Sunday, July 10, 2016

To Sporting News And NFL - Real Resolutions

The Sporting News Football preview magazine is out and it includes a piece by writer David Steele offering ten resolutions the league ostensibly needs to address. "There is so much the NFL needs to do better," Steele writes, "the best route is resolutions.....the change what badly needs to be changed."

Reading Steele's resolutions warrants a response in the form of ten resolutions the league needs to address that are not quite the same as those in David Steele's piece:

The NFL needs to admit being wrong about Deflategate - "Either one side has to give or the two sides have to settle." It's actually simpler than that - the league in the person of Goodell lied about Deflategate from the beginning, has repeatedly been exposed as a liar by his own transcripts and by the league's own court admission to having no evidence, and has repeatedly been proven wrong about the CBA's much-heralded Article 46. This fight has dragged on as it has for only one reason - Goodell cannot bring himself to admit he was wrong, because to do so is to admit he was never qualified for his job, as the punishment is based exclusively on personal spite unsupported by legitimate evidence. It's been his pattern from his very first year and the "Spygate" lie he told the world.

Stop criticizing scouts for the questions they ask players - Steele rages about a Falcons scout asking Eli Apple a "transparently homophobic question," as though making players have to stand up to ugly accusation or ugly truth is somehow a violation of someone's rights. The real world is a nasty place and not making players confront it only makes them weaker.

Stop criticizing Thursday Night games for something that isn't true - It has been a stupid criticism since the league's Thursday Night package expanded first to half a season, then to the full season.   The gripe about safety concerns and work conditions is flat-out false.   There is no increased injury risk, and the lack of evidence of increased incidence of injury shows this.   We heard about how the games themselves aren't well played because of lack of preparation time - this is the one valid criticism to be made of the Thursday Night package.   The other criticism to be made is the decision to make teams wear horrid one-color uniforms that make no sense.

Cancel overseas games - This is a criticism Steele and others are correct about.  The fact is the London series has accomplished nothing for the NFL game, a game unique to the US and Canada and to a lesser extent Germany and Austria.   It cannot be spread overseas.   The NBA game is more fundamentally marketable overseas and even the NBA will not place a team or two in an overseas market.  

Instead, the league should work with other football leagues like the Canadian League, the Arena League, and leagues in Germany and Austria to better make the game stronger and in those markets that truly want it.   An NFL-CFL-Arena-Germany-Austria alliance absolutely can work.

Stop criticizing the Washington Redskins name - Oddly this controversy took a back seat in 2015 but the attack on the Redskins name remains utterly invalid - and frankly dishonest.  "Rubbing an insult in the face of an entire race of people" is a lie.  And who makes the accusation?  Intellectuals, who are not and never will be legitimate spokesmen for anything.   Intellectuals, as historian Paul Johnson has shown, were the ones who created the ethnic bigotry that destroyed the Versaille treaty after 1918 and thus helped create the second world war, and it has been intellectuals who have created ethnic and class hatreds for generations.   The Redskins are a football team, and their goal is the ultimate societal positive - WINNING.  

There is no validity to argument against Indian sports names, and there never will be.

No more franchise relocation and stadium blackmail - The Rams were forced down LA and everyone else's throats for no reason - and as ATHLON SPORTS showed, even the league saw there was no evidence LA even wanted a team.  St. Louis is a sports town where LA is not.   And the Raiders want a stadium in Las Vegas - a non-sports town proven to be such by non-support of minor league teams and the nearby Speedway - when they have the money to simply refurbish the old Alameda Coliseum.   Stadiums are worth building and worth having - that's not an argument for public financing of them - it's exactly the opposite.   The owners need to buy their own buildings and stay in their real home markets - of which Los Angeles, London, and Las Vegas have no claim to be. 

Players need to stop off-season training and instead rest - Baseball writer Tony Massarotti has noted why pitchers cannot reach 250 or more innings a season anymore - because they train so much in the offseason that they're worn out to where they can barely reach 200 innings - "Train less and throw more" is Tony Massarotti's alternative.  It is a valid criticism for football as well - players need to train less February-to-mid-July and instead hit more during OTAs, training camp, preseason games, and in-season practices.   Stop wearing yourselves out before OTAs or camp or preseason.

Make the teams play pre-season games for real - The last three seasons have all seen often-graphic lack of team preparation during the first month of the season, and the reason why is not only overtraining by players before camp starts but the approach to handling preseason games.   "Don't let players get hurt during preseason" is the wrong approach - the teams as functioning competitive units simply are not prepared enough once the season starts precisely because of conservatism during preseason.   It was never that way when teams made camp a true grind and made players play preseason games like they mattered - because objectively speaking preseason games do matter.  They serve as the competition that properly prepares team units to function.

Start giving the players benefit of the doubt -
Goodell's tough-guy punisher approach to player discipline has been a spectacular failure not only because Goodell has no credible understanding of any aspect of the game - he is nothing but a marketing hack, not someone with any front-office or team experience or even credible study - but because it functioned on assuming players were automatically guilty.   The fact is they're not.   Having more diligence toward violent crimes requires more objectively examining individual cases on their own individual merit.   And this applies to the sports media as well, for the Ray Rice fiasco would have been avoided by accepting the fact that Rice told everyone the truth the whole time and by not blackmailing the league to committing double jeopardy.

The tie should always go to the receiver -   Eliminate offensive pass-interference from the rulebook.   Completely.   It is the most boneheaded oxymoron in pro sports.   The Dez Bryant catch in 2014 at the Packers should have counted.   Period.   When in doubt, the tie goes to the receiver.  

Let pass-catchers have a running start behind the line of scrimmage and eliminate the five-yard rule -  The hatred that exists in fan circles toward the five-yard rule is frankly astonishing, and the utility of the rule has always been dubious - it is blamed for the explosion in offense and the hoariest gripe is "now they can't touch a receiver," a trite cliche that is flagrantly dishonest.   The league also needs to catch up to other football leagues that allow pass catchers to have a running start behind the line at the snap - it's a good rule and allows more flow to the game.  

Start standing up for yourself in safety controversy - The league's lack of response on its own behalf as people cite the demagogic movie Concussion to attack the safety of football (a tack I've seen renewed following Calvin Johnson's premature retirement) is maddening. Because concern over concussions is unquestionably legitimate yet the game is faster, stronger, and SAFER now than it has ever been.   Much of the condemnation of the game over concussion issues stems from misunderstanding of concussion risk and cause-and-effect, and the game is only getting safer with not only improving helmet technology but also research into neck-support and related technology. The notion that the game is killing its players or even threatens to kill a player needs to be wiped out of the conversation.

Here the media needs to do a better job of covering such issues, and it can start by citing factual and objective data such as the International Conference On Concussion In Sport.

Less isn't necessarily more, David Steele - smarter is more.

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