Posted on: September 10, 2009 2:20 am

"Protect the Players" at the Expense of the Game?

As the fledgling 2009 football seasons roll on, I continue to hear more and more the phrase, "Emphasis on protecting the players." I don't think anyone is against protecting these young men. It is a universally frightening thing to see a limp form on the field after 21 of the players have cleared out. This being said, I also think they are playing football. American football is a series of collisions. Twenty-two finely tuned athletes, ranging from the Chargers' Darren Sproles (5'6", 181) to Langston Walker (6'8", 366) of the Bills and beyond, throw themselves at one another with the greatest strength and speed they can muster. And I feel fairly certain that every last one of the hundreds of players that have reached the lofty heights of the NFL, and the millions who hope to, is aware of this inherent aspect of the game. Their job, their livelihood, their chosen career path requires them to get over the innate desire of everyday people to avoid running into other people. In fact, it demands that they get quite good at running into and over other people who have the same thing in mind for them. All of this is simply to say that when a human body collides with another human body at a velocity well over that of a man-on-the-street, there is a chance that someone is going to get hurt. In football, "protecting the players" should not mean "keep them from playing football." The emphasis should not be on big hits, but on dirty hits, cheap-shots, head-hunting, and the like. Crushing collisions are not only a big part of football, they are also an awesome part of football. I'm glad horse-collars, clothes-lines, and their ilk are not allowed. But wide receivers who go across the middle are going to meet safeties, who REALLY don't want them to catch that pass. Running backs who go out in the flats may find a linebacker they didn't know was there. And quarterbacks who don't feel pressure may wind up with a defensive end where their thorax used to be. There isn't a player in any tackle-football league who isn't aware of this, and of the potential consequences. I would daresay that most dirty hits look dirty from the outset. But it is possible for a clean, legal hit to look dirty, too (see also: Georgia vs. Oklahoma State last week). Players should not be penalized for doing their job. Sure, throw the flag if you think the hit was illegal. But take the time to be sure it was illegal. We have cameras that can help. These calls are too big, and this game is too great, to do anything less.

Category: General
Posted on: January 12, 2009 5:01 pm

The 6th Annual Brett Favre Controversy

I am so very sick of people talking about Brett Favre's season with the Jets as though it was an insult to professional football.

Actually, for the last 12 or so months, I have been increasingly sick of people talking about Brett Favre at all.

Make that 7 years.

If we're honest, we'll admit that this whole fiasco started on a nation-wide scale after what remains Brett's worst day as a professional football player--the 45-17 walloping (most of which he brought on himself via 6 picks)--7 years ago nearly to the day.  The whispers started...Had his gritty, old-school gun-slinging style of play run out of gas?  Was it time for the Packers to get the post-Favre era under way?  The questions were generally one-sided at this point.  They made the playoffs a few more times, and the questions held steady at a whisper.

But in 2005, he led the league in INTs, setting a career-high at 29, while the Packers went 4-12.  Obviously, it was time for a change.  The change made was the firing of Mike Sherman (who, ironically, had not-too-long before been given the position that Mike Holmgren went to Seattle for).  But the whispers became a full-fledged national converstaion: Had Sherman been sacrificed at the altar of Favre?  Brett follows this season with the kind of year a lot of people feel is an adequate fare-well: Just shy of 4k yards, and an 8-8 record to go with his even TD/INT ratio.  But, although he has admitted considering retirement, Brett still thinks he's got something left in the tank...and now he has something to prove, too.  In '07, he had a RB show up out of nowhere; he had young, athletic receivers; and this showed as he had a career-high completion percentage, a passer rating reminiscent of his MVP days, and a berth in the NFC Championship Game, complete with flashes of former miracle-working.

But during this conference title game, one pass that should not have happened caused the whispers that had become conversations to make the jump to pleas and curses.  Green Bay doesn't want to waste the pick they used or the money they've spent on their QB-of-the-future--which will almost certainly happen if he's forced to sit for his entire first contract.  An emotional Brett Favre concedes, and that, as they say, is...

OK, a few months later, the standard conversation of the past 5 years is still raging, only backwards.  It had been, "Should Brett Favre retire?"  It had morphed into, "Should Brett Favre have retired?"  And, since it was the time of year that he had started working on the upcoming football season for the last quarter-century, Brett starts wondering that himself.  Then there was the drama surrounding the Packers' side of the situation.  This was just too much drama.  The Packers don't really want their pre-eminent icon of the past generation or two to put on another uniform, but they don't really want him to put theirs on, either.  Childish, irrational things are said and done by grown men all over the country as a result of a 5-year old shoe being on the other foot.  It is generally resolved, and Brett winds up a Jet.  After missing camp, and having thrown a grand total of 18 preseason passes, he kicks off the 2008 season.

Beats the Dolphins....big whoop.  Loses to the Tom Brady-less Patriots...heads scratched.  Loses BIG to the Chargers...commence hair-pulling.  Romps over the, it's a win.  Loses to the Raiders?!?  Kellen Clemens could've done that!!!  Beats the Chiefs, Bills, Rams, Patriots, and Titans.  General sentiment evolves from "Maybe this wasn't such a bad idea," to "What should we pack for Tampa?"  The last month of the season, a clearly-not-100% Favre sees his TD-INT go from 20-13 to 22-22, as they drop 4 of the last 5...including the finale to the spurned Chad Pennington.

And it begins again, God help us.  1 1/2 months ago, Brett Favre clearly had 2 good years beyond this one left in the tank.  Now, he is a burden to the team, a laughing-stock of the league, and an embarassment to his own career.  Howzat?

The reason I have repeated a twice-told tale, albeit with my own editorial comments, is two-fold.

First of all, the breaking news of the last month or so--that Brett Favre is mulling his options for next season--and its incumbent never-ending national conversation are absolutely nothing new.  Anyone who acts like this is news is either really bored, completely ignorant of the last half-decade, or in a position where they have to churn out a "story" every week for a paycheck.  We are beating the crap out of a dead horse that we killed in the first place.

Secondly, and I'll grant that this is coming from a huge fan of Mr. Favre, I don't think it is at all fair to say he's completely done because of the last month-plus of the season.  When you get Brett Favre, you always know what you are getting.  The last pass he threw as a Packer should not have been thrown, but we all know that Brett Favre is not the type of QB to avoid seeing some potential in the play he's running.  That is why he is tops in career TDs and INTs.  You live by the Favre, and sometimes you die by the Favre.

Ultimately, my opinion on this is that he should come back.  Have a full camp, a full pre-season, and come back.  For one year.  The Jets are in enough turmoil, what with firing Mangini--I'll refrain from harping on this one.  Leaving wouldn't help much.  They should draft one of the studly QBs coming out this year, give him a year at the feet of Favre, and take it from there.  If Brett misses an hour of training camp, I'll immediately change my camp to the "HOF Class of '13" side.  And as of the end of the 2009 NFL season(s), I'll be purely for his retirement.  Til then, this is where I stand.
Posted on: November 20, 2008 4:14 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2008 12:51 pm

Grassroots...It's not just for Politics anymore!

I do love this fascinating modern age we live in.  I, even I, can recall a time when I would have to satisfy myself with 6 or 7 available NCAA and NFL games a week--only 3 or 4 of which I would be able to watch.  Now, I watch that many at once!  It is a feeling of euphoria I never would have dreamed of experiencing.  But it has come at a price.  Nationwide availability comes with a nationwide mentality that is poisoning the game of NCAA Football.  Whatever you may think of the BCS, the fact is that it is little better than rigged.  What happens on the field is immediately made of secondary import to what has happened over the last 15 years, or what happened this past recruiting season thanks to that ridiculous subjective construct known as the Preseason Poll.

But I have no intention of arguing against the BCS or the Preseason Polls or any of that.  I have quite given up that fight.  But I will not give up college football.  My solution?  Stop thinking on a national scale.  I see it as being set up this way.  The Football Bowl Subdivision is a theater.  The BCS conferences (including the Notre Dame conference) are the orchestra pit.  Out of the theater before each season, 25 are little better than randomly selected to make up the stage, with 15 of these being scenery for the real stars of the show.  One of my favorite terms is "the BCS Buster."  It's like a drawing for who of the 50 teams that don't really matter gets to move up to the front and breathe the air of the supermen--the BCS conferences. 

As much fun as it is to speculate on the speculation, it is also quite tiring.  So rather than fight this megalith, I'm just getting out of its way.  To be completely honest, I could not care less who is awarded (I emphasize this choice of words) the BCS crown.  It is clear that on a year-to-year basis only about 15-20 teams are actually considered for this prize, and I refuse to buy into the idea that the other 100 teams don't matter.  Conference Championships are actually entirely won on the field, and it is what happens on the field that is at all worth watching.  So the BCS selectors can say what they want.  I'm done listening.

Posted on: March 23, 2008 1:41 pm

That buzzing sound you hear...

Has been getting louder and louder for three years now.  The New Orleans Hornets (I have never, nor will I refer to the OKC portion--nothing against Oklahoma City; we appreciate them giving our team a place to play til we got things straightened out as much as they will be down here, but as for trying to take them off) have gone from a team which I once wished would have the organizational ethos of the Memphis Grizzlies (seriously, I did....of course that's when the Icon was running them), to truly one of the top teams in the league.  They didn't do this by buying stars.  They did it by putting together a basketball team: getting hard-working team players to start (the oodles of talent therein didn't hurt), and equally hard-working role players to come off the bench.

Chris Paul has practically single-handedly rejuvenated my interest in the NBA.  Ever since the Admiral retired, I found myself slipping further and further through apathy to antipathy towards the soulless, vainglorious, bling-infested hip-hop video that the NBA was becoming.  To add to the situation, there was the very real possibility--complete with the vociferous endorsement of the head coach--that the Hornets (who, with the Cleveland Cavaliers were one of my top 2 teams during the '90s) would be headed out of the state.  But then I saw a guy who gets triple doubles in points, assists, and STEALS?!?  Sounds like someone was actually playing basketball!  If MVP actually meant what it means (Most Valuable Player), instead of Flashiest Scorer, Chris would be a no-brainer.  Then I hear him on NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO???!!!???

OK, it was as a guest on their quiz show, but he was witty, charming, and a big hit.  It was at the 2nd Annual Chris Paul Weekend in his hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  That weekend, Chris Paul and several other NBA players helped a group of volunteers build a Habitat for Humanity house.  He talked about how his parents wouldn't allow him and his brother to play any sports if they didn't maintain a 3.0 GPA.  An intelligent, hard-working, personable, unbelievably talented NBA player?  In this day and age?  I'm hooked.  Just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in.  Who knows?  I might even buy his new shoe.

Then, there's his back court complement, Peja Stojakovic.  He definitely got my attention when he was in Sacramento.  First off, other than Sarunas Marcillionas (sp?), he's the first European player I think of.  Secondly, he's an absolute marksman.  He's like Robert Horry, but every day, and during the regular season, too.  David West is one of the most under-rated big men in the game.  Damn near averaging a double-double every night out, he is to the front court of this team what CP3 is to the back.  Hilton Armstrong is a consistent offensive player, and a force down low defensively.  The bench has a great combination of youthful exuberance and veteran leadership.  The Hornets are what the future of the NBA should be.

This team is young, talented, and hungry.  They work together--on and off the court.  And it is this fan's sincere desire that they stay just the way they are for years to come.

Category: NBA
Posted on: March 12, 2008 3:01 pm

This will be here if it's the last thing I do

OK, last try.  The last two attempts have been eaten by the system.  So, if they show up, I again apologize.  Not trying to beat a horse I've already beaten.

Yes, it is only human for young players to want to capitalize on their value while they know they have it--especially when comparing checks to other players of their apparent caliber.  But it is equally as human for the teams to pay these players as little as they possibly can get away with in order to keep them as long as they can.  If I signed on with an employer who was paying plenty of people below my level of productivity many times more than I was getting paid, I'd probably be a bit perturbed.  But if my co-workers had long been unionized, and had used this position to gain a compromise with the employer that dictated that the first few years of my time there would be compensated at a prescribed level regardless of my output, in return for the opportunity to gain exponential figures hiring myself out to the highest bidder based on perpetually overblown "market value"--where serviceable players wind up with what was formerly superstar money--I'd be a bit reticent about complaining.

Prince Fielder didn't strike me as being a childish brat saying that he'd do his job the same way he's been doing it (if not better), and cash in as soon as he can.  Good for him.  The same goes for Cole Hamels.  If these guys keep producing, they can say whatever they want and feel however they want to--they'll get their due (whatever the market says that is at the time, or however much it will take to keep them from seeing how much the market says it is).  Being an Orioles fan, I'm inclined to feel that Nick Markakis can say whatever he wants so long as the O's brass is smart enough to see that this guy needs to be the cornerstone of the franchise.  But I digress.

From the perspective of John Q. Taxpayer, the system is completely wacky and beyond the mind of mortal man to comprehend in any coherent way.  But looking at it subjectively from all three angles, you can definitely see how it got that way...and that there's not much chance of it getting any better.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or