What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
by J-Dub and Ryan Meehan
Editor’s Note: This article is a collaborative effort between J-Dub and Ryan Meehan from First Order Historians. Ryan also has his own blog, East End Philadelphia, which is featured in the Dubsism BlogRoll and it is well worth the read.
The other day, Kommissar Goodell gave what he considers to be a genuine mea culpa for what he wants you to think was a “mishandling” of the Ray Rice situation. That was so much twaddle because what Goodell is really doing is hoping you don’t figure out the NFL’s new policy on domestic violence is really just a chicken-shit reaction to public pressure. There are so many reasons why this should be obvious, but the NFL and the Kommissar did a pretty good of job of camouflaging what this really was.
If you doubt that, consider the following. Where was the big concern about domestic violence after the Jovan Belcher situation? This guy had a long track record of domestic issues and everybody turned a blind eye until the murder-suicide. Oh wait, they kept turning the blind eye after that…
As much as Goodell doesn’t want you to notice, the Belcher situation and that of Ray Rice are linked by indisputable facts; facts which plainly illustrate Kommissar Goodell doesn’t care about domestic violence as much as he cares about the public perception of himself and the NFL.
That begs the question: Why was the Belcher situation allowed by both the media and the NFL to wither away to the back pages, while the Ray Rice story took on a life of its own?
1) Because Belcher was a bench player on a 2-14 team nobody gave a shit about.
In other words, despite the fact the Belcher situation involved the deaths of two people, it had no chance of affecting the affecting the overall NFL product. Be honest, you had no idea who Jovan Belcher was before he shot his girlfriend nine times and put bullet number ten through his own head at the Kansas City Chiefs practice facility. Like it or not, stardom trumps tragedy, and the lack of stardom virtually guarantees a crushing lack of interest by the media. The bottom line is the NFL is loaded with “faceless” players like Belcher, about whom most fans can’t even pretend to know anything.
On the other hand, Ray Rice is a critical component of a team that won a Super Bowl recently. That means if Rice were to be suspended for any appreciable length of time (let’s say a year for example, since it was the “beating up your girlfriend is worse than smoking weed” comparison with Josh Gordon that got this all started), that would put the Kommissar in disfavor with the owners because the NFL is a star-driven league.
Keep that argument in mind as we go back to the Josh Gordon example. While Gordon may have led the league in receiving yards last year, he did so in the media desert known as Cleveland. Browns football hasn’t been relevant since the AFC Championship teams of the Bernie Kosar era of the mid 1980’s. Even “Johnny Football” may not be able to change that. The following poll should tell you all you need to know about Cleveland football.
Why does this matter? Believe it or not, the media market involved here matters as much as the team. A mediocre team in a major market (ergo, the New York Jets) is just as important as a popular team in a small market, such as the Green Bay Packers. The problem here is the NFL’s long-standing goal of “parity.” In other words, you inherently create a shitload of problems for yourself when you try to pretend things are equal when they in fact are not.
As far at this situation is concerned, Kansas City is as much a football backwater as Cleveland, and Baltimore is a Super Bowl team in the fourth-largest metro area (Baltimore-Washington, D.C.) in this country. Combine that with the fact Josh Gordon is a repeat-offender, and you have part of why Gordon got a year and Rice got two games.
2) This gave Goodell a perfect opportunity to “act tough.”
Once it was clear that Goodell was going to have to act in the Ray Rice matter, he used it to puff up his chest like a male orangutan during mating season. What you need to understand here is since the relation ship between the NFL and the players is completely a matter of contractual obligation; the union collectively bargains everything with the NFL . That flies in the face of Goodell’s wish to rule in the finest traditions of a Soviet Kommissar. Remember how he tried to send everybody involved with the New Orleans Saints’ Bounty-Gate off to the NFL’s version of Siberia? Remember how that all got overturned in court? It was because Goodell acted outside the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the player’s union.
In that case, it was up to the president of the player’s union to come to the defense of those who were banished by Goodell, not for the individuals involved, but for the sake of the CBA. Once you let Goodell act outside of it, he will continue to do so. But in the Ray Rice case, NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith was never going to hold a press conference in which he objects to the new domestic violence policy based on how it was never collectively bargained because he’s only going to get some ESPN blow-hack asking him if he is “pro-wife beater.”
3) Belcher killed himself, so there was nobody from whom to extract the proverbial “pound of flesh.”
Be it Goodell’s need to act tough, or the never-ending need for the ESPNs of the world attempting to whip up public opinion, Americans love to “pile on.” You can see the perfect example of this In J-Dubs’ excoriation of the “if that were my kid” mentality in the wake of the Penn State scandal.
First of all, these rushes of “public opinion” are really just so much electronic “mob mentality.” Twitter should have a “pile on” button so that knee-jerk and patently obvious reactions can more quickly clog the internet with the similar and boring blatherings of the angry and uninformed. Some recent NFL examples in addition to Ray Rice include Michael Vick and Richie Incognito. Once the blood was in the media water, all these stories took on a life of their own.
Unless you are Gene Simmons or Henry Rollins, it’s considered bad form to bag on somebody who’s recently committed suicide. “Recently” is important, because you can make all the David Carradine “choked himself while choking the chicken” jokes you want. To put it in overly-simple terms for the overly-simple “pile on” crowd, there was no media lynching of Javon Belcher because he already did them the favor.
We can’t beat the simple drum hard enough because the stone cold fact is this kind of shit is standard operating procedure for the American media. They will beat the shit out of anybody for any reason so long as it can be used to make ratings, and ignore warning signs of other important stuff, but the minute the subject of the media shittery ends up dead (or is over-shadowed by a bigger story), all of a sudden they are off limits, and the media blow-dries still have a need to take a gigantic shit on somebody.
A perfect non sports example of example of this was Gary Condit. You have no idea who this guy was, but he was a household name in this country on September 10th, 2001. He was a congressman from California whose name was tied to a murder investigation, and the media couldn’t get enough of this guy. He was later exonerated in the death of his intern Chandra Levy with whom he was having an affair, but you never heard that, becauser the next day, we all learned the hard way that Al-Qaeda was a terrorist group and not Freddie Mercury’s real name, and then we all frantically ran around searching for somebody upon which to rain revenge, all during which we completely forgot who the fuck Gary Condit was.
Specifically, let’s go back to the three NFL examples we mentioned.
He killed a particular type of animal that is a common house pet, and participated in an underground activity that is barbaric. As a black guy, J-Dub almost literally loses his shit when he hears assholes excuse horrific behavior as “being part of the black culture.” Imagine what would happen if you said securities fraud was part of “white” culture. With Vick, the worst part was when a reporter confronted him about dog-fighting, he was in a nigh club, he was obviously fucked-up on (insert range of recreational-grade pharmaceuticals here) and gave a completely pathetic attempt to lie his ass off about it.
Then there was his trial.
What do you remember most about that farce? For us, it would be the pictures of the black house with no windows that just looked like there was no way anything good was happening there. From that second on, the media has been on a non-stop exercise to do whatever it takes to goad Vick into losing his temper just to get the footage of him going all Godzilla on a bunch of reporters. Sure, we get that then and now, he keeps stepping on his own dick as far as the media is concerned, and we also get there’s a bunch of people who will hate him for six months after he is dead, but it is really only the media who thinks any story involving Michael Vick still has any legs. Even if it does have legs, they are much closer to those of Stephen Hawking than Usain Bolt. After all, when is the last time the back-up quarterback for the New York Jets was a media sensation?
(Editor’s Note: At this point, Meehan wrote the name “Tim Tebow” on a piece of paper and handed it to J-Dub. Then bourbon shot of of J-Dub’s nose and he passed out for half an hour.)
This story took off like any non-Challenger Space Shuttle because it was a story of a “Just a Good Ol’ Boy” who turned out to be the classic cracker bully. Once you get your head around how a 300-pound NFL lineman can possibly be bullied, then your head instantly fills with visions of Boss Hogg and Sheriff Roscoe P, Coltrane scrambling to the cruiser to catch up with Incognito’s orange Dodge Charger. To play the victim to Incognito’s “cracker,” enter Jonathan Martin, who single-handedly did more to take down the “black thug” stereotype than Steve Urkel and Al Roker combined. Then again, those are the three black guys in this country least likely to be shot by police, so maybe there is something to this.
Before the “Dukes of Hazzard” jokes get completely out of hand, the real point here is this story was tremendous media fodder because nobody had never really admitted to either bullying or being bullied in the NFL before, and because America doing this before, and since Americans love to play the “race card” when and where ever possible. That’s why Al Sharpton used this story to fill up seven weeks on that glorified public-access cable show he has.
So, you have race, a big dumb white guy, and the fact this story rose for the ashes of the otherwise insufferably intolerable AFC East. Do you really think the NFL media really like talking about a division in which the sorry-ass New York Jets are the second-best team? Anything is better than that, even a story of a fat, white peckerwood who reeks of Brut after-shave and a Ford pick-up truck with those confederate flag mudflaps telling a black guy he was going to going to shit in his mouth and kill his mother.
Now for the real nitty-gritty. Ray Rice is the new story in the NFL, not just because he beat his girlfriend, and not just because he essentially got away with it. What do we mean by that? With everybody talking about RayRice, there was a distinct point in time when that is EXACTLY what they wanted you to be talking about. J-Dub really got off on a rant about this, and we’ll cover that in a bit, for now, just look at what the Ray Rice story overshadowed:
We’ll come back to the media subterfuge in a minute. As far as Rice in concerned, he got two games for doing something reprehensible because the NFL never cared enough to make a rule about it. They never did until a few days ago. Kommissar Goodell would prefer you didn’t remember that either.
4) There was no video of Belcher beating his girlfriend or killing himself.
The media loves sensational video; the examples are too numerous to mention. Mrs. Doubtfire committed suicide recently, and it didn’t even have anything to do with Sally Field or Mork and Mindy reruns. That story was huge for its lifespan, but if video existed of Robin Williams actually joining the Dead Poets’ Society, you know damn good and well even Al Sharpton would still be running it.
Realistically, it’s time to admit we live in the “TMZ” era, and that’s not a good thing, because it has really destroyed the difference between fame an infamy. Good or bad, all that matters now is fame. Do you have another explanation for the Kardashians?
TMZ is supposed to stand for “Thirty Mile Zone;” a section of southern California roughly centered on Hollywood and Beverly Hills which is accountable for virtually all media produced in this country outside of New York. They might as well call it YSFAAEVOECDATMPBN, which would stand for “Your Source For Any And Every Video of Every Celebrity Doing Anything That Might Possibly Be Noteworthy.” It used to be just a website, now it’s a goddamn television show, and it even has an hour on FOX Sports Radio. Look, we love video of dumb shit just as much as the next person (See Tosh.0 for further reference) but at some point, you have to realize it’s not worth trampling an entire plane’s worth of Haitian hurricane victims at LAX to ask RuPaul which bathroom he used while he was here.
In other words, TMZ exists basically to show any video of anybody who has an IMDB credit doing anything, which is fucking ridiculous because 85% of those people are waiters for 85% of their lives anyway. We’ve become a society so obsessed with stupid clips that Vine is an actual thing. YouTube wasn’t enough for us; we had to shorten it into six second clips in order to appease our collective attention span, which just happening to be getting shorter than Mary Lou Retton with a ’68 Cadillac engine block on her head.
Which, by the way, is exactly why Javon Belcher is merely a footnote. Meehan freely admits he had forgotten entirely about Belcher until J-Dub brought up the topic. He wasn’t a part of the market to the point where they had Javon Belcher jerseys stitched up. There was never a “Javon Belcher Bobblehead Night.” And there was never any video of him doing anything “noteworthy.”
5) J-Dub thinks he is the only one who noticed the timing of this announcement.
He is dying to know if anybody else finds it curious this was done just days before the Rams had to make a decision on Michael Sam. J-Dub is convinced somewhere in the bowels of NFL headquarters there was a discussion like “Well, as long as we are going to get called homophobes for cutting a guy who didn’t belong in the league in the first place, we better look tough on wife-beaters?”
Meanwhile, Meehan isn’t as far into the skeptic tank here as J-Dub, but he also can’t say his point isn’t valid. If for no other reason, the reality is that the NFL (much like the rest of the world) tends to respond to social issues in clusters. The NFL is paramount when it comes to this approach, because it makes Roger Dodger look like he cares about everything at once, and that he’s working tirelessly to eliminate all of the societal ills that the players in the league are leaking out of their earholes.
Additionally, you have to wonder if it’s a distraction to get people’s mind off of the Michael Sam thing no matter which way you look at it: If you didn’t want a gay player in the league, you would been disappointed if Sam had made the cut. If you were rooting for him to make the squad, you’ll be able to subconsciously soften the blow by saying “Well, at least they are addressing the domestic violence thing…” Of course, the reality here is really what they’re doing goes back to the cluster theory of social awareness. If they address a bunch of things at once, by the law of averages they’re going to do something right just based on the number of problems they address. Of course, at the end of the day these are all things that we will all overlook as soon as the games start.
Meehan is convinced J-Dub is really saying this is a backhanded method of deflection. Although the media has reached the point in this country where it’s impossible to hide anything nowadays, a league like the NFL can shadow one problem by putting the resolution to another in front of it. It’s not right, but it’s true and it’s going on right now as we speak. The only reason that people are saying this can’t happen is because they assume Kommissar Goddell is just too stupid to make all of it work. He’s not; he’s just really fucking good pretending he is.
6) The million-dollar question: Why are these guys in the league in the first place?
Go back to the NFL examples we mentioned before. Guys like Vick and Incognito had track records a mile long even before the NFL, Vick got two other NFL jobs after doing what he did, and Incognito is drawing interest from NFL teams who need offensive line help. This time next year, ESPN will be abuzz with tales of the Josh Gordon comeback. So the question is, if you can’t get a job at Walmart with a gross misdemeanor on your record, why can you play in the NFL?
The answer is easy. There is a different set of rules in this country for people with talent and/or money. You don’t have to like, but you do have to accept it, because it is fact and always will be. The reason why athletes get special treatment is because they are the only group of people on the planet people will pay $500 a seat to watch them do what they do.
On the one hand, this means as long as an athlete can draw in the fans, he can literally get away with murder (Ray Lewis, we’re looking at you…) After all, it is silly to expect in an organization the size of the NFL every player will possess Warrick Dunn-like off-composure, so it is a realistic position for a commissioner to turn his head the other way, as long as these people can generate money for the league. It is also a realistic position to respect the sensitivities of the ticket-buying public.
We could spend all day debating the inconsistencies in the punishments in the NFL. Say what you want to about what happened to Josh Gordon, Richie Incognito, and Ray Rice. It misses the point that these guys, and guys like them all have track records; none of this stuff is unknown. Just look at the back-grounding the NFL does on every single player they draft. Do you really think stuff like this doesn’t show up? Of course it does, and even if they didn’t know it then, the NFL spends millions of dollars a year keeping tabs on players.
The bottom line: At some point, the NFL and Kommissar Goodell need to stop pretending like they have a problem they didn’t know about and admit they create these problems by ignoring the warning signs.