In other news, I think we all are cheering for Oregon to crush Tennessee today in the kind of north over south victory that hasn’t been witnessed since the days of one W.T. Sherman.
Johnny Football still finds time to be a college student too, even though the Texas A&M star doesn’t have to be on campus very often for classes. His schedule this semester consists of four online classes in sports management, and he just got done with a series of tests and other work.
“Had my first round of tests last week, so I’ve been kind of pushing that off as much as possible doing my online stuff, and all three tests and three papers hit me in a week,” Manziel said Monday night before accepting the Davey O’Brien Award that goes to the nation’s top quarterback. “It was good to feel like a normal student again, just a busy one.”
Manziel was initially enrolled in an English class on campus this spring with only 20 to 25 students before switching his schedule.
Don’t get me wrong–I have no problem with the kid taking advantage of the system and being as little of a student at Texas A&M as he wants. But the entire deal is a joke, both the idea that a student can be a legitimate student by taking a bunch of likely bogus classes in whatever sports management actually consists of outside of easy grades for bad students although one would never graduate with a schedule like that and the fact that the NCAA makes football players go to classes in a facade that allows universities to profit off their unpaid labor.
Can’t we find a way to pay these kids in some kind of minor-league football system? No doubt, with the NCAA such a paragon of integrity and all.
Yesterday, seven people were elected to the NFL Hall of Fame: Bill Parcells, Jonathan Ogden, Larry Allen, Warren Sapp, Cris Carter, and veterans committee candidates Curley Culp and Dave Robinson. A few thoughts.
1. While I can’t speak to the veterans committee guys (more on this in a second), it’s a pretty unimpeachable class. Parcells is one of the great coaches of our time. In fact, who is the next coach likely to get in. Mike Holmgren will probably get a hearing, but I’m skeptical. I imagine Tony Dungy will get in because of who he is, even if he only won 1 Super Bowl. Definitely Bill Belichick. Ogden and Allen were dominant blockers. Warren Sapp is an all-time great.
2. This brings me to Carter. I’m glad that the long-standing wide receiver logjam was broken by electing Carter. He’s such an obvious call. It’s amazing to me that it took 6 years. The committee faced the fact that 3 similar receivers all reached eligibility at about the same, in Carter, Tim Brown, and Andre Reed. My reading of the debates is that different people were arguing for one while denigrating the other two. The reality is that they are all Hall of Famers, with Carter slightly more deserving. Quite possible this opens the door for Reed next year, since he was closer than Brown this year.
3. It’s certainly an excellent group, unlike last year, when Curtis Martin got in for reasons still mysterious to me and Chris Doleman was a fairly marginal selection as well. Both Martin and Jerome Bettis, who still awaits his likely enshrinement at some point, were basically above-average running backs who did a good job of not getting injured. Had Martin had that career in Detroit or Cleveland, I don’t think he makes it. Did anyone ever fear Curtis Martin? On the other hand, Terrell Davis remains not even close to election. Yes, he got hurt young. He also had one of the greatest 4-year stretches in the history of running backs, playing a key role in 2 Super Bowl titles. Given the reality of NFL running backs, I don’t see that a devastating knee injury should disqualify him. It certainly didn’t disqualify Gale Sayers.
4. The only real complaint I have this year is that Charles Haley continues to not be elected. There’s really only one good reason for this–Haley was a jerk to the media. Haley is one of the dominant pass rushers of my lifetime and was an absolutely vital player on several Super Bowl teams with both Dallas and San Francisco. To me, he’s the easiest call of anyone not elected. Yet I begin to wonder if he will ever be elected. That may be especially true if we are beginning to see a pass rusher logjam like the receivers, with Haley, Strahan, and Greene (who probably has the weakest candidacy of any of this year’s finalists, outside of the unelectable Art Modell) all being denied.
5. What I find interesting about the Veterans’ Committee selections is just how old the candidates remain. I’ve been watching football for about 35 years now. There’s never been a single Veterans’ Committee candidate I remember watching. That might not mean much. But I do wonder how much nostalgia is going into picking these players, many of whom played during the childhood of the current voters. It almost seems the culture of the voting now to find truly forgotten players rather than rethink the candidacy of players who played in the late 70s or early 80s. That’s fine, I’m sure a lot of these people are true greats who were underappreciated in their own time. But given how the game has changed, as well as how we measure success, it’s probably time to rethink some people. The clear starting point should be former Bengals QB Ken Anderson, whose qualifications are clear comparing him to the other quarterbacks of his era.
6. Finally, it’s worth repeating what a travesty the actual Hall of Fame building in Canton remains. It’s an embarrassment to the NFL, who should replace that thing with a palace like exists in Cooperstown. When I visited 2 years ago, the building still had exhibits talking about current Denver Broncos QB John Elway. I know the NFL owners care about nothing but profit and squeezing small amounts of money from referees in order to score points against the union, but this is ridiculous and unacceptable. It’s arguably the most disappointing museum in the United States. And look, Canton could really use the additional tourist dollars this would bring.
The news that you can scan for CTE in living football players is a pretty big deal. Ta-Nehisi Coates thinks it will lead to the end of football. I am skeptical. I think it might lead to the end of upper class white kids playing football. But I do not think one can overestimate how ingrained football is in American culture. I am sure that plenty of players would continue playing, even if they knew they had brain damage. And while one can argue that the government can step in and end such a violent game, that’s not going to happen. It’s possible that it could lead to shorter professional careers, some people dropping out of the game before they suffer damage, etc., but there will be hundreds of people to step in their place. The overall quality of the game could theoretically drop, but I doubt it. Coates uses the decline of boxing as an example that this can happen. But while it’s remarkable how quickly boxing fell off the sporting map, it’s replacement by ultimate fighting certainly suggests neither the appetite for bloodsports nor the willingness of poor people to engage in them has waned at all. The decline of boxing is complicated and more related to factors ranging from a decline in compelling American heavyweights to corruption and mismanagement than an existential crisis that led to its end.
One of the most bizarre episodes in the entire occupation of Japan took place less than two months later, on January 1, 1946, in Nagasaki.
Back in the States, the Rose Bowl and other major college football bowl games, with the Great War over, were played as usual on New Year’s Day. To mark the day in Japan, and raise morale (at least for the Americans), two Marine divisions faced off in the so-called Atom Bowl, played on a killing field in Nagasaki that had been cleared of debris. It had been “carved out of dust and rubble,” as one wire service report put it.
Both teams had enlisted former college or pro stars for their squads. The “Bears” were led by quarterback Angelo Bertelli of Notre Dame, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1943, while the “Tigers” featured Bullet Bill Osmanski of the Chicago Bears, who topped pro football in rushing in 1939. Marines fashioned goal posts and bleachers out of scrap wood that had been blasted by the A-bomb. Nature helped provide more of a feel of home, as the day turned unusually chilly for Nagasaki and snow swirled.
More than 2000 turned out to watch. A band played the fight song, “On Wisconsin!” The rules were changed from tackle to two-hand touch because of all the glass shards remaining on the turf.
Press reports the next day claimed some Japanese observed the game—from the shells of blasted- out buildings nearby.
Something to think about while watching your New Year’s bowl games. Or the far superior Fiesta Bowl on Thursday.
This is a couple weeks old, but is still awesome in every way:
Dear Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee members,
I had the dubious pleasure of reading an article on Yahoo yesterday about Ray Guy, and I have one thing to ask every single one of you.
How dare you?
How dare you tell a man who devoted his life to perfecting his craft that he’s not worthy of admission among the game’s greatest? How dare you have the heartless effrontery to pronounce that football is a team sport, but that some positions are more equal than others? How dare you be so selfish, short-sighted, and just plain asshole-ish to declare that Ray Guy won’t be recognized for his skills because you’re too goddamned lazy to learn the subtleties of kicking?
That’s right, voting committee, you’re lazy. You’re indolent, slothful, petulant, ignorant, and flat-out stupid. You perpetuate the same small-minded “Oh, he’s just a kicker” stereotype every single time you refuse to acknowledge that Ray Guy belongs in the Hall of Fame, because YOU’RE UNWILLING TO LEARN.
I’m a bit outraged by Paul Anderson’s piece arguing essentially that NFL players have the right to play after they’ve had a concussion. Anderson argues that our national concussion outrage should focus on college football–and he’s right about that. During last week’s Arizona-USC game, Arizona QB Matt Scott was leading his team down the field for a go-ahead touchdown. Near the end of the drive, Scott scrambled and took a knee to the head. He immediately puked on the field and was clearly concussed. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez left Scott in the game to complete the drive. This was an egregious violation of player safety. College football is absolutely terrible on this issue.
But Anderson’s piece also basically feels like an apology for the NFL. He rightly notes that the lawsuits currently under litigation are about old players and the old NFL and that in today’s NFL, everyone knows the risk of concussions. Since those players are getting paid, the have the right to work after concussed. But from my perspective, this feels an awful lot like employers in other high risk workplaces abnegating responsibility for their actions by invoking labor’s “freedom to work.” Sure that coal mine is egregiously unsafe, but I’m not forcing the worker to go down in the hole! Now there is some difference of course between the two situations–NFL players are highly paid and coal miners aren’t. But most NFL players are looking at a very short career and within NFL culture, any sign of not putting your body through extreme hell is considered soft and a good way to find yourself unemployed.
Moreover, and this seems so obvious as to not need saying, when you have just suffered a concussion, you are not in the right mindset to make a rational decision about continuing to play. Yet Anderson portrays concussed players as rational actors who will make the best decision for themselves. That’s totally absurd. He argues that they can apply for workers’ compensation if they are permanently hurt, but anyone who has gone through that system can tell you it’s neither easy nor does it fully compensate your pay.
Anderson is supposed to be some of sort concussion expert, but to me he’s sounding an awful lot like a libertarian who is happy to put workers at risk in favor of larger principles of “free will” for which he personally will never face the consequences.
So how did the scab refs do in Week 1 of the NFL?
Pretty bloody awful.
The Green Bay-San Francisco game was particularly egregious:
Midway through the second quarter at Lambeau Field, there was an offensive pass interference call on Green Bay’s James Jones that Gierke considered questionable. But during the same drive, San Francisco free safety Dashon Goldson was called for pass interference on Packers tight end Jermichael Finley and the infraction was flagged by the linesman, not the official in the end zone. The official in the end zone left his post to ask the linesman what he saw, which led to an incident between Finley and another San Francisco defensive back.
“(The official in the end zone) left his primary responsibility,” Gierke said. “You don’t turn your back on players. He left because he wanted to see what the other guy called. It should have been his call.
“He stopped officiating, basically.”
Earlier in that game, there was a false start by 49ers left tackle Joe Staley. And at the start of the fourth quarter, Randall Cobb’s 75-yard punt return for a touchdown was flagged for an illegal block in the back but then overturned.
As Seattle drove down the field late in the fourth quarter, referee Bruce Hermansen granted the Seahawks an extra timeout. The crew gathered and began deliberations, delaying play with about 90 seconds remaining on the game clock. After about five minutes of review the crew came back with the wrong answer and ruled Seattle had one timeout remaining.
Here is what head referee Bruce Hermansen had to say following the conclusion of the game, which Arizona won 20-16.
“It was my error. We gave them (SEA) the additional timeout because of the incomplete pass stopping the clock before the injury occurred. When in effect, the clock has no bearing on the play at all, whether it’s stopped or running, we should not have given them (SEA) the additional timeout.
Of course, my Seahawks still couldn’t take score to win the game….
Which is too bad, not only because it would have been a win for my team, but because it would have been an example of the scabs robbing a team (and its outraged fanbase) of a win and possibly a playoff appearance. The pressure on the NFL after that happened would have been (and will be) enormous.
As Laura Clawson writes, the NFL Players Association is really worried about the safety of their members. But the NFL has always put profit ahead of player safety and locking out the referees is no exception.
The National Football League Players Association, a year removed from being locked out by NFL owners, are monitoring the NFL’s current lockout of the league’s officials for its ramifications on player safety, the union’s top official told ThinkProgress. And as officials attempt to end their dispute with the league before the start of the regular season next week, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said the union reserved the right to examine “every possible remedy” to ensure the safety of its players.
The use of replacement officials, Smith said, “flies in the face” of the players’ efforts to make the game safer during their own negotiations, which resulted in a lockout by NFL owners, before the 2011 season. “The issues that we, the players, pushed hard for in the collective bargaining agreement were structural, fundamental changes in the way football is played,” Smith said. “All that flies in the face of a unilateral decision to prevent the most experienced on-field first responders from being involved in an incredibly physically challenging activity.”
It’s clear that the owners value union-busting far more than player safety, to which they only give lip service. Waldron gets to the crux of it:
It’s quite clear, from the memo and from the NFL’s actions to this point, that the league has embraced the tried-and-true corporate strategy of locking out its workers and then attempting to wait them out, hoping to settle on its own terms. The easiest way out now, it seems, is for officials to abandon their fight, but Arnold made it sound as if the NFLRA is prepared to continue waiting for the NFL to negotiate. “They locked us out. We’ve been serious, made major concessions, and have been willing to negotiate. But all they’ve told us is to take it or leave it,” Arnold said. “It takes two sides to negotiate. We’re prepared, we’re ready to go.”
Again, I don’t think this is going to work for the NFL, not with real games on the line, not with playoff performances on the line, not with 24-7 sports radio talking about the replacement refs costing teams games. But the NFL is simply the most prominent employer using early 21st-century union-busting tactics. This type of thing is happening all over the country without 1% of the coverage the referees receive.
Speaking of NFL player safety, Jeffri Chadiha has a good list of 10 concrete things the NFL could do to make players safer, including eliminating kickoffs, forcing all concussed players to sit a minimum of 1 full game, and creating a licensing board that would declare whether players are healthy enough to be certified to play. Of course, the owners will hate most of this because it will mean higher labor costs through the expanded rosters necessary to cover for the concussion depletions.
As some of you probably know, the NFL has refused to sign a new contract with the referees union and has pulled together crews of scab referee labor. They are terrible. The players are outraged, even in meaningless preseason games. The referees are incompetent amateurs way above their heads. It’s a joke, one that I think the NFL can only pull during the preseason. The calls have been so egregiously terrible that no one can take them seriously.
In the various labor communities in which I play a small role, there’s been talk that everyone should refuse to watch the NFL so that we don’t support scab labor.
While one can argue this might be a good tactic in other scenarios, I disagree here.*
The best way to get the refs a new contract is for the sporting world to watch and savage the incompetence. More so than any other professional sport, the real power behind the NFL is the fans. That’s especially true when it comes to issues like this–where fans can see the effect on their team’s chances to make the playoffs. The second a terrible call goes against a team and that call costs a team the game, you are going to have millions of people collectively infuriated with the NFL, putting enormous pressure on the league to give the referees a fair contract and bring sanity back to the league.
I think everyone knows this. The referees know they hold a lot of cards here (the fact that most of them are wealthy from other sources also helps). The NFL knows this too. Roger Goodell can give lip service to the scabs all he wants to, but he knows the consequences to him personally if the NFL becomes a laughing stock.
In fact, I find it highly unlikely that the replacement referees call even 1 regular season game. The first game this season is on Wednesday, September 5. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that an agreement is hashed out on the 3rd or 4th.
And if it isn’t, then the strategy is obvious–chronicle every bad call the refs make. The players and coaches will be screaming about it, the fan base will be screaming about it, and it will be THE STORY of the NFL in the early part of the season. That’s something the league can’t handle.
*In fact, I feel the boycott of scab labor is often a reflex used without a lot of analysis. Does it work? What is the best way to handle these issues? I don’t think these are questions even smart labor think about enough. That probably includes me. It probably is a good method frequently. But is it always?
Earlier today Junior Seau became at least the
sixth seventh former NFL player to commit suicide since 2005, joining Terry Long, Shane Dronett, Dave Duerson, Andre Waters, Kenny McKinley, and Ray Easterling. (A side note: one in every six members of the 1994 San Diego Chargers Super Bowl team has now died — two in car “accidents.” The quotation marks reference the fact that Seau drove off a cliff two years ago in what at the time he denied was a suicide attempt).
In regard to this subject, Malcolm Gladwell’s 2009 New Yorker piece on football and brain injuries is essential reading. Duerson suffered so severely from the aftereffects of the concussive shocks to which the game subjected him that he donated his brain to science.
Because Seau was one of the greatest players of his generation his death is likely to throw particularly intense light on the darkest side of America’s favorite sport.