Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘Roger Goodell

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.

Waiting to Exhale — er, Waiting for the REAL NFL Refs

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Folks, after the last few days — after replacement referees made one of the worst calls in the history of the National Football League, which decided the Seattle-Green Bay game in favor of the team that should’ve lost (Seattle Seahawks) and took a win away from the team that should’ve won (Green Bay Packers) on the final play of the game — I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

You could say that I’ve been waiting to exhale.

But in a phrase, what I’m feeling is this: bring on the real NFL refs.  Now.

What’s sad is that we have these incompetent replacement refs for one reason: the NFL, in a word, is cheap.  The owners have locked out the real refs because they don’t want to have to pay $3 million or so in pensions.

As Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, it’s wrong for the NFL — a multi-billion dollar enterprise — to be fighting the real, professional referees over a few million dollars in pension funds. 

And not only does this make the NFL look silly and stupid, it also makes them look completely uninterested in player safety.  Most replacement refs just aren’t up to the standard that the real NFL refs pride themselves on.  And that’s going to lead to player injuries sooner or later.

Oh, wait.  It’s already happened.  Because Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub lost a piece of his ear — yes, his ear — on Sunday due to an illegal hit by a member of the Denver Broncos defense, Joe Mays.  One that might not have occurred had the real refs been on the field.

And it’s not just me being upset by this.  Nor the sports columnists across the nation, nor even the Packers players.  Some players on other teams are also upset.

For example, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe — surely one of the most articulate football players ever — said this today to the St. Paul Pioneer-Press:

Kluwe said . . . some of the controversial decisions exemplified how important good officiating is to the integrity of the game.

“I think it made a lot of people aware of just how tough the job of being a referee is,” Kluwe said. “You can’t just plug someone in and expect them to be able to deal with the speed of the game and just how fast guys are moving out there. I think it shed some light on what is, a lot of times, a very unrewarding profession. If a ref is doing his job right, a lot of times it’s like a punter or a long snapper: You don’t notice them.

“It’ll be good to have those guys back.”

Or how about Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald?  This past Tuesday, Fitzgerald talked about the disputed ending to the Packers-Seahawks game to Yahoo Sports and said this (after a bit of a reprise from football columnist Mark Rogers):

Week 3 of the season was marred with a spate of disputed decisions but it was not until the dying moments of the Monday night clash between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers that the furor came to a dramatic head. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s game-winning pass to Golden Tate appeared to have been intercepted by Packers safety M.D. Jennings, only for the officials to award the touchdown that handed Seattle a 14-12 victory.

“Being a player you want to know you are being protected and that is truly important to me,” Fitzgerald said. “On the play last night, I thought the same [thing] that everyone else thought. I thought it was an interception, I thought it was clear as day but unfortunately that call wasn’t made.

“This is definitely going to have playoff implications. You know Green Bay is going to be in the thick of the playoff hunt, you know Seattle is going to be in the thick of the playoff hunt. I just hope that later on in the year this is not something that comes back to hurt one of those teams.”

So at least one player who’s not on the Packers has already figured out that the replacement refs have adversely affected the Packers — and have unfairly benefited the Seahawks.  Imagine that!

One final word about the replacement refs, this time courtesy of Pioneer-Press football columnist Joe Soucheray.  He described what’s going on now as:

(Games are) like watching a movie where you begin to notice all the mistakes the director has made, furniture that isn’t supposed to be in the scene, characters called different names 10 minutes apart, pieces of equipment in the shot.

Soucheray goes on to say that he didn’t see the end of the Green Bay-Seattle game, but he didn’t need to:

Because before that I had seen enough to wonder how long the NFL intends to flirt with disaster. There is something else at work here, the very real prospect of outright corruption. I am not at all suggesting that the temps are corrupt. I am suggesting that with each passing week they are in danger of getting things so wrong that a victory might be awarded to a team that lost, if, in fact, that didn’t happen Monday night.

So that’s where we’re at right now.  The NFL has a bunch of refs who aren’t ready for prime time, but three games have been played with these incompetent and inadequate refs.  And at least one game has been decided for the wrong team due to these same refs, which is utterly absurd.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell needs to do the right thing; he needs to get the real refs back on the field, and stop his posturing already. 

And until the NFL gets its act together and gets the real refs on the field, I’m not going to watch or listen to any games, and I’m going to do my best not to follow along online, either.

Because this farce has gone on long enough.