Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘NFL Playoffs’ Category

Chris Kluwe, Aaron Rodgers, LGBT Advocacy and the NFL

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This was an odd week in the National Football League, wasn’t it?

First we had Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers come out and state emphatically for the record, “I really, really like women” in response to some Internet rumors regarding Rodgers’ sexuality.  This was completely unprecedented, especially considering the fact his team is preparing for a huge playoff game this Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers — a team that beat the Packers, 34-28, earlier this season in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated.

Usually, when teams prepare for big games, the last thing any player wants to do is talk about anything except the upcoming game.  Even major stars like Rodgers generally try to sublimate their own concerns during football season, most especially during the playoffs.

So Rodgers doing this was strange, to put it mildly, and created a minor furor.

But that was nothing compared to the furor that occurred once former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe’s story at Deadspin about how he believes was fired from the Vikings partially because they didn’t like his advocacy for gay rights was published.

Here’s a bit from Kluwe’s first person account if you don’t believe me:

Throughout the months of September, October, and November, Minnesota Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer would use homophobic language in my presence. He had not done so during minicamps or fall camp that year, nor had he done so during the 2011 season. He would ask me if I had written any letters defending “the gays” recently and denounce as disgusting the idea that two men would kiss, and he would constantly belittle or demean any idea of acceptance or tolerance. I tried to laugh these off while also responding with the notion that perhaps they were human beings who deserved to be treated as human beings. Mike Priefer also said on multiple occasions that I would wind up burning in hell with the gays, and that the only truth was Jesus Christ and the Bible. He said all this in a semi-joking tone, and I responded in kind, as I felt a yelling match with my coach over human rights would greatly diminish my chances of remaining employed. I felt uncomfortable each time Mike Priefer said these things.

Kluwe’s indictment is incendiary, but rings true from my perspective as a long-term fan of the NFL. But it’s a sad commentary on our life and times, isn’t it?

What irks me so much about both these stories is this: It doesn’t have to be this way. Not even in the NFL.

Seriously, Rodgers’ sexual orientation is no one else’s business. If he’s gay, bisexual, straight, Martian — who cares? He’s a football player and is paid to win games.

As for what Kluwe says, and how outspoken he’s been about saying it, again, who cares?  He always was careful, as he points out in his article for Deadspin, to speak only for himself — not for the Vikings.  And his own former team owner, Zygi Wilf, actually complimented Kluwe on Kluwe’s stance — so if the coaches had a problem with it, especially if Kluwe continued to perform well on the field, why?

Then, contrast the two above stories with this story about the 1993 Houston Oilers, which apparently had two openly gay players on the roster. No one cared, because they played good football. They were excellent teammates. And their sexual orientation was no one else’s business but theirs.

For all the progress we’ve made in the 21st Century regarding LGBT rights, it seems ridiculous that someone like Kluwe would be fired for his advocacy of same when in 1993, no one on the Oilers cared two figs about anyone’s sexual orientation.

If the 1993 Oilers could get it right, why can’t the 2013 Vikings?

And why, oh why, would any player (much less Rodgers) believe it’s more important to talk about his rumored sexual orientation than the job he’s being paid to do, preparing for this week’s football game?

Are these two stories part of a counter-reaction to the progress that’s been made regarding LGBT rights? Significantly, is it a backlash against Jason Collins, who came out as gay last year? Is it a backlash against soccer stars Megan Rapinoe and Robbie Rogers, who’ve also come out as gay?

Is the NFL so afraid that one of its current players may come out as gay or bisexual that it’s imperative for Rodgers to interrupt his training regimen to insist that he “really likes women?”

And why couldn’t Kluwe find a job in the NFL as a punter despite being one of the better punters in the NFL for years?  The NFL’s supposed to be a results-driven league, right?

Anyway, the crux of all three stories is this:

The 1993 Oilers were right. The 2013 Vikings were wrong. And Rodgers shouldn’t need to say anything about his sexual orientation, ’cause no one should care two flying figs providing he’s doing the job on the field.

Why the NFL doesn’t seem to understand this is beyond me.

Should Packers WR Donald Driver Start Against SF?

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Earlier this evening, as I often do on Mondays, I listened to sports-talk radio on WTMJ-AM 620 out of Milwaukee, WI.  The question posed by hosts Greg Matzek and Jeff Falconio (known as “the freak” and “the geek”) was this: Should Packers WR Donald Driver play against San Francisco?

And of course, as you might expect, Falconio and Matzek’s answer was that Driver should not play.  Driver’s stats this year do not look good, as he’s played very few downs. With only eight receptions for 77 yards and no touchdowns, Driver has not been the same cog in the Packers offense that he was for so many years since being drafted back in 1999.

My question, therefore, is different: Should Donald Driver start against San Francisco, even knowing Driver hasn’t been able to do much this past season?

I say yes.

Before you go ballistic, hear me out.  Driver’s history needs to be factored into the equation.  He’s a three-time Pro Bowler with seven seasons of 1000 receiving yards or better.  He’s a well-prepared professional with enough speed and smarts that it’s quite possible he can still make plays, even at his advanced football age of 37.

Yes, yes, I know that Driver only had 565 yards receiving in 2010 and 445 in 2011.  I know by those numbers that he was starting to slow down, and that opposing defenses had fully adjusted to him.

Still.  Driver has heart.  He continues to have skills.  And he can still help the Packers win — but he must be on the field and have a chance to catch the football in order for this to happen.

My thought is this: the 49ers definitely won’t be expecting Driver to start, especially as Driver was a “healthy inactive” for the playoff game versus Minnesota this past Saturday.  They’ll be feverishly studying game film on the other Packers receivers — Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb — and will forget about Driver, as Driver appears at this moment to be nothing but an afterthought.

This could be a dangerous mistake.

Driver can still beat any team in the NFL if given a chance.  He knows the opposing defensive players and their tendencies.  He knows the opposing defensive coordinators, too, much less their tendencies.  And he knows what he has to do to make plays, even though he’s gotten little opportunity to do so this past season in Green Bay.

Besides, if this is Driver’s last game with Green Bay, he should be treated with the respect he has earned due to his three Pro Bowl seasons and his seven 1000-plus yardage seasons.

That’s why I believe that Driver should start the game against San Francisco, much less play.  Because I truly believe that Driver still has more to give, if only head coach Mike McCarthy will allow Driver to do so.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 7, 2013 at 10:38 pm

Life Trumps Football; Packers OC loses son at age 21

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Today, football took center stage as the Green Bay Packers hosted the New York Giants in the National Football League playoffs.  The Packers were heavy favorites, as they had gone 15-1 during the regular season; most people in Wisconsin thought about the game, and about whether or not the Packers would do well, and that’s as normal.

What wasn’t as normal was the grief Packers Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin has had to deal with, as his son, Michael, died suddenly at age 21 due to what seems like misadventure in Oshkosh as his body was pulled from the bottom of the iced-over Fox River this past MondayPhilbin was away from the team, something head coach Mike McCarthy said he’d completely expected.

“Joe Philbin is where he’s supposed to be,” McCarthy said. “Frankly, Joe and I haven’t even talked about his responsibility – and will not. He’s with his family and he’ll return when he feels he’s ready to return.”

This, of course is the proper attitude to take, especially considering this was an unanticipated death of a very young man.

The Packers ended up losing today’s game, 37-20, to the Giants, which as unexpected as that was on some levels actually makes sense to me.

You see, when people who matter to you die, that’s a lot more important than any football game, no matter how much you love football and no matter how much you root for the Packers.  Even working for the Packers, as QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Donald Driver, and others do is not as important as the loss of Michael Philbin, something every single one of the Packers are likely to understand down the road (even as the sting of this loss may temporarily crowd that out).

No one, but no one, wants to go to a funeral, much less a funeral for a previously healthy and happy 21-year-old.  The Packers went en masse to the funeral on Friday, and did their best to dedicate today’s game to the memory of Michael Philbin, but to my mind the grief suffered was just too overwhelming to bear.

My heart goes out to Joe Philbin and his family over the loss of Michael; may their memories of him sustain them in their time of grief, and may the people who care about the Philbins express their condolences no matter how awkward they may sound.  Because people who grieve need to know that the life of their loved one mattered, and believe you me, most people both need and want to keep talking about the person (or people) who matter to them, even if they’re now dead.

Because none of us knows the future, please remember to let your loved ones know that you care about them every chance you get.  Not a single one of us knows how many days we have left, and since we don’t know that, and we can’t know that, we have to make the best of whatever time we have. 

That way, when you’re left with nothing but memories (as I’ve been now, twice), those memories can give you some comfort amidst the pain.

Packers win; Rodgers being praised to the skies — and I don’t care.

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The Packers won tonight, 48-21, against Atlanta.  Aaron Rodgers had an excellent game, one of his best ever.

So, why don’t I care?  A little background, first.

Folks, I have followed the Packers since I was very small — something like three or four years old.  But I’ve grown tired of the need at every step by both state and national reporters to glorify Aaron Rodgers at the expense of former Packers QB (and sure-to-be Hall of Famer) Brett Favre.

Look at tonight’s story from Yahoo Sports; first, here’s the link:

http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/recap;_ylt=AnZs3MZQTLWirpX6pR06CFk5nYcB?gid=20110115001

Next, a relevant quote:

ATLANTA (AP)—Brett who? Aaron Rodgers(notes) has turned these NFL playoffs into his own showcase.

Moving down a few paragraphs, the article continues:

Rodgers completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards, more than Brett Favre(notes)—the guy he replaced in Green Bay—ever threw for in a playoff game. After knocking off Michael Vick(notes) and the Eagles in Philadelphia, then dominating Matt Ryan(notes) and the Falcons in Atlanta, Rodgers is creating his own legacy in Titletown USA.

That Rodgers surely is, but comparing him to Favre is unnecessary.  Favre was a great quarterback who is now retired.  Football’s rules have changed in the past few years allowing for more offense, and Rodgers — and the Packers’ offensive schemes — have taken advantage of that.

Either Rodgers is a good quarterback on his own — I believe he is — or he isn’t, but in any event a comparison to Brett Favre is unhelpful unless you want to go back to Favre’s second or third playoff game.  (This is Rodgers’ third playoff game, the second of this year, and before this year he’d played in one and lost in one, the 48-47 shootout in Arizona last year.)

Comparing Rodgers, who is a young man with only one significant injury this year (a concussion that kept him out of a game or two), with Favre, who is over 40 and was hobbled by at least five significant injuries (foot, ankle, elbow, throwing shoulder, and a nasty concussion that kept him out of his last two games and shortened a third), is not just an “apples to oranges” comparison — it is kicking a legend, Brett Favre, while he’s down. 

I blame headlines like this on those who are angry because of Favre’s off-the-field issues or his inability to give up playing football on someone else’s timetable other than his own.  I see them as childish, mean-spirited, unnecessary, and extremely rude.

Aaron Rodgers is a good quarterback who played a very fine game.  But he is not a certain Hall of Famer just yet, and as far as his personality goes, there’s no comparison between the engaging, “aw shucks, ma’am” persona of Favre and the driven, competitive, smart but rather taciturn Rodgers.

In ten years, perhaps we’ll know if Rodgers is another Steve Young — a legend following in the footsteps of another, greater legend (in Young’s case, he followed Joe Montana in San Francisco, as all football fans know) — or if he’s another guy who’ll have a few, brief years in the sun, then start to fade as injuries take their toll.

Until then, the folks writing stories such as these really should shut the Hell up.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 16, 2011 at 12:32 am

Brett Favre to start tonight for the Vikings — UPDATED

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UPDATE:  Brett Favre took a hard hit on his left shoulder (not his throwing shoulder) from DE Corey Wooten of the Bears, and has sustained a head injury.   It is unlikely he’ll return to this game; as for next week, I guess we’ll all see.

Here’s the most recent story at ESPN:

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=5941067&campaign=rss&source=ESPNHeadlines

And here’s another one that amused me from Bleacher Report about how to finally get Brett Favre into retirement (written before this game started):

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/548603-brett-favre-best-options-to-finally-send-no-4-to-retirement?source=rss_teams_Minnesota_Vikings

**** Now back to the original post. ****

Brett Favre started tonight for the Minnesota Vikings in their Monday Night Football game against the Chicago Bears.

I mention this for three reasons:

1) I really admire Favre as a player.

2) It’s amazing that Favre would try to play with a hand that, at last check-up, was still swollen to twice its normal size and looked like raw hamburger.

3) If the Vikings win tonight, Favre will be indirectly helping his old team, the Green Bay Packers, because the Packers lost last night to the Patriots (in a gutty, inspired performance from Packers backup Matt Flynn), 31-27.  The Packers are now 8-6 and need all the help they can get to make the playoffs; if the Bears lose tonight, that will help the Packers (as the Bears are currently ahead of the Packers in the standings; the Bears’ record currently stands at 9-4, while the Vikings are at 5-8.  The Packers want to stay only one game back in the loss column and have a shot at the NFC North title (the Bears can lock it up tonight if they win, or so the Milwaukee announcers said), so in a probable first, Aaron Rodgers (who sat out last night with a concussion) and the rest of the Packers will most likely be cheering on Favre and the Vikings.

Who said fact is stranger than fiction, huh?

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 20, 2010 at 7:30 pm