My belated commentary on the NFL is just now emerging due to last season’s bitter-sweetness for me; I bid the 2014 NFL season farewell with mixed emotions.
The good news surrounds the surprising success of the Cowpokes of Big-D. I don’t think even Jerry in his mindless hype had this kind of season in mind. To advance into the playoffs and be within one Dez catch of playing for a ticket to play in the Super Bowl? Who would have “thunk it?”
Cowboy fans have few critical injuries during the season to thank as well as finally investing in a good O-line to protect Tony and in a good D to get the ball back to Tony, Demarco, Dez, and Co. for their outstanding success this past season. It was enough to begin entertaining the contemplation of the good days of the present instead of the past.
Can we count on building upon this success? We can only hope as Cowboy fans, for only Jerry and his plastic surgeons know for sure.
The bad news is longer and more complicated, as it concerns all NFL fans, not just Poke fans; even I admit once in a while that there are fans out there other than Cowboy fans. The bad news comes for me in two categories: 1) the dark side, and 2) the farcical. The heavy side first:
It bothers me that, just like the public schools, the NFL, in its new place as the nation’s leading sport money-wise and otherwise, has become the “moral police” of its personnel. This is just a game in the long run, and if it expands its influence too much beyond the “just a game” boundaries, then the days of the fans of the Blues and Greens in the old Byzantine Hippodrome becoming not just fans, but movers and shakers of Empire policy, begin to suggest themselves. It is just possible that under-inflated footballs have been compensated by over-inflated NFL League offices. Take the Ray Rice case for example: his behavior cannot be in any way defended. But, the NFL cannot morally reprimand him, in my opinion. This a violent, dangerous game to play that unfortunately caters to individual uncontrolled violence. Criminal action by Rice off-the-field may be grounds for permanent dismissal, but for reasons of safety for the players; if Rice is seen as rehabilitated, with encouragement of that view from his victim, his wife, then it is hard for me to see that he is a safety concern to his fellow players on the other side of the ball. When it comes down to it, what better way of corralling the violence of one individual than to put him on a field with 21 other violent individuals? In other words, does the game have the same government over a player’s behavior off-the-field as do the laws of the land? I say “render unto the law what is the law’s, and unto football only what is on the field, in the training room, and in the locker room.”
Then, there is the not-as-heavy paparazzi-like sports media coverage of the NFL players off-the-field; I know that sports are basically Hollywood-like entertainment, but do fans really care whether or not Johnny Manziel has a party before or after a game with his buddies or not? A player doing drugs off-the-field is putting his field performance in jeopardy, so why should fans be so concerned whether or not players do drugs? I submit so many fans bet the games and/or participate in fantasy football, they have money riding on a player doing his or her best; this is why they are so interested in following players off-the-field. It is the same way the Blues and Greens became corrupted way back when; as they gained influence in State policy those two groups began killing each other. Now, I’m not suggesting Cowboy fans and Steeler fans will one day start murdering each other, but I am suggesting that when teams are loved or hated for reasons beyond the game, then something is getting grotesquely askew.
When athletes are placed on pedestals as examples for young people, for children, then that is an example of “grotesquely askew.” Getting all teary-eyed when the Babe rubs the head of some street kid is one thing, but when athletes are compelled to emulate that same behavior themselves, even when it is not in their nature to do so, is another. Some athletes are naturally good examples, but I suspect most are not. We as a society have not come to terms with this suspicion. There are plenty of other places to find examples for our children than athletics.
So, what I’ve learned from the “bad news” dark side of the NFL 2014 is fans need to follow the game for the game’s sake and only for the game’s sake.
From the “bad news” farcical side came another “tempest in a teapot” or “mountain out of a molehill” episode — “deflate-gate” or Tom Brady’s deflated balls. Give me a break! As a manager/trainer of my high school football team way back when (not as far back as the Blues and Greens), there is more than ample opportunity for lots more stuff to be done to the equipment than merely messing with the air pressure inside the ball. My experience with sports in general says that teams and players “mess with the rules” whenever they can to get an edge (spit balls, stealing signs, and corked bats in baseball, for example); when “caught,” apologize, correct the matter, and move on. It is part of “gamesmanship,” a not-so-nice part, admittedly, but part of the game nonetheless. Fans need not be so shocked, nor should the NFL act as if it is a big deal. It would have been a bigger deal had the Seahawks won and the loss to the Patriots could be blamed by the media and the public as “just desserts” for “cheating.” As it was, the Patriots’ victory was tainted in the minds of the “rules are rules” crowd. Get over it, you purists, and spend some time on a team and/or in a locker/training room.
Both sides of the “bad news” remind us to remember the Blues and Greens……
With a big sigh I look forward to the 2015 NFL season. May our legitimate worries about concussions by alleviated without making football a game of touch pass, by major innovations in helmet technology in the coming year. May the targeting rule be tightened up, so as to be less ambiguous; may re-play be streamlined and faster processed so as to be applied to every “what was that?” play. And please, please work on that completed pass all the way to the ground rule so that in future Dez’s catch against Green Bay in the end zone is a catch!