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NFL Week Two 2014

by Tony Medley

 Woe is Me: The big issues this week were off the field. They were, should a brute like Ray Rice who cold cocks his fiancťe and knocks her unconscious, then drags her out of an elevator and dumps her like a sack of potatoes, be severely punished? And what about another running back, Adrian Peterson, who whipped his son to bring blood? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodellís answer to the former was that a two-game suspension, a slap on the wrist in response to a left hook knockout, seemed like enough. When that brought a vitriolic backlash, Roger quickly backtracked, not out of any revulsion at domestic violence, but because he could see his brand being tarnished. The burning questions: 1. Should Roger Goodell be fired? 2. Will he be fired? The answers: 1. Yes. 2. No. Roger reflects the NFLís sole morality, which is to maximize profit, and he does that quite well (franchise values have at least doubled, maybe tripled since he became commissioner) which is why Robert Kraft (New England) and the other owners circled their wagons around him. Roger fought tooth and nail against adequate compensation for concussions. The NFL, which makes billions of dollars annually in profit, was dragged into a meager settlement that barely scratches the surface of the damage done to its players, the amount of which was chicken feed to all these billionaires.

The NFLís height of hypocrisy, however, is in its support of breast cancer research. The NFL's pink campaign, in which all the NFL players wear pink shoes or something pink on their uniforms for an entire month to raise awareness of breast cancer was severely criticized by Samantha King, the author of Pink Ribbons, Inc. Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy. King claims that the NFL was looking for ways to rehabilitate its image because several of its players had had trouble with the law, and it had discovered that women made up a meaningful part of its audience, so the NFL was "interested in maintaining and extending its female audience." She hit the nail on the head. I have been critical of the NFL's program because prostate cancer is as much a threat to men as breast cancer is to women and it seemed to me that if the NFL, a league of men appealing mainly to men, wanted to promote cancer awareness, it should do so for prostate cancer at least as much as breast cancer. The NFL never mentions prostate cancer. But that assumes that the NFL cares about cancer. In fact, nothing the NFL does has any relation to anything other than maximizing profit.

Bring back the replacement refs: The best football weíve seen in the past many years has been the short period of time last year when games were officiated by replacement refs. They were reasonable and didnít throw a lot of flags. Since the return of the regular refs, the officiating just keeps getting worse. In the Green Bay-Jets game, a Jets receiver made a spectacular catch on the sideline. There were two refs there one on either side of the receiver, both within 5 yards of him. They looked at each other and both agreed he caught the ball out of bounds. Replay showed he had both feet inbounds. In the Seattle-San Diego game, Seattleís Percy Harvin stepped on the sideline as he ran for a touchdown. Since it was a scoring play, it was automatically reviewed in New York and upheld. A network replay showed Harvin clearly stepping on the line (it looked to me he stepped on the line when I saw it live). They canít even get it right on replay! Almost as bad, the refs donít even know the rules. In the Green Bay game Packer Quarterback Aaron Rogers was running and slid feet first across the first down line. The rule is that he is down where he starts to slide, which was at least 1 yard short of the first down. The clueless ref gave him his forward progress and a first down.

Monday nightís game had two big officiating problems. The first came as Indianapolis was driving to put the game on ice with a one touchdown lead with five minutes to go. Luck threw a third down pass and his receiver appeared to have been held, although he was within the five yard area where receivers can be touched. Nothing was called and the pass was intercepted. A few plays later, on third down, Indianapolis tackled a runner in the backfield but was called for a hog tie tackle, which it clearly wasnít. I have little criticism for the non-call on the pass because it was close, the receiver ran a bad route, and the pass was arguably uncatchable. But the hog tie call was terrible and decided the game. While questioning officialsí calls by replay could open a Pandoraís Box, the option should be available. However, the punishment for a wrongful challenge should be severe, at least a 15 yard penalty, which would make any coach think twice before abusing it.

Stop throwing flags: The plethora of penalties got so bad in the NBC night game between Seattle and San Diego that both announcers, Chris Collingsworth and Al Michaels, were bemoaning them. If Roger is worrying about the brand, he needs to cut back on the flags. Most of them nullify spectacular plays. For instance, if thereís a holding penalty far away from the action which couldnít possibly have affected the outcome of the play, it should be picked up (as they pick up pass interference flags when the pass is unchatchable). But letís face it, a holding penalty could be called on every play. The refs arenít there to call penalties, but they seem to think that they get paid by how many flags they throw. Itís ruining the game.

Why not the best? Both NBC and CBS show the 40 second delay of game timer counting down on their graphics. Fox doesnít and should.

Never listen to talking heads: On ESPNís pre-Sunday game show, the panel consisted of Coach Mike Ditka, Cris Carter, Ray Lewis, Keyshawn Johnson, and two other guys. One of them, Iím sorry I donít remember which one, said that the Dallas Cowboys were the worst team in football, and the entire panel agreed. Result of Sundayís game: Dallas 26-highly regarded Tennessee 10.