Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘NFL

Aaron Rodgers, Covid-19, Personal Responsibility, and You: A Sunday Thoughts Post

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Folks, if you are a sports fan — or even if you’re not — and you live in the United States, you’re probably aware of the foofaraw around Aaron Rodgers. (I do like that word, foofaraw. Anyway, I digress.) He said when he reported to the Packers in August that he had been “immunized” against Covid-19, but he hadn’t actually been vaccinated. Instead, he had some sort of holistic treatment (also known as a homeopathic treatment) meant to raise his overall antibody count.

A few weeks ago, his team, the Green Bay Packers (the Wisconsin state-wide team, for lack of a better term; the Packers are also one of the most recognizable American football teams in the world), had a couple of their best wide receivers out due to Covid-19. One, Davante Adams, was vaccinated. The other, Allen Lazard, was not.

I say all this because we learned, at that time, that NFL players are treated differently depending on whether they’ve been vaccinated or not. Lazard had to miss a minimum amount of time, and could not be tested until that minimum time (ten days, I think) had passed, even though he was only listed as a “close contact” of Davante Adams and didn’t directly have Covid at the time. Whereas Adams, once he tested negative for Covid twice, would’ve been eligible to play. (There also was a scheduling hiccup where the Packers had an especially short week in that they were the Thursday night game of the week, which did not help anything. I mention this for completion/emendation more than anything else.)

So, this past week, Rodgers himself tested positive for Covid-19. Because he is not vaxxed, he has to sit out a minimum of ten days. This is due to an agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA (player’s association). At that point, if he tests negative, he’ll be all right to play again.

In the meantime, he’s had the monoclonal antibodies. (He said this on a 45-minute long talk show appearance.) He also took the controversial drug ivermectin, which is used to treat parasites, including some roundworm infections. There has been no proven benefit to ivermectin as of this writing with regards to Covid, but some swear by it.

Now, do I like it that Rodgers took ivermectin? No, I don’t. I think taking ivermectin for Covid is silly and stupid.

But it’s his life. His body. His choice. His responsibility.

Where I get more frustrated with Rodgers is that in not getting vaxxed, but saying he was (i.e., “immunized”), he skirted the truth. He plays a team sport where all 53 guys on the team are in close proximity during practices and games. Not being vaccinated meant he could spread Covid more easily than a vaxxed person (even though — and I know someone’s going to think of this — it certainly is possible for a vaccinated person to spread Covid also with some of the variants. The trick is, they should not be spreading as virulent of a variant. Try to say that five times fast. It’s not easy. But again, I digress.)

I think “your choice, your responsibility” ends when you can conceivably hurt someone else — a loved one, a personal friend, a co-worker — due to being unvaccinated.

Now, Rodgers is going to be protected from Covid for a time due to the monoclonal antibodies. He should not get it again for several months. By that time, if he wishes, he can get one of the easily available Covid shots. (He said he’s allergic to two, the Pfizer and Moderna.) The Johnson and Johnson shot was not available for a week or ten days in the summer, so that apparently unnerved Rodgers. (No one, yet, has asked Rodgers, who has plenty of money as he’s a multimillionaire, why he didn’t just hop on a plane to the UK and get the AstroZeneca vax that’s in use over there.)

I still think “tempest in a tea cup” here, for the most part, because Rodgers is a sports star. While he’s of a more intellectual bent than many football players, he’s still not a nuclear physicist. Nor is he a doctor, much less an infectious disease specialist.

What he is, as I think he’d admit, is an intelligent layman.

I think he did do research. I don’t know why it led him into what to me seems like a blind alley. But his error was more of omission than commission. That doesn’t make it right. But it may remind us all to pause, and think hard about who’s giving us advice about our health.

As Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett put it in a recent press event (my best paraphrase), you pick a health expert to tell you about the virus. You only pick a football expert like Rodgers to either play or explain football.

But I did mention you in the above title, and it’s time to get down to brass tacks.

The upshot, for you, with the Covid-19 vaccines is simple: Who are you around everyday? Are your loved ones immunocompromised? (Maybe they have to do kidney dialysis. Or they’re undergoing cancer treatment.) Can you safely be around them, masked or unmasked, for long periods of time if you haven’t had the vaccine yet? And if you don’t like or trust masks — many don’t, myself included (I wear them, but I definitely don’t like them) — are you willing to bet your loved ones’ lives in this matter?

That’s your basic risk/benefit calculation, right there. And it’s what I considered, myself, before getting my first shot of the Covid vaccine (Team Pfizer, if you must know). I knew I have weird allergies, and I told ’em right off the bat about them.

So if Rodgers is allergic, he has a reason not to get Pfizer and/or Moderna. (If he tried and had an allergic reaction, I mean.) But if he was worried about an allergy, as I was, all he had to do was sit there for a half-hour rather than the standard fifteen minutes after he got the shot, and see how he reacted. I know I did that both times, and I will be doing it again when I get the booster shot soon.

Anyway, what you need to know, this Sunday, is simple:

Make your best choices. Do your research. Be prepared to defend your choices, if need be. (That goes for the entirety of life, not just whether or not you get the Covid-19 vax.)

But don’t obfuscate about it, as the obfuscation in this case is what got Rodgers into trouble in the first place.

And for the love of little green apples, please stop putting sports stars, actors, musicians, and other public figures on pedestals. They’re like anyone else: fallible and mortal.

As we have just seen with Aaron Rodgers.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 7, 2021 at 3:13 am

Why Are People More Worried about #Deflategate than #NFL’s Pay-for-Play Faux Patriotism?

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Folks, a while back, I wrote about the biggest scandal to hit the NFL in quite some time.

No, it wasn’t Deflategate. (For the record, I truly don’t care whether Tom Brady threw deflated footballs or not.)

No, it wasn’t even Spygate, which is a much worse problem in that the New England Patriots admitted to spying on at least one other team in order to gain an unfair competitive advantage.

Instead, it was a pay-for-play scandal that Keith Olbermann found out about while browsing the Internet. NFL teams, including the Green Bay Packers, the Miami Dolphins and the Pittsburgh Steelers were paid $5.4 million dollars to put “Hometown Hero” spots on jumbotrons; the Department of Defense gave the NFL this money to promote not patriotism — faux patriotism though this is — but for recruitment purposes.

It’s like the Department of Defense was saying, “See, men and women? If you join the military, you can be feted at a NFL game! Yet another reason to sign up!”

The reason this was and is plain, flat wrong is because most people — myself included — believed that these men and women were being singled out truly because they were — and are — heroes. Not because the Department of Defense had paid money to 14 NFL teams to do so.

The only major broadcaster who picked this story up was Keith Olbermann. He was passionate, explaining just what’s wrong with this sort of faux patriotism, and read NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell the riot act.

Olbermann was right to do this. What the NFL did in taking this money was absolutely shameful. That the NFL pushed the blame onto the 14 teams that took the money is at best a deflection; it is not an excuse.

At the moment, Olbermann is off the air. (Rumors abound that Olbermann will be reunited with MSNBC, one of his former employers, soon — MSNBC has a huge ratings problem, and Olbermann always drew great ratings. I hope for once that rumor will prove to be fact.) No other major broadcaster has taken up the baton in this area — meaning it is impossible for me, as a fan, to know that the “hometown hero” segments that continue to go on to this day in both the NFL and in major league baseball are legitimate — or if they’re the same type of phony patriotism Olbermann rightly excoriated months ago.

Now, there are two Senators, both from Arizona, who are continuing to look into this, these being Senator Jeff Flake and Senator John McCain. They’ve both been critical of this practice. (McCain is a former POW, as well as being a former Presidential candidate, and his voice carries great weight.) Flake said, according to an ESPN report from May of 2015:

“You go to a game and you see a team honoring ‘Hometown Heroes,’ and you think it’s some sort of public service announcement, that the team is doing it out of the goodness of their heart,” Senator Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said to ESPN on Monday. “Then you find out it’s paid for? That seems a little unseemly.”

What I want to know is this: Why is everyone so worried about whether or not Tom Brady threw deflated footballs, when taking money to “promote” the military in this cynical fashion is a far bigger scandal?

As Olbermann rightly said months ago (see his full comment on YouTube here):

If this time, our time, is one in which the country is pro-military, and if that is reflected at sporting events, so be it.  But for that sense for where the nation is regarding sending our citizens in harm’s way — for or against — for that to be secretly tampered with by the government, by the Defense Department, using your money to purchase public sentiment and pay off the NFL, MLB, NBA, the HIGH SCHOOLS, and all the rest to influence that, that is intolerable! And it is dishonest! It is dishonest in an area where honesty is the only acceptable policy. As dishonest as if the LA clubs never revealed that they are paid nearly $6 million to call it Staples Center and instead insisted that they did so out of admiration for the company.

Folks, I hope the two Arizona Senators continue to be vigilant. Because until Olbermann gets another program, it is very unlikely we’re going to find out the whole story…because no one else seems to care.

And I, for one, see that as incredibly sad.

Memorial Day for Sale: NFL Teams Take Money to ‘Honor’ the Military

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Is Memorial Day truly for sale?

It sure seems that way, after finding out that 14 NFL teams have actually taken money to “honor” military veterans — including my own favorite team, the Green Bay Packers.

I found out about this last Friday (May 22, 2015) by watching Keith Olbermann’s ESPN2 show. As quoted from the website PoliticsUSA.com:

In a lengthy monologue on Friday’s broadcast of ESPN2′s Olbermann, host Keith Olbermann took NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to school over the recent revelation that the National Football League has taken millions of dollars from the US military to promote the armed forces of this country. Over the past few years, it has been estimated that the NFL has received $5.4 million since 2011 to ‘honor’ members of the military at games and other events. As Olbermann pointed out, the main issue isn’t that the league took money, but that it pretended that it was honoring the soldiers out of true patriotism rather than love of money.

This disturbs me for more than one reason.

First, veterans of the armed forces deserve to be treated well without teams being paid to do so.

Second, that teams have been pretending they’re doing this out of the goodness of their nonexistent hearts rather than some sort of business-oriented motivation is incredibly hypocritical.

It is especially upsetting because fans are expected to be both patriotic and uncritical of the teams they follow. So when we see teams giving what surely look to be deserving shout-outs to serving military members (or honorable veterans), we think it’s genuine.

We don’t expect these “Hometown Heroes” shout-outs to be merely a matter of public relations.

But they are. And that’s wrong.

Olbermann isn’t the only high-profile person angered by this behavior. Arizona’s two United States Senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, are also appalled. In an article from the Washington Post, McCain was quoted as saying:

“I think it’s really disgraceful that NFL teams whose profits are at an all-time high had to be paid to honor our veterans,” he said Tuesday (via ESPN)..

Agreed. (To the Nth power.)

Taking money in order to salute these real hometown heroes is wrong. Just ask U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, as quoted in the Washington Post article:

“You go to a game and you see a team honoring ‘Hometown Heroes,’ and you think it’s some sort of public service announcement, that the team is doing it out of the goodness of their heart,” Flake told ESPN on Monday. “Then you find out it’s paid for? That seems a little unseemly.”

This, right here, encapsulates why I’m so steamed.

Look. According to Olbermann (see his YouTube rant here), the Green Bay Packers took $600,000 from the Department of Defense for this practice.

But even if the Packers hadn’t taken any money, I’d still be upset.

As a fan, I’ve always seen military members get shout-outs. They are feted, get tickets to games, often are highlighted on the scoreboard, and the impression is that the teams are doing this because it’s the right thing to do.

Sure, it’s all public relations. We know this, deep down inside.

But we don’t expect that teams would actually be crass enough to require payment.

That these 14 NFL teams have done so is truly shameful. A recent editorial at Jacksonville.com said:

…the Department of Defense and 14 NFL teams deserve boos over revelations that the federal agency paid the clubs $5.4 million over a three-year period to feature military members during games. According to the Defense Department and the 14 teams, the payments were merely part of mutually agreed “sponsorship deals” designed to promote the military in a flattering, high-profile manner. But in truth, the deals were simply “crass” and “disgraceful,” as Sen. John McCain — a military hero who bravely survived captivity during the Vietnam War — so aptly put it.

(Preach it, brothers and sisters.)

Why the Packers ever thought it a good idea to take money to salute the military makes no sense.

NFL teams make money hand-over-fist. They do not need to take money from the Department of Defense or anyone else to salute the hard-working men and women who comprise the United States military.

That they did was absolutely reprehensible.

******
P.S. Because it’s come out that 14 NFL teams have taken money to salute soldiers, it makes me wonder…are teams in Major League Baseball also taking money for this practice?

Have the Milwaukee Brewers actually taken money over the years to salute these “Hometown Heroes” in order to put them on the big scoreboard in centerfield?

I sincerely hope the Brewers haven’t.

Sports Roundup: Alison Gordon, Ray Rice…and the Milwaukee Bucks?

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Folks, this sports roundup column will be unusual, as three disparate, but noteworthy things have happened in the past week that I want to comment on.

First, pioneering baseball reporter Alison Gordon died at 74. Ms. Gordon was the first-ever female reporter for any team in the American League and covered the Toronto Blue Jays, starting in 1979. She faced much criticism when she started her career — I’m just barely old enough to remember some of it — yet persevered and prevailed. Later, she wrote a series of murder mysteries where a baseball reporter solved crimes in and around baseball. Here’s a bit of her obituary from cbc.ca:

(The) Baseball Writers Association of America infamously issued her press accreditation as Mr. Alison Gordon, as it had no female-specific or gender-neutral honorifics at that time.

Gordon was also one of the first females allowed into a Major League Baseball locker room, which was controversial at the time but since paved the way for female sports reporters. She was also the first woman on the American League beat, the division of baseball the Jays play in.

Ms. Gordon’s accomplishments were profound, and it’s partly because of her that so many other female sports journalists have gone on to have stellar careers.

Next, Ray Rice’s long-awaited apology has been released as of earlier today (link is from Yahoo’s “Shutdown Corner” NFL blog). In it, Rice expresses remorse, but also thanks the fans of the Baltimore Ravens (his NFL team). Here’s a bit from that apology:

To all the kids who looked up to me, I’m truly sorry for letting you down, but I hope it’s helped you learn that one bad decision can turn your dream into a nightmare. There is no excuse for domestic violence, and I apologize for the horrible mistake I made. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me, and I hope to make a positive difference in people’s lives by raising awareness of this issue.

Now, you may be asking yourself why I said “long-awaited.” No one else, save perhaps Keith Olbermann, is likely to say this, but it’s the truth: without a heartfelt apology, it’s unlikely that Ray Rice can resuscitate his career, not in the NFL, not in the CFL, not anywhere.

See, there are female football fans out there — many of them, as I’m far from the only one in the history of the universe. And we need to see some remorse and some signs that Ray Rice has learned not to abuse women any more. (One wonders what female reporters think of Ray Rice; most haven’t said much, except that he needs counseling and a consciousness raising and to never, never, do this again. Which seems a bit incomplete.)

There are some players, such as Brandon Marshall of the Bears, who after an earlier incident have become outspoken advocates for women and domestic violence. These are players who’ve truly learned that they must do better as human beings, and I hope Ray Rice, down the line, will join their number.

At the moment, though, all I can say is that Ray Rice has apologized. And since he has, I think some team out there should give him another shot, providing Rice stays in counseling (both personal and marital) and gets the anger management he needs.

And finally, how about those Milwaukee Bucks?

Last year, I wrote about how awful the Bucks were. They didn’t even win two games in a row, they were so bad…they only won 15 games, and set a team record for the worst season in the history of the franchise.

What a difference a year makes.

This year’s Bucks squad is 30-23. They’ve doubled their amount of wins in a year, and they’re only at the All-Star break despite losing their #1 draft pick F Jabari Parker to a knee surgery, losing PG Kendall Marshall to a knee surgery, losing C Larry Sanders to a variety of issues, and losing F Ersan Ilyasova to post-concussion syndrome for a month.

Coach Jason Kidd has revitalized the Bucks. Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo has become so much better this year in every respect. Center Zaza Pachulia’s career has been revitalized. PG O.J. Mayo has regained his three-point touch. And best of all, Milwaukee now plays excellent defense, something they decidedly didn’t do under former coach Larry Drew. The Bucks now believe they can win every single night no matter who’s in shape to play– and that enthusiasm and self-belief has become infectious.

As a long-time Bucks fan, I’m pleased with how the 2014-2015 season has turned out thus far. I fully expect the Bucks to make the NBA playoffs (if the season ended today, the Bucks would be the #6 seed), and I wouldn’t have believed that was possible a year ago.

Any thoughts regarding this sports roundup? (I’m guessing there might be a few regarding Ray Rice, at least.) Give me a yell in the comments!

A Small Post About Domestic Violence and Sports

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Domestic violence, child abuse, and professional football. Who ever would’ve thought these words would go together?

That is, if you haven’t been paying attention for the past few weeks. Because a number of players — Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Jonathan Dwyer, and Ray Rice — all have been prominent in the news lately, mostly because they’ve been violent with a child or girlfriend. All have serious problems, and all have now been told their services are no longer required (though three of them, Peterson, Hardy, and Dwyer, have effectively been put on paid administrative leave).

However, I can’t help but notice one player with a current arrest on his record for domestic violence who is still being allowed to play: San Francisco’s DE Ray McDonald. McDonald was arrested on 9/1/14 in San Jose for domestic violence, and has not yet been charged . . . and it’s because he hasn’t been charged (yet) that the 49ers will not bench him with pay like the others.

Why am I only singling out professional football players? Well, they’re the ones who’ve been in the news lately.

But to be fair, domestic violence happens in all sports. Even my favorite sports teams are not immune to this: Milwaukee Brewers closer Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez has had run-ins with the law in the past regarding his own behavioral issues, and so did RB Ahman Green of the Green Bay Packers. (Green is now retired, while “K-Rod” has apparently reformed.)

For that matter, domestic violence happens on a regular basis throughout the world. Because our society as a whole has a problem. The statistic I’ve seen spouted a lot on TV is that one in four women will fall victim to domestic violence — and some men will, too.

But things do not need to stay bad forever.

Treatment works, you see, if someone truly wants to change. Some current NFL players, like Brandon Marshall of the Chicago Bears and Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys, have gone into psychiatric treatment and/or anger management counseling, and have become advocates for abused women (and men) instead.

Change is possible.

(Yes. It really is.)

But if you read nothing else in this blog, please read this: Domestic violence is a lot more important than any game. So if you feel that you are in danger, or have been abused, please get yourself to a counselor or at least call the national domestic abuse hotline:  1-800-799-SAFE. Or visit this website: http://www.ncadv.org/ — that’s the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Do it today. Because your life won’t wait.

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 18, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers “Kiss and Make Up”– Retirement of Number 4 Will Happen in 2015

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Well, it’s official: Brett Favre, one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in the National Football League, and his long-time team the Green Bay Packers have “kissed and made up.” This means his long-delayed retirement ceremony and the retirement of his iconic Number 4 in Green Bay will finally happen in 2015.

Now, why is this news, exactly?

Yes, Favre was traded to the New York Jets a few years ago in order to make way for Aaron Rodgers — something that didn’t sit well with many fans at the time (including me), but was probably the best move for the team as Rodgers was ready to play. And after that, Favre played two years with the Minnesota Vikings, a long-time rival of the Packers in the NFC Central division, leading the Vikings to the 2009-10 NFC championship game.

And yes, things were very messy, at the time — even being characterized in Wisconsin as a “nasty public divorce” (most recently by various WTMJ-AM radio commentators, including Doug Russell and Jeff Falconio; WTMJ-AM serves as the “home of the Packers” and is the flagship station for the entire state). Fans took sides, Favre was booed in Green Bay while he wore a purple number 4 jersey, and some fans were so angered with Favre continuing to play in the NFL rather than retiring that they burned Favre’s jerseys and refused to even speak his name.

(No, I’m not kidding. Wish I were. But Wisconsin takes its pro football seriously.)

Even now, there’s discussion as to whether fans will actually boo Favre because Favre wanted to keep playing football after the Packers traded him, rather than retire outright as a Packer legend as many fans felt he should — even though Favre, demonstrably, still was playing at a very high level up until mid-2010.

Fans take things so personally, in fact, they forget how awful they would feel if, in their mid-thirties, they were told they had to stop doing something they loved. That had paid them very well for years. That they knew they could still do. All because a younger person was available to do the same job for a lower amount of money.

In any other profession, this would be called age discrimination. But in sports, because of how most people’s bodies react due to aging and how their physical skills can’t but help decline, it’s called a simple fact and franchises are lauded when they jettison older stars.

Even when, as in this case, that older star is the Iron Man of Professional Football.

At any rate, I don’t understand why anyone would boo Brett Favre at this point. He’s been retired from pro football since the end of the 2010 season, for crying out loud. And he did so many wonderful things for the Packers: He took them to two Super Bowls, winning one; he won three Most Valuable Player Awards; he set numerous records; he broke the consecutive games played streak while in a Packers uniform; and he did many positive things for Green Bay and the state of Wisconsin.

He even was an active supporter of many local charities.

So even though Favre played for two teams in addition to the Packers, it wasn’t like that was Favre’s choice — he was traded. He wanted to be a Packer until his body gave out. Just because that didn’t happen doesn’t mean that all of the onus of Favre and the Packers’ “messy divorce” should fall upon him — some of it should fall on the Packers, most particularly General Manager Ted Thompson.

But some fans just don’t care about that.

Why? Well, Favre is famous for retiring, then un-retiring, in a similar manner to basketball legend Michael Jordan. And all that retiring and un-retiring was difficult for his team in Green Bay to handle, for his coach to handle, and most especially his GM to handle.

So if you’re a fan who was angry at Favre because he had the audacity to keep playing after the Packers clearly indicated they were ready for the Aaron Rodgers regime, please do me a favor: get over it.

That way, the rest of us can enjoy Favre’s well-deserved retirement ceremony in peace.

National Outrage Ensues After Ray Rice Gets Suspended by the NFL for Only Two Games After Domestic Violence Arrest

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Folks, there are some things as a human being that deeply offend me. Domestic violence against your life partner is one of those things.

Recently, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught hitting his then-fiancée, now-wife on camera at a casino to the point that she ended up unconscious from the blow. This was a senselessly stupid act in more ways than one, and he was quite properly arrested for it.

However, as he married his fiancée not long afterward (exactly one day after an Atlantic City grand jury indicted him, according to this New York Times article), and as Rice both pled not guilty and entered a diversion program as a first-time offender (this according to an article from Huffington Post), apparently the NFL did not think it needed to suspend Ray Rice for more than a mere two games.

Considering Rice’s suspension is less than your typical four games for using steroids or other performance enhancing drugs, this has caused a national furor. And not just from outraged female sports fans, either.

Take a look at this quote from this past Monday’s Shutdown Corner column over at Yahoo Sports, which points out that this particular suspension doesn’t make sense compared to other suspensions dealing with NFL players committing violent acts:

Cedric Benson once received a three-game suspension for assaulting a former roommate. Albert Haynesworth got five games after stomping on an opponent’s head in the heat of a game. Terrelle Pryor received five games in the Ohio State tattoo case before he ever entered the NFL. Tank Johnson was suspended half a season for illegal firearm possession.

Where is the consistency? Is there any scale at all here?

And when you consider that someone who’s used marijuana and been caught using typically gets a four-game suspension for a first offense, this particular two-game suspension becomes even more baffling.

Look. I know that pro football is a very violent game. I know that the men who play this game have a good amount of aggression in them — they have to have it, or they could not possibly play pro football at a high level. And there are very, very few men like the late Reggie White who are as gentle off the field as they are near-murderous upon it.

Even so, it’s wrong that a man like Ray Rice gets only a “piddling two-game suspension” (paraphrased from the words of Frank DeFord, who’s on record as asking if Roger Goodell is truly good enough to lead the NFL) for hitting his then-fiancée when someone who takes Adderall without first getting a therapeutic use exemption (or whatever the NFL calls it; I’m using MLB terminology as I’m much more conversant with that) gets a four-game suspension?

How can the NFL possibly justify only a two-game suspension for Rice under these particular circumstances? How is taking Adderall or smoking Mary Jane worse than hitting your fiancée?

Also, this sends a terrible message to any female fan of every NFL team. That message goes something like this: “We don’t care about you. At all.”

Because if they did, the NFL wouldn’t have come out with this stupid, pointless, ridiculous and utterly senseless two-game suspension for Rice. Instead, they would’ve ordered him into counseling — tougher and more stringent counseling than he’s already paying for on his own. They would’ve suspended him at least the same four games for any other first-time offense whether the police pressed charges or not, or allowed Rice into a diversion program or not. And they would’ve then gotten some counseling — big-time, major counseling — for Rice’s now-wife. (Remember her? The woman Rice hurt badly? The woman the NFL doesn’t want to talk about, because they seemingly want to see this as a “victimless crime” because Rice already is in counseling and he’s already married his then-fiancée?)

Right now, the NFL’s message is really bad. It says that their players can hit any woman they please and knock them out, and they will do almost nothing. Then, after giving the player what amounts to a mild slap on the wrist, the NFL will turn around and say what a tremendously wonderful human being the guy in question is (in this case, Ray Rice), and how this was an aberration and will never happen again.

And how do I know this is their message? Because their actions speak much louder than their actual words; they say, loudly and clearly, that domestic violence just doesn’t matter to the NFL. Or Rice would’ve at minimum received a four-game suspension, and quite possibly longer than that.

That he didn’t, my friends, is just wrong.

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.

The Topsy-Turvy, Upside-Down NFL: Packers lose, Colts win, and Tebow becomes a “mere mortal”

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Today’s slate of National Football League games held high drama, stunning reversals, and at least one game that featured the comeuppance of a highly-touted player, Tim Tebow.

First, the local news: the Green Bay Packers’ bid to go undefeated this season is over.  They lost, 19-14, to the Kansas City Chiefs; the Chiefs played a very strong, ball-control offense and didn’t give up any offensive turnovers.  Aaron Rodgers, who’s had an outstanding season thus far, had a rather pedestrian game with 235 yards passing, was sacked four times, and even threw one INT (though to be fair, many of his receivers, including TE Jermichael Finley, dropped many well-thrown balls, which is partly why Rodgers’ stat line read 17-35); in fact, NFL retread Kyle Orton, who’s the Chiefs newest QB, had a far better game with 299 yards passing on 23-31 attempts, with no sacks and no INTs.

Read more about the Packers-Chiefs game here; the Packers new record is 13-1, while the Chiefs are at 6-8.

Now, as for the good surprise of the day — the Indianapolis Colts have finally won their first game, trouncing the Tennessee Titans 27-13.  Colts starting QB Dan Orlovsky has finally won a game (in his previous seven years in the NFL, Orlovsky was 0-9 as a starter), the Colts have avoided an 0-16 season, and Colts’ fans can finally hold their heads up high after their team played an excellent second half to deny Tennessee (7-7).

Here’s what the Titans’ coach Mike Munchak had to say about it all:

“I never would have expected us to come out, and they’re playing like the team going to the playoffs and we’re the team that’s 0-13,” coach Mike Munchak said. “We just weren’t playing well at all. The intensity wasn’t there at the start.”

That’s why the NFL has its famous saying, that anyone can beat anyone else on “any given Sunday.”  Because I agree with Munchak; the Titans still have a chance to go to the playoffs, while the Colts came into this game winless and really had only one halfway decent game all year before this (and they still lost it).

Finally, the New England Patriots did something I never thought they could do: they got me to root for them.

Why is this?  Well, it’s simple.  I have a hard time with players like Tim Tebow, who seem to believe that God cares whether or not they win football games.  (I believe the Deity cares about individuals playing the games, yes.  And I think that the Deity probably cares whether the games are “clean” ones, with no dirty play, no gamblers’ interference, and no terrible injuries.  But I do not believe any Deity worth His, Her, or Its salt would ever care about who actually wins these games — that’s up to the players, and coaches, and how hard everyone works, and sometimes even whether or not the ball bounces the right way.)

Tebow, you see, is not a prototypical NFL QB.  So much has been written about this because Tebow runs as well as passes; he’s far from the first QB to do this, as NFL Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton was famous for this back in the early 1970s, but there’s been so much press about Tebow of the fawning variety that I’ve had it.

So I actually rooted for New England, even though I dislike their team and don’t really care for Tom Brady as a person, either — though of course I admire his play on the field — because the Patriots, to the best of my knowledge, have never had any player whatsoever insist that his ability to play football is “divinely inspired.”**

At any rate, while Tebow did run for two TDs (and looked good doing it), and threw for 194 yards and looked halfway decent doing that (Tebow is left-handed and has an off-kilter throwing motion, though it has improved), the Patriots were by far the better team; this is why the Patriots (11-3) won, 41-23, over the Broncos (8-6).  Brady had an excellent day, throwing for 320 yards and completing 23 of 34 passes with two throwing TDs and one rushing TD.  (Note that many of the Broncos had “fumble-itis” for most of the second half, which is one reason why Tebow couldn’t perform any of his comeback “mojo.”)

Read more about the Broncos — and Tebow’s — comeuppance here.

As for next week?  Who knows what’ll happen in the NFL, other than that there’ll be some great games, some good ones, some stunning upsets and some thrilling comebacks (in no particular order).

—————–

**

Note that Green Bay Packers DE and legend Reggie White (aka “the Minister of Defense”), sometimes did say that God was on his side.  But he was a minister.  I have a better understanding of why a minister would say this than someone like Tebow, who isn’t.  And White didn’t say this from the time he was a rookie, either, nor did he come into the league and insist from the start that God was on his side to the exclusion of everyone else in the league — White believed God was on his side, sure, but he also believed that God had given him the ability to play football so White himself could help determine the outcome on the field along with the other players constituting the Green Bay Packers.  (In other words, while White was a Godly man, he believed that football is a team sport.  Which, of course, it is.)

I far prefer White’s attitude to Tebow’s, because I understand why someone who believes in God and is an extremely spiritual person (as White was; I met him, once, and there was no doubt) would believe God is everywhere, including on the football field.  But I do not understand why any one player like Tebow would believe that God is so much on his side that this is the only reason his team, the Broncos, has won any games whatsoever — that denigrates everyone on the Broncos who isn’t Tebow, and that’s the main reason I really don’t understand Tebow’s attitude.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm