Hernandez’s Suicide, ESPN’s Bloodbath and the NFL’s Race Issue

20170426_232137Not Sorry for Your Loss (Not Happy Either)

Aaron Hernandez’s suicide was shocking and I found a lot of people’s reactions disturbing.

First, why did some people feel sorry for this guy?  Sure he had his demons, but he was given so many great opportunities because of football and what did he do?  He murdered another human being.  Had it been an addiction to drugs I could understand people being empathetic.  You know who I feel empathy for?  The slain Odin Lloyd’s family.  Hernandez’s loved ones who are forever affected by his actions.  If someone knew Hernandez personally I might give them a pass on feeling sorrow for the passing of a person they once had a positive relationship with.

Second, why are people thrilled about his death?  This isn’t like when Osama Bin Laden was killed and people were happy that they finally had closure when it came to September 11th.  Because Hernandez killed himself Lloyd’s family might never get true justice.  Are you happy now?

Bristol Massacre

ESPN just gutted a big fraction of on-air and writing talent.  Big names like Ed Werder, Jay Crawford, Jason Stark and Danny Kanell among others.

There are a lot of people that are taking pleasure in ESPN’s demise.   This includes former employees, people who work for competitors and fans that feel alienated by the network’s political views.  I will admit I have my criticisms of ESPN, but why root for their failure?  Why not instead wish for a better ESPN?  You know like the one you loved back in the day.  Despite its flaws the network still has value.  The 30 for 30 documentaries are something no other rival network is able to duplicate.  And speaking of rival networks what is wrong with competition?  The WWE was a lot better when they had WCW to battle ratings with.  Without the “Mothership”, as Dan Patrick calls it, who will be the new punching bag?  Deadspin?  Please.

ESPN opened so many new doors for sports media and they took the way we view athletics to new heights.  As more people decide to cut the cable chord, other sports networks will start to feels some of the pain that they are experiencing in Bristol.

Rough Draft

The 2017 NFL Draft hasn’t even started, but it is already making headlines and not for good reasons.  Two of the top prospects eligible to be selected have had some pretty big red flags pop up at the most inopportune time.

Jabrill Peppers of Michigan “failed” a drug test because his urine sample was diluted from drinking too much water.  I guess the only reason for him to hydrate himself like that would be to pass a drug test?  Why else would an athlete of Peppers’ caliber take in that many fluids?  Goodell logic at its finest.

Peppers isn’t the only one who may have his draft status altered due to a non-football issue.  Ohio State’s Gareon Conley faces much steeper allegations after being accused of rape from an alleged incident that took place in a Cleveland hotel earlier this month.  Conley has decided to change his original plans of attending the draft and it is even being predicted that he might not only miss out on being a first-round pick, but could end up not even being drafted at all.

If Conley is guilty shame on him and he doesn’t deserve a chance to play in the NFL, but for a moment and the sake of argument let’s try that old thing we used to believe in, you know innocent until proven guilty.  The NFL has a big problem.  They always assume the worst when it comes to young black men.  They know they have this problem.  It’s why Goodell went so hard after Tom Brady for something so petty as the PSI of a football.  But the league just can’t get out of their own way.  They totally mishandled Josh Brown’s domestic violence case and yet they left Ezekiel Elliot’s open so long it was like they were almost hoping they would find something.  And going back to the draft remember in 2015 when La’el Collins was being questioned by police for the murder of his ex-girlfriend even though he wasn’t a suspect?  That cost him a chance at being a first-round pick and he did nothing to warrant that.

I believe that if Colin Kaepernick isn’t picked up a week following the draft there will be a scenario where the league gets involved.  No matter how unpopular his protests were the last thing NFL needs is an unemployed black QB, who is easily better than all of the backups in this league (and a few starters), that never broke any rules on or off the field.

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Romo’s Legacy will be just “Dandy”

1491964954690There once was a quarterback who played for the Dallas Cowboys.  He was a charismatic, fun-loving leader who often did not get the respect or credit he deserved.  This guy was tough, took a beating and played through injuries.  He took a losing franchise and made them relevant, yet when he performed on the biggest stage the final act was more symbolic of a Greek tragedy as opposed to happily ever after.  He hung it up while he still had something left in tank.  He took a job in broadcasting and finally earned the kudos he should of had during his playing days.  In retrospect the fans and organization appreciated the colorful playing career he had and he found his way into the Cowboys Ring of Honor.  While he didn’t earn a bust in Canton, he was honored with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award at the Enshrinee’s Dinner.

It sounds like the past, present and potential future for Tony Romo? Right? Take another guess.  That is a brief synopsis of  the late Don Meredith’s legacy in professional football on the field and in the booth.

Long before Romo and any other recognizable Cowboys quarterback, there was “Dandy” Don Meredith.  Meredith, who played his high school and collegiate ball (SMU) in the North Texas area, joined the hometown expansion Cowboys in 1960.  He never made it to the Super Bowl, but Meredith has to be given credit as the man who established playing quarterback in Dallas as a glamour position in professional sports.

Meredith did more for his legacy as one of the original broadcasters on Monday Night Football.  It made viewers recall what a very good quarterback he was and how his playing career was just inches from being legendary.

The epic of Dandy Don is one of my favorite football stories.  He was a character like no other.  So why aren’t there any movies or books about him?  Well there kind of is.  His former teammate and good friend Peter Gent wrote a novel titled North Dallas Forty in which fictional quarterback Seth Maxwell is based on Meredith.  The controversial and captivating read was later made into a movie.

Tony Romo’s ballad could be the inspiration for a paperback or a Hollywood script one day, however now that he heads to partner up with Jim Nantz he will have the opportunity to add to his legacy in a new fashion.  Many feel that Romo is receiving a shot at CBS that he doesn’t deserve considering he has no broadcast experience.  That may be true and it likely won’t be an easy transition, but I’m betting on Romo. The curiosity of Romo’s commentary will give the ratings a slight boost and younger fans will appreciate a familiar player that they grew up watching calling the action.  I predict he will surprise a lot of people with unique insight.  Meredith retired after the 1968 season before joining Monday Night Football in its debut in 1970.  That didn’t turn out too bad, did it?

But let’s go back to Tony Romo the player.  How should he be remembered?  Is he being shown too much love on his way out the door? What did he accomplish to receive this praise?  In sports there is room for a lot of different characters, novelties and myths.  Not everyone gets to be the knight who slayed the dragon and rode off on a white steed with a beautiful princess’s arms clutching his waist.  We might envy the ultimate hero, but we don’t always identify with him.

The role of Romo as the tragic hero is something that we are more able to relate to.  Many of us in life have had to work hard to conquer the odds and in doing so we were able to exceed expectations, but for whatever reason the big break never came and the grand milestone achievement eluded us.

Even though it didn’t have a fairy tale ending, it doesn’t take away the incredible plays Romo made on the field.  There are certain things he did at the quarterback position that only a sorcerer could duplicate.  He made football in Dallas fun again.  Whether you loved him or hated him you wanted to see him play because he seemed to add high drama to the game.  He teased you into thinking he might pull it off only to blow it in the final minutes or he fooled you that he would fold again while stealing another win.

Romo doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame, but he was just a couple plays away from greatness.  Take away a non-catch here, a bobbled snap there, a drive-killing penalty here or a fluke injury there and the narrative on Romo has changed significantly.

Unlike Meredith, Romo is receiving the accolades he deserves as he rides off into the sunset.  Just because he didn’t deliver hardware it doesn’t mean fans can’t appreciate the fact that he set team records, made some of the most memorable plays in franchise history and did it all while sacrificing his personal health.

What’s next for the undrafted kid out of Eastern Illinois?  Will he be as revered of a broadcaster as Dandy was?  Let’s not look that far ahead.  Joining Meredith in the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor would make the most sense for the near future.

 

Fears of Cheers: The Tebow Effect

20170405_205755I have been arguing for the last few weeks that Colin Kaepernick remains a free agent mainly due to his on-field performance combined with the fact that his market has yet to be determined just like a few other names in free agency who are still without a home.  I continue to make the point that the protest isn’t the reason, but it is a reason.  It might not be the reason you think.

It has nothing to do with being afraid of the President’s Twitter handle or the fact the NFL is mostly a club of older, white conservative owners.  These are the same owners that had no interest in Rush Limbaugh joining their fraternity after it was mentioned he was considering making a bid for the Rams several years ago.  Roger Goodell made the statement that someone like Limbaugh and his “divisive comments” were not welcome.  Goodell works for the owners.  He was simply their mouthpiece on this one.  There is fear, but outside of certain markets it has little to do with political ideology.

Kaepernick is not a “distraction”, but his following is.  Is Kaepernick’s potential upside worth the media sideshow that will follow?  It all looks too familiar.  By now Tebowmania seems like it was decades ago (unless you’re a fan of minor league baseball), but for similar reasons it is why some NFL GMs and coaches cringe at the thought of signing Kaepernick.

Teams don’t want extra persuasion from the press and fans in regards to who will be their starting QB.  This is what happened with Tim Tebow.  He wasn’t good enough to start for the long haul.  John Elway had to pull off the unthinkable and land Peyton Manning in order to satisfy the media and the fans who would’ve buried the Broncos otherwise.

Tebow went to the Jets via the owner’s decision (ironically Woody Johnson who has been outspokenly critical of Kaepernick) and it was a headache gang green didn’t need.  Tebow regressed as a passer (never started a game), Mark Sanchez continued to struggle (had his infamous butt-fumble), head coach Rex Ryan was heavily scrutinized for mishandling the quarterback situation and the Jets finished a disappointing 6-10.  Ryan, who never met a headline he didn’t love, loathed Tebowmania and immediately cut ties with the faithful fan favorite following the 2012 season.  Tebow would never play another regular season game in the NFL.

Let’s say Kaepernick is signed by a team that isn’t settled at quarterback.  If he doesn’t start his proponents will argue it is related to his kneeling from last season.  There are a lot of people that won’t buy the narrative that “he hasn’t grasped the offense” or “the other quarterback on the roster gives us the best chance to win” even though those could be legitimate scenarios.

Tebow fans and Kaepernick fans/haters are alike in the sense that they are ignorant when it comes to the football logistics on why these guys don’t have jobs in the NFL.  The good news for Kaepernick is he is a much better quarterback than Tim Tebow and should land a gig this fall.

Kaepernick would be wise to accept a backup role for less money in 2017.  An ideal landing spot for him would be a team that has an established starting quarterback with a solid coaching staff that will help him resurrect his career.  This will benefit Kaepernick down the road and should quiet a lot of the noise that will follow him.

Here are the best destinations for Kaepernick:

Seattle Seahawks- Kaepernick is familiar with the Seahawks and they are familiar with him.  He would be an excellent backup for Russell Wilson and he would mesh well with Pete Carroll’s culture in Seattle.  There would be no outcry to bench Wilson, one of the better starting quarterbacks in the league, in favor of Kaepernick who played for the rival Niners all those years.

Oakland Raiders- The Raiders were having a dream of a season until Derek Carr got hurt.  The Raiders already feature a talented supporting cast on offense and could use a better backup plan.  An organization historically known for sheltering castoffs and misfits seems like a match made in black hole heaven for Kaepernick.  If the fans in Oakland are upset about it who cares?  You’re moving to Vegas.

Carolina Panthers- Since Cam Newton takes a beating it would be wise for the Panthers to upgrade the second-string roster spot.  We saw what happened when Derek Anderson made an appearance last year.  Yikes!  Kaepernick would join an organization that has talent and stability.  It might not be popular with the fans in Charlotte.  Kaepernick knocked Newton and the Panthers out of the 2013 playoffs which probably upsets the Queen City citizens more than his kneeling.

Kansas City Chiefs- Hall of Famer and star of FS1’s Undisputed Shannon Sharpe believes the Chiefs are the best destination for Kaepernick.  Many feel that KC can only go so far with veteran Alex Smith and they might need to start looking at other options for seasons to come.  Andy Reid is a QB guru and who better to take on the Kaepernick reclamation project than the Kool-Aid Man himself?

Pittsburgh Steelers- Big Ben has taken his share of licks over the years and has hinted the end is near.  I’m not sure if the Steelers think Landry Jones is the future or even feel he is there best option at backup.  In Pittsburgh, Kaepernick would have a talented supporting cast around him if he had to play and if he did well who knows?  Maybe he could be the answer for life after Roethlisberger.  The only concern might be the circus-like atmosphere that the Pittsburgh locker room has been in recent years.  They might not need another non-football headline grabber.

New England Patriots- This is a long shot and it would depend on Jimmy Garoppolo being traded.  No one drowns out the echos like Bill Belichick and company.  If this were to happen Kaepernick would really have to prove himself worthy of making the roster.  Belichick likes to experiment and won’t hesitate to cut a proven veteran.  But if he were able to land a spot on the team what better place to turn his career around as Tom Brady’s understudy and working with an offensive mind like Josh McDaniels?  Given Robert Kraft, Belichick and Brady’s support of Trump could you imagine the head explosions it would cause?