In his short tenure as the NFL Commishioner, Roger Goodell has had to deal with the ongoing legal problems of players such as Adam “Pacman” Jones, who runs to trouble as fast as the ghosts of the Pacman video game. When it came out that a Tennessee man paid for “lapdances” at a Nashville “gentlemen’s club”recently, it was almost a surprise that Pacman was NOT involved. Chris Henry, Jones’ former teammate at West Virginia and much of the Cincinnati Bengal franchise have similar problems.
This summer brought the revelation that Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons, one of the league’s marquee players, was running a dogfighting ring in his home state of Virginia. Whoopi Goldberg, former Congressman J.C. Watts, Deion Sanders, or anyone else can try to excuse Vick’s reprehensible behavior by claiming it’s just part of Southern “culture” in the rural South, but that’s just another example of the current plague on society of making excuses for just about anything.
Former NBA All-Star Charles Barkley (the last name is ironic isn’t it?) put it best when he said that there is no excuse and “Vick needs to step up and be a man”. Vick has had 3 years of college and made millions of dollars in his years in the NFL, plenty of time to rise above such idiocy. Besides, the thing no one seems to be considering is the gambling aspect of his behavior. Granted, it’s not the worst part of this whole sordid tale, but an NFL player running any kind of gambling ring has to be troubling to the league. Say Vick lost $100,000 to his rival and the other guy offered to forgive the debt in exchange for shaving points or throwing a game?
Just when the Michael Vick saga was winding down a little, comes the first of the season and Kevin Everett of the Buffalo Bills suffered a life-threatening injury Sunday. Thankfully, the injury nows appears to be not as bad as first thought and the latest reports are encouraging, but still not the sort of news needed by a league still reeling from the aforementioned troubles.
On a less serious note, an employee of the New England Patriots was caught videotaping the New York Jets’ coaches signalling in their defenses Sunday. The Green Bay Packers caught a Patriot employee doing something similar last season, leading one to believe that this sort of thing may have been going on for awhile and thus tarnishing those three Lombardi Trophies awarded to the Pats for winning 3 of the last 6 Super Bowls. Look for the team to dust off the old “everybody does it” defense, but I can’t recall any other team being caught dead to rights anytime recently. Allegations of this sort of thing have been made for years, but mostly remained just that, allegations.
I remember years ago reading about Harland Svare, a little remembered former coach of the San Diego Chargers. It seems Svare and the Chargers were playing Al Davis’ Oakland Raiders in Oakland and in the middle of his halftime speech of a game in which the Chargers were getting thrashed, the coach looked up at what he thought was a bug in a light fixture and exclaimed “damn you Al Davis!!!”
Nothing was ever proven, if the jumpsuit-wearing Davis did do something like that I believe he would have covered his tracks better than the New England guy obviously did. In any event, Roger Goodell has threatened to take away draft choices from the team if they are found guilty in the investigation. I suppose one could call it the “Patriot Act” and I assume this one would be constitutional.
All in all, it’s a shame the league is getting such negative publicity because for my money, the NFL is by far the best in sports entertainment. I find hockey incredibly boring except for the movie Slapshot, the NBA has even worse PR than the NFL, not to mention the interminable season capped by the maize known as the NBA playoffs. Baseball was my first love, but it’s just too hard to keep up with another interminable season, it’s hard to relate when utility players are making more than the GNP of Bolivia,and the strike of 1994 combined with the current steroid scandal…well, let’s just say I watch the league championships and the World Series and that’s about it except for hilite shows.
Then there’s college basketball, which I love except for the fact that most of the elite players play 1-2 years then turn pro.
Which brings us to college football, with it’s ridiculous BCS mess and the “big cigars” of the Bowls running everything. There is seldom a real champion in college football and there won’t be most years as long as polls play any part in selecting the two teams to play in the championship game. As the voice of college football, Keith Jackson of ABC once said, “there’s one too many letters in BCS”. The BCS is no more relevant than a beauty contest as long as the polls control the top 2 teams. If playing a team outside a BCS conference, the idea is to roll up a score of something like 69-3 and make the hilite shows and watch the poll voters swoon. If ahead in a conference game, the idea if a team is able to get a good lead is to onside kick, call timeouts with :23 left to score again, anything to run up the score. Supposedly, margin of victory isn’t part of the BCS, but it is part of impressing the pollsters.
Say what you want about the NFL, but there are no more troubles than on most big-time college teams, without the pretense of the players being total amateurs.There is a real champion in the NFL and for that, Roger Goodell can breath a sigh of relief and go back to work. The suspensions of Pacman Jones and Chris Henry, the fact that the legal system won’t be through with Michael Vick for a couple of years at least, and the new conduct policy are a good start. Here’s hoping Goodell can finish the job of policing America’s favorite sport.