows without pay.

But that’s just me.

The Ravens, predictably, deny any such event took place and as one staffer pointed out to me last night during a give-and-take on “did he or didn’t he?”, the referee standing right in the mix of the altercation didn’t act as if McClain spit on Crowder while he tried to separate them. My answer to that is simple enough: Have you seen the refs this year? Hell, McClain could have spit on one of them and he might not know it. In other words, don’t EVER use the referees as a barometer for whether or not an infraction occurred. The only thing they’re good at seeing these days are reruns of Bonanza and The Andy Griffith Show.

Honestly, though, I don’t really care if McClain spit on Crowder or not. If he did, the league will punish him and whatever they decide to do with him is fine by me. I don’t condone it. And I’m not trying to be dismissive when I say “whatever they decide to do is fine…” — because I do think if you spit on a guy, the league should act swifty and harshly.

But it’s getting much easier for me to be dismissive of the behavior I’m seeing from the players because no one seems to want to do anything about it.

Roger Goodell has his hands tied with this “physicality issue”, as he sifts through every tackle in the league to figure out which ones are hard and fair and which ones are REALLY hard and maybe unfair.

It’s becoming somewhat of an embarrassment for Goodell, personally, in my opinion. Not only is he bringing the quality of play into question

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Things that KILL …..

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Things that KILL …..

Posted on 29 October 2010 by Rex Snider

I’ve made no secret about my adoration for the Texas Rangers. I’ve always been a Nolan Ryan fan, and I think their lineup is assembled as solidly as any organization in recent memory. To see that team in a 2-0 hole is mind boggling.

The San Francisco Giants are an aberration. Cody Ross? Aaron Rowand? Juan Uribe? Edgar Renteria? Aubrey Huff? Pat Burrell? Andres Torres? Are you kidding me …..

It’s a HUNGOVER morning in my life and I’m not feeling very affectionate. Thus, I will dedicate the spirit of today’s blog to the Texas Rangers and their pathetic performance through the first couple games of the World Series. Things that KILL …..

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Huge NFL fines are more league hypocrisy

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Huge NFL fines are more league hypocrisy

Posted on 20 October 2010 by Thyrl Nelson

On Tuesday, the NFL handed out a king’s ransom worth of fines and announced their renewed commitment to the enforcement of rules designed to protect players from head injuries, scoring them accolades across the board for their proactive approach to concussion prevention, a growing concern among NFL players and fans as we learn more and more about the long term effects of head injuries. On the surface, it’s the right thing to do, we could argue that it should have been done long ago, or that simply enforcing the rules as they exist already would preclude the need for any grandstanding or any renewal of commitment from the league regarding this matter, but progress is progress, so let’s applaud it for what it is.  

Having said that however, are we really to believe that this is anything other than  another veiled attempt by the league and it’s ownership group to pass the onus for yet another troublesome issue along to the players? There should be no question that a marketing engine the size and scale of the NFL didn’t achieve that level of success by accident, so it likewise should be no surprise that the league has seemingly mastered, at least of late, the process of spinning propaganda and driving the direction of public opinion as well.

 

 

Make no mistake, in the past 12 months, NFL owners have not only opted out of their current collective bargaining agreement for the sake of claiming a bigger share of the pie, but have also set the stage to now lock out the players in the name of giving us the fans what we really want, 2 more games per season, and HGH testing. Is that what we really want? To some degree it must be, as fans seem to be eating it up. Forget that the owners are still negotiating for a bigger piece of the pie, while now trying to grow the pie too. Forget too, that the owners have enough TV money in place for next season that when coupled with the reduction in expenditures for salaries and other expenses associated with fielding a football team stands to make them just as much or more money for not having a 2011 season as they would by having one. And definitely forget that in addition to the annual incomes and expense accounts drawn from their teams, these ultra-rich owners have also seen the values of their franchises grow faster than seemingly any other commodity available on the free market, largely because of the kush stadium deals and other benefits afforded to them at taxpayer expense. Forget it all, because the NFL is set to go to war with its labor force, despite the fact that by comparison, with their short careers, smaller salaries and lack of guaranteed money, football players already enjoy the least lucrative position in all of major American professional athletes. And they have us behind them…somehow. But I digress. The real point of today’s rant is that despite the accolades the NFL has deservedly received for at least acknowledging the issue of head trauma and their interest in preventing it, in typical NFL spin machine fashion, it seems that once again the onus for the issue has been passed on to the players exclusively.

 

 

While the NFL is casting these as dirty plays, and hurting players in their wallets over them, it’s fair to say that a vast majority of the hits that have been and will be fined heavily going forward are hits that the players making them have been making their whole lives, hits that would have drawn acclaim rather than scrutiny just a few seasons ago. Football 101 dictates that going over the middle can come at a price, and should. Separating a player from the ball on a single play is really only part of the equation. The cumulative effect of hard hits, taken over the middle often leads to players being more and more reluctant to do it as the game wears on. How are players supposed to deliver those shots today when slowing themselves while being careful to stay in the “Strike Zone”? What’s more, I guess the league offices are now in the business of determining intent when questionable hits occur. Wait until the first suspension gets doled out, then the debate really begins.

 

 

When I say that the league has been slow to act on this matter, I say so being a fairly devout reader of the TMQ column by Gregg Easterbrook featured every Tuesday during football season at ESPN.com. Easterbrook has been on this subject for years in his column, and has made a number of great points on the problems and potential solutions. The biggest of which cannot be overstated, most of the football players in the US are children, children who without the benefit of muscle and bone maturity are far more susceptible to these types of injuries than adults. Side wherever you want on the athletes as role models debate, but that’s more about off the field choices, on the field, every player is a role model, one whose behavior is subject to be emulated by any number of children at the recreational levels of their respective sports. To that end, our athletes, and the leagues that govern their behavior owe it to us to do things the right way and set the best possible example, especially as it relates to player safety.

 

 

Start with helmet technology, while I’m not going to advocate for any company or specific model, type anti concussion football helmets into any search engine, and you’ll learn that helmet technology has come a long way in the last decade or so. Helmets are in production currently that studies have shown to reduce the propensity for concussions exponentially. Check out the images and you’ll recognize them, surely you’ve seen a few on the college and NFL fields by now. Why not mandate them? If they’re proven safer, and the league is concerned with safety it sounds simple. If the NFL did this, how long do you think it would take colleges and high schools to follow suit? (As I understand it, their is a powerful lobby that works on behalf of the industry that reconditions and resells used helmets, my potential for understanding pretty much ends there however.)

 

Want to get really extreme with helmet safety? Why not mandate the old Mark Kelso helmets, with the foam rubber outer pads? In addition to protecting the wearer, you’d have to imagine that this would also lessen the damage caused by the occasional accidental big hit across the middle. It couldn’t be that the league is more concerned with cosmetic appearance than player safety, could it?

 

 

Recently Easterbrook also pointed out the number of times per game you see players losing their helmets on the field. This is most likely due to poor fitting and/or unsecured helmets, a problem easily correctable and enforceable by the league, yet one that persists nonetheless. And what about mouthpiece technology? In addition to protecting your teeth, a mouthpiece is also meant to reduce the likelihood for concussions. Should any player on the filed, with the possible exception of the uber-protected quarterbacks, be allowed to go though a single play without a mouthpiece? Furthermore, why not have players fitted with real dentist made double-sided mouthpieces like those that fighters wear instead of the boil and bite style single sided mouthpieces they currently use? I seem to remember Jon Gruden going on during a Saints game last year about how they had worked with a company that made mouthpieces that actually aligned a players spine and increased their range of motion.

 

 

What do you do now as a defensive player when an offensive player dives? Should running backs still be allowed to deliver big hits to the helmets of would be tacklers with their off-ball arms?

 

 

These and a number of other issues are likely to arise as the NFL traverses forward into uncharted territory as it relates to player safety, and I applaud the first step taken by the league this week. It’s becoming all too predictable though that whatever the issues may be, the league has found a way to shirk their share of the blame and pass it along to the players. This doesn’t speak well to them doing a better job of protecting players going forward. And again, in matters that are far beyond my level of comprehension, one would have to imagine that with a slew of players both past and present that will undoubtedly be suffering from the effects of these head traumas long after their careers and contracts have passed, that the NFL might have to be careful as to how much of the responsibility they willingly accept given the potential for future lawsuits.

 

 

When the NFL gets serious about fixing this thing, if they get serious about fixing it, it will be obvious, because in so doing, they’ll be sharing in the responsibility. Until I hear them accept responsibility for anything…ever, I’ll take what they’re spinning with a grain of salt.

 

 

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NFL: NO FAIR LEAGUE

Posted on 19 October 2010 by Domenic Vadala

The NFL announced today that players would be fined and suspended starting this weekend for head shots. First off, it seems that the NFL is an extremely reactionary league in that a few players got laid out on Sunday (including Todd Heap), and suddenly they’re concerned about safety. However, the league specifically said that there were no guidelines for this policy. Um, okay…thanks for the heads-up, I guess.

On Sunday night I attended the Redskins/Colts game at FedEx Field, prior to which the Redskins announced 62 former players to the crowd. As I cheered for the ones that I remembered from my own childhood, I couldn’t help but think that many of them would have been considered dirty players by today’s standards. They might as well take Sam Huff, Dick Butkis, and Lawrence Taylor (arguably the best defensive player in my lifetime) out of the hall of fame. Not to mention the Jack Lamberts, Jack Hams, and Ronnie Lott’s of the world. All of those guys would be on Roger Goodel’s hit list today, as would Alvin Walton, Monte Coleman, Dexter Manley, and Charles Mann (some of my favorite Redskins as a kid).

I’m not suggesting that the league shouldn’t try to protect players from injury. Furthermore, I would agree that a player that purposely tries to injure people has no place in football. However the problem with the NFL is that they can’t see the gray area between a rough play that occurs in the spirit of the game, and a dirty play. The Philadelphia Eagles had a guy in the late 1980′s and early ’90′s named Andre Waters, who earned the nickname “dirty Waters.” In my opinion, Waters was a dirty player because he purposely would try to knock people out of games. (It was his tackle of the L.A. Rams’ Jim Everett in 1988 which led to quarterbacks not being allowed to be hit below the waist while in the pocket.) However there’s a big difference between Waters and a guy like Haloti Ngata, who is a very clean player in my opinion.

I suppose that my point is that there’s going to be no distinction made between clean and dirty; if a hit involves a helmet, the guy will get suspended. Ultimately what’s going to happen is that guys are going to start missing tackles for fear of being suspended. Furthermore, do we honestly believe that guys like Ray Lewis won’t be given a closer look than others? Lewis is a hard hitter, a great tackler, and a great cover guy…but he’s not a dirty player. The fact is that the league won’t lose fans as a result of these regulations, but I have to wonder if they’re afraid of losing money. Is it possible that major NFL sponsors were going to pull their advertising for fear of being affiliated with such an organization where people routinely get injured. All organizations are paranoid about ticking off or losing sponsors, ad I would assume that the NFL is no exception. And here’s another thing; would Congress have gotten involved? They seem intent on involving themselves in baseball with regard to steroids, so who’s to say that they wouldn’t try to regulate how the NFL deals with head-to-head contact.

Ultimately, you can say that they should put dresses on these players, or any sort of cliche, however the fact remains that you can’t sterilize football and still have it be football. I would suspect that 95% of the players in the NFL aren’t out there to purposely hurt people. The fact remains that people do get injured. Maybe the NFL should concentrate on it’s looming labor issues as opposed to worrying about something like this, because otherwise we won’t even be able to argue about these issues next year at this time

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