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Tag: "football"

Safety and the NFL Referee Lockout

[ 51 ] August 30, 2012 |

Travis Waldron has a very good piece up at Think Progress about the referee lockout and player safety.

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.

When to Boycott Scab Labor and When Not to Boycott Scab Labor

[ 87 ] August 28, 2012 |

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?

The football suicides

[ 82 ] May 2, 2012 |

seau

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.

A Brief Appreciation

[ 89 ] March 29, 2012 |

Watching last night’s Barcelona-Inter Milan draw reminded me, that for many people on this planet, the most frightening sight in the world is a 5’4″ Argentinian–born the year after the Mets won the ’86 World Series–charging right at them:

Messi01
See how his eyes are already looking at your feet? They’re not. They’re really on their way up to your belly-button, meaning your center-of-gravity’s betrayed you and he knows what lies your feet have told. And that move he’s making? It’s calculated to humiliate you five seconds after you realize its purpose, so there’s only one alternative, and given that Italians are famous for the volumptuousness of their gravity, they chose it with gusto:

Messi02
You would think this tactic successful: share the Jovian gravitational force of 2.58 g that yanks Italian players to the pitch every time the wind considers blowing, but it’s to no avail! The tiny Argentinian spits in the face of Italian-alien gravitational alliances, pauses to shoot a look of shame at his “competitors,” then continues moving toward goal as if he’s bounding over Martian fields. Having no resort, the Italians do what they can:

AP120124021615
Which entails trying to rip his face off. Anyone who wants to complain about the dirtiness of Italian football is welcome to in this thread. Keep it clean, though, my friends, as some players know what best to do when there’s nothing to be done:

AP120115113967
“Keep your distance, lads,” you can almost hear one of them say. “And hope an Italian shows up.”

 

Tebow, In Fact, Makes No Sense For The Jets. If They Care About Winning.

[ 142 ] March 26, 2012 |

I would have, as an NFL GM, been a little leery of Peyton Manning; as Bill James once said about signing Barry Bonds after the Giants let him go, “I don’t believe in his future, I’m not convinced of his value in the present, and I’m not interested in the past.”   Of course, the parallel is far from exact because the upside on Peyton is much higher; a QB of Manning’s caliber can have the same kind of impact in 16 games than a great baseball player can have in 162 (let alone 120 games of an old Bonds with no defensive value.)   But still — with his serious neck injuries it’s unclear if he’s still Peyton Manning even if he’s healthy, and there seems a pretty good chance that he won’t stay healthy.   For a good team with a remotely acceptable QB, signing Manning wouldn’t really make sense.   But for the Broncos, the beauty of it is that there’s a positive opportunity cost; getting rid of Tebow (for draft picks and cash!) is a major positive in itself, and if Manning happens to have a couple more big years left it’s a major bonus.

For the same reason, despite the inevitable revisionism the Jets trading for Tebow — unless they don’t care about anything but maximizing short-term revenues — doesn’t make a shred of sense:

  • This idea of bringing him in as a Wildcat QB…if the Jets thought this had more than trivial benefits even if it works, they would have just kept Brad Smith, who unlike Tebow has proven that he’s good at it.
  • And whatever gains you get will be mitigated by the fact that this turns the QB situation into a circus in an intense media market.   Giving Brad Smith a few snaps didn’t make people clamor to put him in the starting lineup.
  • And if Tebow is going to get more like 10-20 snaps a game even while he’s a backup…so you’re saying that Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano can create and implement two different offenses that will work simultaneously.  Sure.  And Erick Erickson is going to write the new Federalist Papers.
  • This isn’t to say that Mark Sanchez is particularly good.  He’s not, and the Jets should have been looking around for alternatives.    Sanchez for the last two years has been 28th in DVOA, 1% above average in 2010, about 5% below this year.   Mediocre, but not awful.  In Tebow, the Jets have managed to acquire a QB who’s substantially worse than that while only being a year younger — nearly 20% below average DVOA.    Sanchez regressed dangerously close to replacement level; Tebow needs a telescope to even see replacement level.
  • And don’t tell me that this is because Sanchez had good weapons to work with.    The Jets had one quality receiver —  one a perennial contender couldn’t wait to get rid of — backed up by a bunch of guys who were done or had no ability in the first place.   The tight end and running game are mediocre at best.   The left side of the offensive line is overrated and the right side a sieve (something they better have ideas about improving if they’re going to play Tebow.)
  • And if the argument is that Tebow Just Wins Football Games, well, in that respect Sanchez is what Tebow is supposed to be.   He guided a team to an 11-5 season.  He’s won four playoff games on the road — two as a rookie! — and was pretty decent in the two postseason games he lost.   Tebow did play well in one playoff game, but deprived of the Broncos’ MVP in that game (Dick LeBeau) the next week he made one of the worst past defenses in the league look like the ’85 Bears.    Despite this a lot of Jets fans want Sanchez’s head on a pointed stick — and not without reason!  But saying that Tebow is better because of his clutchitude is self-refuting.
  • And nor would it make any sense for the Jets to acquire Tebow to play some other position (although, to their credit, they don’t seem to be doing this.)  He doesn’t have anywhere near the speed to be an NFL running back.  I forget who brought up Aaron Hernandez in comments, but…let’s wait until he establishes any ability to catch passes at all before we start comparing him to one of the best TEs in the game, shall we?   It’s like speculating that Ichiro Suzuki could be converted to a pitcher — great athlete!  great arm!  — and then saying he could be the next Roy Halladay.

The Jets have created a huge distraction for a team that needs a lot fewer distractions, in order to bring in a guy who hasn’t shown that he even deserves an NFL job.   Great work!

It Gets Funnier!

[ 56 ] March 21, 2012 |

Apparently, the Jets might be saved from their incompetence by their own incompetence.

It has been observed that the Lord works in mysterious ways

[ 32 ] March 19, 2012 |

manning tebow

From a hermeneutic perspective, the “text” of Manning making aliyah to Denver can be interpreted literally, emblematically, allegorically, didactically, and, not least, probabilistically.

I like those odds.

“I can’t see myself missing Peyton more than I might miss Ross McLochness, or Ronnie Pudding, or Danny Upham, or Little Danny Schindler.”

[ 38 ] March 7, 2012 |

Well, he never really added much value to the Colts anyway.

It’s weird that cutting a player who apparently was worth upwards of 10 wins a year to his team is the rational move, any yet it really is.

“He’s the head coach and chief punk on that Syracuse team…a hundred bucks of my own money for the first of my guys who really nails that creep.”

[ 24 ] March 2, 2012 |

Huh, I had no idea that Reggie Dunlop’s coaching techniques were so influential.

Tebow and Lin: Two Players Next to Each Other

[ 96 ] February 20, 2012 |

The oft-made analogy between Tebow and Jeremy Lin is idiotic for one reason above all — Lin has been good.   The Knicks have been on a streak, despite an injury to their star player, because their point guard play has dramatically improved.   The Broncos bad a bunch of (narrow, often outright fluky) wins against (mediocre or worse) teams in the regular season in spite of their QB, who was actually worse than the guy he replaced.   Tebow was, granted, effective in one playoff game.  And then, the next week, facing a coaching staff able to develop a gameplan that distinguished between “bad thrower for an NFL QB” and “bad thrower for an NFL running back” he was atrocious against a secondary that was shredded by the likes of Dan Orlovsky, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Joe Flacco. The question about Lin is whether he’s as good as he looks; the question about Tebow is whether he can ever be an adequate NFL QB despite his generally sub-replacement-level performance. It’s the laziest analogy imaginable.

If only you knew the pain I fought through to write this post.

[ 60 ] February 19, 2012 |

Thanks to a deep desire to nap and a DVR that’s threatening to delete everything I want to watch, I spent a few hours this afternoon watching the Heat and Barcelona win sometime in the past week, and I was struck by how casually brilliant LeBron James and Leo Messi look. When you think of Michael Jordan, you invariably think of the image he cultivated, which looks something like this:

He was a winner, no doubt, but he always played up his own struggle. It was never enough for him to be great: he had to sprinkle the floor with Kryptonite just to remind everyone how incredible Superman is on Tuesdays. James and Messi? They’re content to be great. Neither of them is going to pull a Kobe and leak his every bump and bruise to the media in order to score a “heroic” twenty-one points. They’ll leap and weave around the children like the gods they are and that’ll be that. Consider Messi at 1:33 in this video:

Restraint is a talent, I know, but it doesn’t always manifest itself as disdain, and that shot? It mocks the sport. It asks “You want me to do this?” and shrugs its shoulder in consent. Is it as manly a display as Jordan’s? Absolutely not. But I’ll take it or its sibling — The Kid‘s perpetual “I just did what now?” expression — over the now-conventional displays of aggressively false modesty plaguing major American sports.

Congrats to the Giants

[ 145 ] February 5, 2012 |

I’ve been wrong about a lot of things, but Eli Manning was at the top of the list. Today, he (and Manningham) made the plays, and Brady (and Welker, although that really wasn’t a very good throw) missed two pivotal opportunities, and that was a difference. Great game, which for those of us without strong rooting interests is the most important thing.

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