Friday, September 19, 2014

More Goodell More Of The Time

Roger Goodell went before media on Friday with a news conference where he again accepted blame for recent NFL controversies involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, etc.   The ensuing presser lacked much detail despite some tough questioning, and of course led to widespread media ripping of Goodell - much ink was spilled on Tedy Bruschi's call for Goodell to be removed as NFL commissioner, while lost in the shuffle was reporter Pam Oliver (one of the best sideline reporters in the business; she famously stood up to loudmouthed receiver Keyshawn Johnson for instance) and her positive assessment of Goodell's presser.

Following the presser came another Outside The Lines story, this one delving into the Baltimore Ravens and their lobbying of the courts and Goodell on Rice's behalf - that ESPN even sees fit to examine team lobbying for Rice makes it out to be sinister, as though a team shouldn't be lobbying for a player when it has legitimate grounds to do so - it is impossible, for instance, to see the New England Patriots not quietly lobbying the courts if some form of exculpatory information ever surfaced regarding Aaron Hernandez.  There is also that the report in effect lets coach John Harbaugh off the hook by portraying him as someone who wanted to cut Rice when the incident took place where team owner Steve Bisciotti and the Ravens front office lobbied for him.   The Ravens deny that Harbaugh wanted to cut Rice and the obvious implausibility of that angle of the Outside The Lines report lends credence to the denial.

Lost in the coverage and the continued round of media grandstanding is that it still does not make a credible case against Goodell's initial handling of the Rice incident.  Where Goodell and the Ravens warrant criticism was in hanging Rice out to dry - this after the media (specifically TMZ) launched a grandstanding/armchair lawyering campaign, trying to reverse the initial two-game suspension without facing that the objective facts of the incident meant it legitimately did not warrant more than a two-game suspension.  

The whole Ray Rice and domestic abuse controversy is not about Rice or even Goodell - it is about media grandstanding and armchair lawyering.   More responsible coverage would have noted that it wasn't an unprovoked attack and that Rice was a first-time offender who did what was required of him by the law enforcement people and the courts, and there would have been some significant dissent from the established narrative that Rice should have been punished more.  

And for all the "moralistic preening and voyeuristic pandering" (as Politico so superbly put it) about the NFL and domestic abuse, the league is far and away cleaner than societies here or abroad, and the umbrage over the league's ostensible lack of a domestic abuse policy ignores that the percentage of accusations that are false is far too high for the league (or anyone else) to ignore.  

Yet for all that, the answer may have been stumbled upon with the new suspension with pay approach used by the Arizona Cardinals, the Carolina Panthers, and the Vikings in their recent issues of certain players arrested on domestic abuse accusations.   This appears to be what teams will follow from here on.

The Mainstream Media (political and sports) warrants its share of criticism over Ray Rice etc.  It's not just "J'Accuse!" to be aimed at Roger Goodell or the Ravens.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Week Three Plods Toward Us

The NFL continues to have to deal with armchair lawyering as it plods toward Week 3, between continued media scrutiny of Adrian Peterson, the appeal by Ray Rice of his suspension, and the league's appointment of three experts in domestic violence to the league office to handle these issues for players.   The cluster-blank that has been the issue showcases the first blunder of Roger Goodell, for when he became commissioner he vowed to crack down on players' off-field misconduct - and he has nothing to show for it. 

Basically seemingly the only one who did anything right here is Ray Rice; no one else - the league, media, etc. - has shown much rationality.   It might have been a case where the best reaction was to leave it alone.

Peterson was briefly reinstated by the Vikings but after the expected fury of grandstanding (lowlighted by Budweiser's phony press release on the issue) he was in effect suspended with pay until his issue is resolved, and so was Greg Hardy of the Panthers.  

There nonetheless remain games to be played -


*****


Falcons over Buccaneers - The Falcons right now are fighting for second in the NFC South and the Bucs come to the Georgia Dome off a bitter loss to the Rams.  The Falcons crashed back to earth in Cincinnati but are still better right now than the Bucs, and should get to 2-1.


Chargers over Bills
- E.J. Manuel has surprised some people right now, but in the Chargers the Bills get an opponent that got back on track with a strong win over the Seahawks.


Browns over Ravens - These are not the same old Browns, and their win over the Saints combined with erasing a 24-point gap to the hated Steelers shows it.   The Ravens are better than they were last year, but the Browns have momentum.


Titans over Bengals - I'm going a bit on a limb here after Cincy went 2-0 and the Titans fell to earth against a mediocre Dallas squad.  The Bengals are currently first in scoring and third in fewest points allowed, but the Titans are a better team than that Dallas loss would indicate.  We can expect some serious scoring here.


Cowboys over Rams - The Cowboys got a surprising and stout win last week, and their run game led the way.  The Rams haven't been stellar in run defense so far and still lack a quarterback one can feel confident in.


Lions over Packers - Both teams are 1-1 - but then the whole damned division is 1-1.   Detroit got stomped by a very good Panthers squad - and Green Bay is not Carolina.   Expect a Lions rebound here.



Texans over NY Giants - The Texans are clawing back under Bill O'Brien, the NY Giants are collapsing again under Tom Coughlin.


Colts over Jaguars - The Jags ran into the ultimate shocker of a buzzsaw at Washington and this game should be a lot closer.   The Colts overall still have too much and should win a 38-35-type game.



Saints over Vikings - The Vikings face a Saints team in need of that first win to get back on track; I'm not sure Adrian Peterson would have helped them.   The way Matt Cassel got abused by the Patriots, I'm not sure how well he'll rebound against a Saints team with some desperation on its side.



Patriots over Raiders - New England's periodic Darryl Stingley Memorial game against the Raiders will be an easy win over a demoralized Oakland squad that saw Charles Woodson in effect call out the team for being abysmal following the loss to the Texans.   The issue still surrounding the Patriots remains the crispness of the offense, as it struggled to score against the Vikings and receivers Danny Amendola and Brandon Lafell have been absent from production.   Brady's targets need to spread more.



Eagles over Redskins - Hold the phone - the Redskins now have Kirk Cousins as quarterback and he is what they need, especially in a Jay Gruden offense with which Robert Griffin III has not been effective.   The Eagles are still the favorites in the NFC East but the Redskins suddenly have something to say about that.


Cardinals over 49ers - Now we have to start questioning if the Niners really are starting to falter after blowing it against the Bears while the Cardinals started their backup against the Giants and still won by two scores.


Seahawks over Broncos - The Seahawks got punched in the mouth and Richard Sherman got beaten repeatedly by the Chargers, to where he skipped postgame pressers out of embarrassment.   The Broncos, though, have struggled to close out games and Peyton Manning is not as sharp as before right now, while Russell Wilson remains the better quarterback.


Dolphins over Chiefs - Failing at the doorstep of forcing overtime in Denver looks like the kind of loss that sends a team into year-long decline.   The Dolphins meanwhile get the Chiefs at what looks like the right juncture to rebound from another bad loss at Buffalo.


Panthers over Steelers - Face the blunt truth, Steelers fans - your team is fundamentally flawed and getting worse instead of better, while the Panthers are not letting a new receiving corps slow them down.


Bears over NY Jets - Calling a timeout before what was the tying touchdown is so New York Jets of them, and one has to ask how with all the things leading up to this the Jets cannot fire Rex Ryan and his staff.   Not that I trust Jay Cutler - he's a puss with volume stats - but the Bears did something good last week and that carries momentum against a team that has never been about substance or discipline but about flash, stars, and freelancing - and is thus as bad as advertised.


*****


We certainly hope cooler heads - and smarter approaches to these problems - prevail in the NFL here.

The Democratic Party of UN-reason

The Democratic Party does nothing but live up to the subtitle of Thomas Sowell's book - self-congradulation as a basic of social policy.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Week Two's Rebounds And Stumblers

Has there been a week quite like the one leading to Week Two of 2014?  It's hard to remember so much derangement vented over such a wide swath of those following the game, lowlighted by the irrelevant Hannah Storm of ESPN giving a nonsensical spiel about how her daughter reacted to the Ray Rice incident and how she asked, "Why wasn't he fired?"  It apparently didn't occur to Ms. Storm to tell the truth - that it was a punishable act of viciousness but not an unprovoked assault, that Ray Rice is a first-time offender who fully cooperated with all investigators and entered a court-ordered court-supervised intervention program; in short it never warranted more than a two-game suspension by the league.

Then came a grand jury indictment of Adrian Peterson for child abuse, though the more one delves into the incident in question the murkier it becomes with conflicting accounts about whether there was an earlier grand jury investigation that led to no indictment, and the actual incident has received conflicting accounts as to whether it looks less like egregious assault than excessive punishment of a child - a punishable offense without question but less than the assumed level.

The ultimate stupidity of the derangement over Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson made the arrival of the actual games welcome, and it was an interesting case of last week losers becoming this week winners.   Some takes -


*****


Ravens rally, Steelers melt - Far from being a burden on their shoulders, the Ravens took the abuse of the week and channeled it into a strong win over the Steelers, with solid effort by Joe Flacco and company that leaves the Ravens clearly improved from 2013's bridge year and leaves the Steelers staring at yet another 8-8 season.


Bengals and Browns go marching through the (NFC) South - That the Bengals are on their way to another playoff run seems obvious; that the Browns are showing moxie enough to contend with them should now be clear after rallying to defeat the Saints.   Sure, Johnny Clipboard came in for one play, but this is Brian Hoyer's Browns team, though coach Pettine should save some cigars reference in his postgame presser for his players.


Panthers are going to falter in 2014, right? - They changed their receiving corps, and the Panthers aren't exactly skipping a beat for it.  They also stand alone atop the NFC South with the rest of the division scrambling to try and keep up.


The Skins can forget about RGIII - He tore up his ankle and will be lost for about a month - and Robert Griffin III had to watch what looks like the future as Kirk Cousins went Tom Brady on the Jaguars by pummeling the life out of them 41-10.   Cousins showed more ability than Griffin has shown and the Skins better forget about their ostensible face of the franchise.


The Jets and Patriots sort of relive 1994 - In 1994 the Patriots erased a three-touchdown gap to beat the Vikings.   In 2014 they faced the Vikings again and after falling behind 7-0 exploded in all three phases of the game - the offense played well after a dismal second half at Miami, though it still needs work to get a proper flow; the defense exploded with four INTs; on a Vikings field goal attempt the kick was blocked into a Patriots touchdown.  

But the hilarity belongs to the NY Jets; in 1994 they blew a lead of eighteen points in the most infamous loss in team history - the Fake Spike loss to Dan Marino's Dolphins.   In 2014 they somehow topped that.   Not only did they bully the vulnerable Packers to a 21-3 lead only to blow that lead, they blew the comeback in the fourth quarter when Rex Ryan called a timeout before the 4th down snap that was a Geno Smith touchdown; they thus handed over only the second game in his career where Aaron Rodgers won after trailing by more than one score (2012's home win over the Lions from down 14-0 is the other). 


The Bills and Dolphins relive days of yore as well - With the Buffalo Sabers now literal brothers in arms with the Bills, the Dolphins witnessed a pounding reminiscent of the lopsided Jim Kelly vs. Marino era, this despite a truly sick Mike Wallace one-handed touchdown for the Dolphins.   The Bills for now stand alone atop the AFC East at 2-0 and it's clear they may not yet be a playoff contender but they're not the same old Bills.


No more aura of invincibility in Seattle - The Seahawks ran into a Chargers team smarting from Week One's loss to the Cardinals and Philip Rivers looks to return to elite status after a solid effort and three scores to Antonio Gates.  

Seattle's loss combined with Arizona's easy win over the punchless Giants keeps the NFC West as a slugfest right now. 


49ers not ready for prime time - The Bears under Jay Cutler have proven themselves mediocre at best - which raises more questions about the 49ers when they blew a big lead with 21 Bears points allowed in the fourth quarter, this following an offseason of soap opera antics between Jim Harbaugh and the front office. 


Chiefs can't tuck away comeback at Denver - The Broncos keep outlasting foes more than beating them as they didn't seal the deal against the Chiefs and nearly blew it when a Tuck Rule type call kept alive a late Chiefs drive, a drive Alex Smith once again could not finish.   While the Chiefs continue to struggle at 0-2, the Broncos at 2-0 aren't that much more impressive.



With Payback week closing on Monday Night's set-to the league marches toward Week Three.