It’s about time the National Football League’s front offices take a mirror and point it at themselves and ask "what are we doing?" "Are we really doing what is necessary to protect the shield as we have affectionately named it?" For a long period of time now and especially in the "Roger Goodell Administration", the NFL has gained a reputation as sort of a kid with a magnifying glass, a term that Jim Carrey once used in Bruce Almighty in reference to God. Yes, the NFL has a "God complex" and it’s frankly making them less appealing by the day.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room as four players were officially added to the growing list of suspensions yesterday. Two of which, are Dallas Cowboys, so naturally everyone’s going to pin that as my reasoning for writing this piece. However, you’ll find that there are many moving pieces that made this column possible. Suspensions are just merely a jumping off point.
The NFL currently has 21 players suspended for a potential 107 games, with one suspended for the season and another indefinitely. To which only three players are suspended for conduct detrimental to the league (eight games total) leaving 18 for violation of the NFL’s drug policy (99 games), one which you can be rumored to fail by walking into your local head shop.
Let me preface that by saying in reference to Rolando McClain, his problem is something that can't be fixed. He should be turned loose and the Cowboys wash their hands of that mess. Speaking plainly, you can be high all season long as a player. Especially, considering that the NFL only tests four months of the year (April-August), unless you have been banned for a season or are placed into Stage 3 where McClain now finds himself.
A guy like DeMarcus Lawrence failing a test because of a prescription to deal with back surgery is an odd suspension to not at least partially overturn. That plainly makes no sense but that is neither here nor there. This is the NFL where they make it very clear that they are judge, jury, and executioner. I mean, many fans of other teams were thrilled to have the NFL punish the Patriots for DeflateGate without giving much thought to how silly the whole thing makes the NFL look.
The NFL is one giant megalomaniac that contradicts itself at every turn. They love to suspend players in order to protect league integrity. Well, was Jim Irsay showing regard for the league when he was arrested for driving under the influence with a duffle bag full of various prescription drugs and controlled substances? How about when Jerry Jones had unflattering pictures surface of him in compromising positions with women? Those weren’t even reported by ESPN or the NFL news sources. What happened to Irsay out of that black eye he left on the NFL? A $500k fine and a six-game suspension from being inside his owner’s box on Colts’ game days. If drugs were such a big deal for Goodell, you would think he would hold his owners to a much higher standard.
There lies the issue as he really can’t because it’s the owners that he works for in the first place. They will decide what their various punishments are for their colleagues. I’m obviously referring to guys like John Mara who makes colluding punishable in an uncapped year to hurt his divisional competitors when everyone in the entire league was colluding. It was a lockout! We hear people refer to the NFL as a business. It’s not a business; it’s a closed door multi-billion dollar company that keeps everything under its own umbrella. And if you think these are just the only things these owners are up to, I suggest you Google Jimmy Haslam Flying J Pilot scheme, where eight of the former employees of the company the Browns’ owner was the CEO of are facing indictment and he’s avoiding any prosecution. Curious? I sure as heck am a little curious to know what that’s all about. On to our next point in regards to protecting the league.
If you haven’t seen HBO’s Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons, you really should. This week, he had Mark Cuban on to discuss the growing numbers that the NBA is gaining not only in revenues but participation throughout youth involvement. Cuban agrees with Jerry Jones how sports ownership is a big deal and then states how he would turn down any offer that came his way for the Mavericks. "What do I need $3 Billion for?"
You don’t have to look up all the statistics to see that the sport of football is losing participation in droves, but just in case you’re curious, studies have shown participation between the ages of 6-14 have dropped from 3 million to 2.1 million in just five years, and it continues to drop. Just this March, a publication was made showing that the football participation for youth is down by over 25% in the past six years. Another study performed showed that 1 in 3 parents are scared their child may suffer a concussion and 1 in 4 simply won’t allow their children to play contact sports. Even the great Troy Aikman had something to say:
"I think that we’re at a real crossroads, as it relates to the grassroots of our sport, because if I had a 10-year-old boy, I don’t know that I’d be real inclined to encourage him to go play football, in light of what we are learning from head injury."
This all comes after NFL executives have refuted the links between CTE or head traumas with the effects of playing football. To continue to deny that the overwhelming studies by the world’s top neurologists that have effectively made this pretty clear while also taking a stance to protect the player’s heads is absolutely laughable on the NFL’s part. It not only makes them look ignorant but it completely devalues the NFL as a whole. Other sports are gaining in popularity and the NFL is not some iron-tight entity that cannot fail. If they continue to ignore the health hazards and don't figure out new methods of working with these established medical examiners, they most certainly will see these drops in participation increase. Nobody is exempt from failure, not even big suits.
The last point to the NFL’s growing God complex relates to revenue and greed. The NFL wants to make sure that they (owners and executives) stay rich and that nothing will break their ways of completely controlling all sources of revenue. My case in point, for the second straight year, the NFL has stepped forward and used their huge Oxfords to crush the National Fantasy Football Convention, led by Tony Romo and various other NFL players.
"It's been an uphill battle, considering we are fighting the 800-pound gorilla," NFFC executive director Andy Alberth said.
They want to make sure that all NFL players are aware that the NFL owns fantasy football and the means by which it is presented to the fans. Not only will they not tolerate a new way for fans and players to interact that otherwise would not happen, they damn sure don’t want people paying for the opportunity without their supervision and cut of the pie. We all know that the NFL doesn’t want a cut, they want the whole pie. They own a day of the week and play in primetime slots on Monday and Thursdays too. They want an 18-game season, increased playoff games and participants. It’s all about that next dollar, which isn’t a bad thing if you can do it without pettiness and greed, something they cannot do.
The NFL continues to chug along swallowing up every dollar it can come into contact with and we as fans continue to pour our support in every chance we can get. I mean, I would give an organ for a preseason game right about now. Still, I can’t help but state these criticisms and have an uneasy feeling sometimes when it comes to the NFL. It’s a double-edged sword because we love football and never want to see it die but they really need to make some changes. For as much cutting edge technologies and various things they have been bringing forth for the fans, they are so backwards in many aspects of their operations that they refuse to even admit or begin to acknowledge. The mighty can and will fall and history always has a way of repeating itself. The NFL may feel ‘almighty’ with their magnifying glass but don’t burn too many ants, there are way more of them in the long run.