Monday, September 15, 2014

A Very Bad Week for the NFL

As most of you are aware, the National Football League (NFL) just had arguably the worst week from a PR standpoint in the league's history.  The two major story lines involved two of the more successful, fan-favorite running backs in the league, Ray Rice (formerly of the Baltimore Ravens) and Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings.  These stories were so huge that they essentially rendered everything else that happened last week in the NFL irrelevant, including a major change to the league's drug policy that will reduce suspensions for two of the league's premier wide receivers (Wes Welker and Josh Gordon).  Before getting into the particulars of the two stories, I want to say first and foremost that domestic violence and child abuse are two very serious issues that have absolutely no place in sport or in society in general.  Those who engage in domestic violence and/or child abuse should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.  Unfortunately, the law becomes a little distorted when we are dealing with superstar athletes who are also employees of the NFL and members of the NFL's players association, organizations that have their own "laws" and rules that govern such atrocious behavior.  Add in the media and our never ending, 24/7 news and social media outlets, and these stories tend to take on a life of their own, where the culprits are punished and penalized in ways that do not conform to the law or the rules and regulations of the organizations to which they belong.

Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson are likely scumbags who deserve all of the public vitriol that they are receiving.  If you are a superstar athlete who knocks his wife unconscious or beats his child repeatedly with a stick, this is what happens.  The problem, however, is the way that the organizations who employ these scumbags handle the situations.  They react, sometimes overreact, and those reactions are almost entirely based on the media/publics perceptions.  Should the Ravens have cut Ray Rice?  Absolutely.  But why did they wait until after the video of Rice knocking out his then fiancé surfaced?  What exactly changed between the time Ray Rice told the Ravens and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that he knocked his fiancé unconscious until the video surfaced?  Nothing, other than the media and public's perception of the incident.  And it's that perception that caused the NFL to overreact and try to retroactively fix the issue by suspending Rice indefinitely.  Again, the NFL had already suspended Rice for this incident, issuing a sickening 2 game suspension.  Now, in order to try to save face, they pile on and suspend Rice indefinitely.  Rice is going to appeal that suspension and frankly, I believe he should win that appeal.  What changed between the initial 2 game suspension and the indefinite suspension?  Absolutely nothing, other than public opinion.

As for Peterson, the Vikings announced today that he would be reinstated to the team and likely will practice and play this Sunday.  Is it disgusting that an indicted child abuser will most likely be cheered on the field on Sunday, as soon as he breaks off a 10 yard run?  Sure.  Should the Vikings keep him deactivated simply because he was indicted for child abuse and despite the fact that he has not been convicted?  No.  And if they decide to cut Peterson, or if the NFL decides to issue a "Ray Rice penalty" and suspend him, then guess what?  Peterson will appeal and/or sue, and he will likely win.  Because again, the NFL already has rules and regulations in place that supposedly deal with these issues.

So what is my point here?  My point is that just because an incident takes on a life of its own and grows into a media shitstorm does not mean it's time to throw out the rule book or rewrite that rule book on the fly.  The NFL gave Rice a 2 game suspension, most likely under the belief that this video would never surface, he would serve his suspension and the incident would go away.  The Vikings deactivated Peterson for this past Sunday's game, most likely because the NFL was under fire with the Ray Rice fiasco and so they didn't want to get bashed by the media/public.  Unfortunately for the NFL and for the Vikings, they cannot just throw out the rule book in an effort to calm the shitstorm.  They have to follow the rules.  And if those rules state that Peterson can and should be active this week, then play him.  If those rules state that the commissioner can issue whatever penalty he chooses, and he chooses a 2 game suspension, then that is the penalty. 

There are always going to be players who are scumbags and do things that violate rules and break the law.  And those players should be punished.  But we can't allow the media and public perception to cloud the application of the rules and laws to these players and their actions.  Or else why even have them in the first place?

Ok, now for some quick thoughts on the NFL teams and their results after (almost) 2 full weeks:
  • Parity:  The NFL has always been a league where teams can go from first to worst in a single season.  Recent examples include the Houston Texans, who were contenders from 2010-2012 and then went a league worst 2-14 last year, or the Kansas City Chiefs, who were a league worst 2-14 in 2012 and went 11-5 and made the playoffs last year.  2014 is no different.  As of this writing, only 6 teams are 2-0 and only 6 teams are 0-2.  One of the 2-0 teams is the Buffalo Bills, something no one predicted.  And one of the 0-2 teams is the New Orleans Saints, again a shocker.  This parity is part of what makes the NFL so successful, despite the fact that it's made up of a bunch of scumbags. 
  • Sticking with the parity theme, my favorite team, the Detroit Lions, could not have looked any different from week 1 to week 2.  In week 1 on Monday Night Football, they thrashed (an admittedly terrible) New York Giants team 35-14, prompting all the talking heads to discuss the Lions as the "it" team this year and maybe win the NFC North division.  So what did they do in week 2?  Got curb stomped by the Carolina Panthers 24-7.  SOL.
  • The unstoppable Seattle Seahawks were handled fairly easily by the San Diego Chargers Throwback Machine (Antonio Gates with 3 TD catches?).  Thankfully for them, the San Francisco 49ers fell apart in the 4th quarter last night, giving up 3 Chicago Bears TDs in route to a 28-20 loss.  As we all expected, the Arizona Cardinals lead the NFC West at 2-0.
  • What a horrendous day for injuries that likely caused many fantasy footballers to scream at their TVs.  Top draftees such as Jamaal Charles and AJ Green, and promising week 1 standouts like Knowshon Moreno and Ryan Mathews went down with injuries, a few before scoring even 1 fantasy point.  While it stinks when your studs are out with injuries, it's even worse when they get hurt early in the game and stick you with a big, fat 0 points for the week.  Hopefully Charles and Green don't miss any additional time.  If they do, be sure to check your waivers for Mohammed Sanu (WR Cincy) and Knile Davis (RB Chiefs) as they both looked good Sunday.  Also, I would like a redo on my RGIII prediction please.  Paging Hydroworx! 

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