How Far Will The NFL Fall?

NFL Slings And Arrows

To say the last couple of weeks haven’t been good to the NFL would be a gross understatement. It would be accurate to suggest the NFL is in the midst of one of the worst crisis in the league’s history. That includes the players strike in 1982 in which seven weeks of games were lost and the 1987 players strike which saw replacement players take the field.

Ray Rice

Most have seen the now infamous video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then fiancée, now wife Janay Palmer inside an elevator of an Atlantic City casino. Rice was first suspended a mere 2 games by the NFL until the second video was made public by TMZ in which the NFL, under considerable public pressure suspended Rice indefinitely and the Ravens terminating his contract. Rice is currently appealing his suspension.

Greg Hardy

Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy has been convicted of assaulting his ex-girlfriend yet played in Carolina’s first game of the season. He was deactivated in Week 2 and has now been placed on the commissioner’s exempt list.

Adrian Peterson 3

Then there is the case of Adrian Peterson. The superstar running back of the Minnesota Vikings was indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a his 4-year-old son. Peterson reportedly used a “switch” which is a thin tree branch to whip his son causing lacerations and bruises. Peterson was deactivated by the Vikings for their Week 2 matchup against New England. The Vikings then lifted the suspension but after more public pressure plus another child abuse charge against Peterson, the Vikings placed their superstar on the commissioner’s exempt list.

Ray McDonald

We can’t forget about Ray McDonald. The San Francisco 49ers defensive end was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic-abuse on his fiancée. Unlike Rice, Hardy and Peterson, McDonald has yet to miss any game action as the 49ers because he has yet to be charged.

Jonathan Dwyer

Finally there is the most recent incident as of this writing. Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested on charges of aggravated assault involving a 27-year-old woman and an 18-month-old child.

Now let’s get back to the Ray Rice case. Because this involves how badly NFL commissioner Roger Goodell screwed up. And believe me, he screwed up real bad! Firstly, as he admitted himself, his punishment on Rice was too light when the charges came to light. Granted, the second videotape hadn’t been released but Goodell damn well knew what was on that tape. He had to know. He’s the commissioner of the most powerful sports league in North America, possibly the world. How could he not know?

Roger Goodell trying to explain the mess he got into himself, and failing miserably.

Roger Goodell trying to explain the mess he got into himself, and failing miserably.

Goodell claimed he never saw the second video until TMZ released it to a horrified nationwide audience. I call bullshit. Again, YOU’RE THE COMMISSIONER OF THE NFL! HOW CAN YOU NOT HAVE SEEN THE VIDEO BEFOREHAND????

The criticism Goodell faced was unlike anything he or any previous NFL commissioner had heard before. Many were calling for his resignation. Goodell had to cancel his trip to San Francisco just before the 49ers were to play their first game at brand new Levis Stadium because of the heat that was on him.

Then there was that news conference. That oh-so-awful news conference. First off, Goodell was 17 minutes late for his meeting with the media. Then there was the usual corporate schtick of the NFL is still a great brand, it is a leader, we will do better, blah, blah, blah. And then there was his ducking of the hard questions with his double talk and stuttering. He sounded worse than a drunken Scotsman after the Scottish independence vote. (At least the Scots had a right to sound inebriated after that.) Should also add kudos to Rachel Nichols of ESPN for asking the tough questions that needed to be asked.

Oh and I haven’t mentioned concussions yet. Well now, there’s another crisis the NFL needs to get a grip on as well. And if anyone doesn’t think concussions are an issue, I strongly suggest to read League Of Denial, a stirring and somewhat tragic book of the battle ex-players have had to deal with head injuries and how football caused them. Some such as Mike Webster, Junior Seau and Dave Duerson lost their lives while dealing with the after effects of concussions caused by playing the sport we love.

Now before I go any further, let me stress this: The NFL won’t die. Football is still the most popular sport in the United States by a landslide. TV ratings are still large. In fact, Sunday Night Football on NBC is the most watched television program in America. To those who want the NFL to go away, you won’t get your wish.

However, if it isn’t careful, football may lose its hold as the number one sport in the land. If you don’t believe me, let’s take a trip back in time to a few decades ago.

In the 1950s, the three most popular sports in America were baseball, boxing and horse racing. No sport was bigger than baseball. In fact, it was (and arguably still is) The National Pastime. There was no bigger sporting event in America than the World Series. The country came to a virtual standstill when the best of the American League squared off against the best of the National League. The superstars of the sport were beloved. Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Warren Spahn. The list goes on and on.

Remember these two? Baseball fans would love to forget.

Remember these two? Baseball fans would love to forget.

But the warning signs were there for the downfall. It began in 1972 when the players went on strike over salary arbitration and pension funds. What began was a 22-year period of labour unrest that hurt the sport. A 50-day strike in 1981 saw 713 games cancelled which amounted to 38% of the season. The sport fell apart in 1994 when the players went on strike on August 12 of that year. Commissioner Bud Selig cancelled the rest of the season and the World Series due to the strike.

Since then, baseball has languished behind football and basketball in terms of popularity. The sport has also been hurt by drug scandals which many questioned the validity of the home run chases of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds. All three have yet to be elected into the Hall of Fame because of the question of steroid use and whether they cheated or not.

Boxing has had its share of issues as well. At one time, the world heavyweight title was the biggest prize in all of sport. It didn’t matter if you followed the sweet science with a passion or didn’t care for the pugilists, you knew who the champion was. Joe Louis, ‘Jersey’ Joe Walcott, Rocky Marciano, Floyd Patterson and of course Muhammad Ali were household names in America and around the world.

Don King. The man who helped ruin pro boxing and it still hasn't recovered.

Don King. The man who helped ruin pro boxing and it still hasn’t recovered.

Then Don King entered the picture. King began to promote fights featuring Ali with great fanfare. It was King who came up with “The Rumble In The Jungle” that saw Ali win back the world heavyweight title from George Foreman. It was King who promoted “The Thrilla In Manila” that saw Ali fend off Joe Frazier in a brutal contest.

But the roof was falling in. The World Boxing Council stripped Leon Spinks of their World Heavyweight Title because Spinks signed a rematch against Ali, instead of taking on Ken Norton, who was being promoted by King. The WBC gave the title to Norton who defended it against Larry Holmes who was also part of King’s empire of boxers. Thus the world title was split.

Mike Tyson briefly unified the World Heavyweight Title in 1987, (which included the IBF as well) and he held that distinction for three years. When Tyson lost the title to Buster Douglas, the three boxing organizations, (WBA, WBC, IBF) were again at odds on who should be champion. Once again, the title was split. Lennox Lewis reunified the World Heavyweight championship in 1999 and the title stayed unified until Lewis retired in 2004.

As of this writing, and I had to look it up, Wladimir Klitschko is the WBA, IBF, WBO, Transnational Boxing Rankings Board and Ring Magazine’s World Heavyweight Champion. Bermane Stiverne is the current WBC World Heavyweight Champion. I’m Canadian. Bermane Stiverne is Canadian. That should be a big deal to me that a Canadian is a World Heavyweight Champion. I’ve never heard of him until I researched it for this piece.

Boxing has far too many organizations and promoters that only want what’s best for their fighters. Look at Floyd Mayweather. Arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, Mayweather was accused (and rightly so) of ducking Manny Pacquiao in a potential fight to see who was the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. Once again, lawyers and promoters bickered about the contract and possible drug testing that was to be included. The fight never happened and fans were left out in the cold.

Horse racing was very popular at one time. Not so much now.

Horse racing was very popular at one time. Not so much now.

Horse racing is a bit different. The main reason the sport of kings has fallen off in popularity is that there hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. That doesn’t mean there have been issues. Some horses have been destroyed thanks to injuries. Steroids and drugs have also been prevalent. Don’t forget fixing and the presence of gambling has also brought the sport down.

So as you can see, it is possible for football to fall off its perch as the number one sport in the land. It won’t happen immediately, but the effects of the off-field behaviour of its players, as well as the gross mishandling of the commissioner of such acts, is extremely detrimental to the league and the sport. With basketball and even soccer on the rise, football may have to look over its shoulder very soon. A change could be coming.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973 

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Dealing With Week 1 In Fantasy Football

This is a special guest post by Matt Hodges. Enjoy.

After months of waiting, the 2014 NFL regular season kicks off this week. People who are playing in high stakes fantasy football will definitely be making sure that their roster is set and ready to go for all the openers. However, the worst thing a person can do in week 1 when it comes to fantasy is overthink everything. No one really knows how the 2014 season is going to play out, so starting the best players is the safest way to go.

Courtesy Getty Images

Courtesy Getty Images

Leading up to the 1st games, there will be plenty of people giving advice on certain matchups. However, since every team in the NFL is going to be in action this week, it makes sense to go ahead and play the best players. Yes, someone like Aaron Rodgers might have a somewhat bad matchup against the Seattle Seahawks, but he is being drafted in high stakes fantasy football as a top quarterback. Go ahead and give him a chance over whoever the backup might be on your roster.

For those who like to tinker, the best way to do that each and every week is to look at match ups for the defense. Many people overlook defense in general because it does not have that much of an impact in high stakes fantasy football. Instead of relying on a defense for the entire year, some people like to hit the waiver wire and see if they can pick up a defense that faces a weaker squad that particular week.

Finally, fringe starters should be looked at according to the team they play on. Much like defenses, the best bet towards possibly predicting who will have the best game comes down to who they play for. A running back who is playing on a team that is favored to win that week is probably going to get additional carries to help eat clock. On the other hand, a wide receiver is going to probably get more targets if they are playing on a team that is trying to make a second-half comeback.

The NFL has a long regular season, and even those who play in one day fantasy leagues should not worry too much about week 1. There is a lot of time to have success and figure things out throughout the regular season.

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The Worst Teams Of All Time Part 47. The 1990 New England Patriots

This series of articles will celebrate (or laugh at) some of the worst professional sports teams of all time. I will focus on teams within my lifetime so expect the worst from the 1970s to present day.

New England Patriots

Since Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have arrived, the New England Patriots have enjoyed plenty of success in recent years. Three Super Bowl championships, five AFC conference championships, and complete dominance in the AFC East. (11 division titles.) But there was a time, before the hoodie, the model-marrying quarterback and owner Robert Kraft arrived on the scene, that the Patriots were one of the league’s biggest jokes.

How can you not trust anyone holding a shaver in his hand? Victor Kiam will go down as one of the worst owners in NFL history.

How can you not trust anyone holding a shaver in his hand? Victor Kiam will go down as one of the worst owners in NFL history.

That time would be 1990, when the Patriots were so horrible, there were persistent rumours of the franchise leaving the New England area for greener pastures. But then-owner Victor Kiam decided to keep the Patriots in Foxborough for the time being.

But that wasn’t the only problem Kiam had to deal with in 1990. In fact he had plenty of issues during his tenure in New England. None garnered bigger headlines though, than the lawsuit brought against Kiam and the Patriots by Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson. A day after the Patriots week 2 victory over the Indianapolis Colts (their only win of the season) Olson was interviewing players following a light workout session when a couple of players complained to general manager Pat Sullivan saying Olson was only there to check out the players coming out of the shower. While Sullivan saw nothing wrong with Olson’s behaviour several other players started to harass Olson. Tight end Zeke Mowatt disrobed and  for lack of a better term played with himself. Running back Robert Perryman was doing the same thing behind Olson’s back while wide receiver Michael Timpson egged his idiotic teammates while making crude comments towards Olson.

Lisa Olson as part of the media scrum interviewing Marc Wilson.

Lisa Olson as part of the media scrum interviewing Marc Wilson.

When Olson complained about the experience to Kiam, calling the experience a “mind rape”, Kiam allegedly responded with class and dignity by calling her a “classic bitch.” Kiam denied using crude language in an apology in a Boston newspaper. He did admit to call her a “classy bitch.” Oh those 1990 Patriots. Such esteemed wordsmiths and progressive thinking gentlemen.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped in and ordered an investigation that was to be conducted by former Watergate scandal prosecutor Philip Heyman. When the report was released, it was revealed that Olson was ‘degraded and humiliated’ by the players. Mowatt was fined $12,500 while Perryman and Timpson were fined $5,000 each. The team was fined an additional $50,000 because management failed to act immediately.

When the report went public, Patriots fans did not treat Olson well. She was harassed by fans while covering games at Foxboro Stadium. Her tires were slashed, her apartment was robbed and she received hate mail including death threats from some Neanderthal Pats fans. Olson was transferred to Sydney, Australia by the Herald’s owner who owned two newspapers in Australia’s largest city.

The incident harmed the Patriots on the field as well. Granted, they were an awful team to begin with but the last thing they needed was a scandal that made headlines across the country which had women’s rights activists seething. But the team was horrid make no mistake about it. The next game after the Olson incident, the Patriots were throttled 41-7 by the Cincinnati Bengals. That started a 14-game losing streak that only ended because the season ended. That incident really helped the Patriots in being a horrible football team.

The biggest problem on the field for the Patriots was on offense. They couldn’t score if they were playing a junior high team. The Patriots averaged a mere 11.3 points per game. Homer Simpson’s IQ score is higher than that. (allegedly) One problem was instability at quarterback.

Marc Wilson was never on the mark for the Patriots.

Marc Wilson was never on the mark for the Patriots.

Marc Wilson was the only signal caller that appeared in all 16 games for the Patriots, but his numbers were uninspiring to say the least. The BYU grad completed 52.5% of his pass attempts for 1,625 yards, 6 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for a QB rating of 61.6. It didn’t help Wilson that his throwing arm was weaker than Applebee’s “hot sauce”.

Tommy Hodson running for his life, trying to get out of New England in 1990.

Tommy Hodson running for his life, trying to get out of New England in 1990.

Tom Hodson started six games for the Pats, completing 54.5% of his pass attempts for 968 yards, 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions for a QB rating of 68.5.

Steve Grogan was a loyal servant for the Patriots. But injuries and age caught up to him in 1990.

Steve Grogan was a loyal servant for the Patriots. But injuries and age caught up to him in 1990.

Veteran Steve Grogan started the first four games for the Patriots that season, and was the quarterback of record in the Patriots lone win that season. But injuries forced Grogan to the sidelines and his eventual retirement at the end of the season.

Irving Fryar was a solid receiver for New England. But he didn't have the support.

Irving Fryar was a solid receiver for New England. But he didn’t have the support.

Irving Fryar was the best offensive player on the Patriots in 1990, but because of the quarterback carousel, he didn’t put up huge numbers. The Nebraska product did lead the team with 54 receptions for 856 yards and 4 touchdowns, but he couldn’t produce anymore because he had little help.

Hart Lee Dykes didn't have the heart to make an impact in New England.

Hart Lee Dykes didn’t have the heart to make an impact in New England.

The rest of the receiving corps featured luminaries such as Hart Lee Dykes (great name), Marv Cook (who was pretty good to be honest), Greg McMurtry, Cedric Jones, Eric Sievers and two of the manly men who paraded their shortcomings around Lisa Olson, Mowatt and Timpson. For the record, Mowatt recorded 6 receptions for 67 yards in 10 games for the Patriots. That is usually an average game for starting tight ends. Timpson registered 5 receptions for 91 yards in 5 games. Besides being complete douches around Olson, they were crappy football players. A double disaster.

 

John Stephens had a difficult time running the football in 1990.

John Stephens had a difficult time running the football in 1990.

The running game wasn’t very effective for the Patriots either. John Stephens led the team with 808 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Stephens averaged only 3.8 yards per carry ranking him 31st in the NFL. Part of the problem was the Patriots used the Air Coryell attack on offense which limited the amount of carries Stephens would have.

Robert Perryman was a jerk to Lisa Olson and a mediocre running back.

Robert Perryman was a jerk to Lisa Olson and a mediocre running back.

The Patriots also used Marvin Allen, George Adams, Mosi Tatupu and Perryman in the back field to little or no success. Perryman had 97 yards in 7 games in 1990, before he and his “mini-me” were shown the door. I’ve seen a 1981 Pontiac Acadian go further than Perryman did on the ground.

Defensively, the Patriots weren’t much better. The Patriots were second-last in points allowed, surrendering 446 points or an average of 27.8 points per game. Only the Cleveland Browns were worse.

Run defense was a massive problem. The Patriots had the worst run defense in 1990, as opponents bullied an average of 167.3 yards per game. The Patriots wouldn’t have stopped Rob Ford going into rehab at that rate.

Andre Tippett is a worthy candidate for the Hall of Fame. But he couldn't save the Patriots in 1990.

Andre Tippett is a worthy candidate for the Hall of Fame. But he couldn’t save the Patriots in 1990.

The Pats best defensive players, Andre Tippett (who is deservedly in the Hall of Fame and merited respect for surviving with this group of yahoos), Maurice Hurst, Ronnie Lippett and Fred Marion were all better pass defenders. So offenses just ran the ball on most plays, passing only to keep the Patriots D honest.

This is pretty close to what Foxboro Stadium looked like in 1990 on game day.

This is pretty close to what Foxboro Stadium looked like in 1990 on game day.

For the most part, Patriots fans didn’t bother to show up at Foxboro Stadium. And why should they. The team was terrible, the stadium was old and antiquated and the weather was miserable. No day described the 1990 Patriots season better than December 15. A home game against Washington on a Saturday afternoon. This was the Patriots only appearance on national television that season and they showed the entire country what Patriot football was all about in 1990. The weather was brutal. Cold, snow and wind blew through Foxboro Stadium. Barely 20,000 people showed up as Washington easily defeated the hapless Pats 25-10. The next week was even worse as the Patriots suffered their worst loss of the season, a 42-7 shellacking at the hands of the New York Jets.

When the season mercifully ended, change was in order. The first casualty was head coach Rod Rust, who only lasted one season in New England. Rust was brought in as a defensive specialist but he found out rather quickly that the Patriots specialized in not playing defense.

GM Pat Sullivan was the next to go. Sullivan was a holdover from the days when his father, Billy Sullivan owned the team. But new ownership wanted to go in a different direction.

When these moves didn’t work and with the possibility of going bankrupt, Kiam decided to sell the team to James Orthwein in 1992. Orthwein planned to move the franchise to St. Louis but the NFL blocked the relocation. So Orthwein sold the team to Robert Kraft in 1994. Kraft brought stability to the franchise and the team slowly became a contender. When Kraft hired Bill Belichick in 2000 to coach the team, the Patriots were on the verge. Eleven years after the disastrous 1990 season, the Patriots won their first Super Bowl.

You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973

 

 

 

 

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