Deflating the game

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady faces questions from the media (Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady faces questions from the media (Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Champions don’t cut corners. They don’t make excuses. Champions don’t sneak, spy, or steal. Champions push themselves, challenge each other, and elevate the game they love.

The New England Patriots were the better team in the AFC Championship game. It was apparent from the start. They dominated the Indianapolis Colts in every way. And they won by a large margin. 45-7 to be exact.

They didn’t need to give themselves an unfair advantage. But from all angles, it appears they did. Someone did. And now, with the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl upon us, football fans aren’t talking about the Patriots’ decisive win, the dramatic overtime victory of the Seattle Seahawks over the Green Bay Packers, or the biggest game of the year. They’re talking about deflated footballs. You can’t turn around without hearing a ball joke and “deflategate” has been the top news story all week.

The NFL kicked off the season embroiled in off-the-field issues surrounding Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, the fallout from which called into question the integrity of the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Now, it closes the season with an on-the-field issue, which takes direct aim at the integrity of the game itself.

What did the Patriots know? When did they know it? And who was responsible? We may never know.

My brilliant and witty friend, Shandon, coined Patriots quarterback Tom Brady “The Blue Jasmine of football.” If you didn’t see the movie Blue Jasmine, the script was loosely written around disgraced financier Bernie Madoff’s (now estranged) wife, Ruth, an “innocent bystander” who benefited greatly from her husband’s greed. Bill Belichick in the role of Bernie Madoff doesn’t seem like a stretch. Except, of course, for his wardrobe.

The problem is, this Patriots plot has more holes than an adult film. Belichick, a notorious control freak, admits to scheming to make practice balls uncatchable, but wants us to believe he’s never thought about a football on game day. And Brady, who has a process for picking and preparing balls, has never actually squeezed one. For the record, my sister Jennifer (who is a Tom Brady fan) says even she can tell the difference in a fully inflated ball when she’s throwing it around the backyard with my nephews.

This franchise is no stranger to cheating scandals. In 2007, Belichick was imposed a $500,000 fine (the maximum allowable) for his role in taping the defensive play calls of the Patriots’ opponents, earning the nickname “Belicheat.” Now, with their team headed back to the Super Bowl, New England fans find themselves in the position of defending the Patriots and their accolades once again.

If the game isn’t fair, then the game means nothing. And this game means too much to too many people for that. The attention created by deflated footballs is not silly. As Tony Kornheiser said on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, “It shows you what the NFL means to this country.”

A strong stance is needed from the man in charge of defending the NFL shield. And with the game on the line, Roger Goodell can leave no doubt as to which team he’s on.

Time for a big play, Commissioner.

I hope you have it in you.

XO

With Adrian Peterson, the NFL finally gets it right

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson
(Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Go back to September. We were outraged. We were embarrassed. And more than anything, we were done. Video of Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his fiancée unconscious followed by pictures of the four-year-old son of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson with whip marks on his body was more than we could bear. We wanted a culture change and we wanted it now. We took to social media. We threatened to boycott (I didn’t, but others did). And the National Football League responded.

Armed with new advisors, new guidelines, and a new zero-tolerance stance on domestic violence, the NFL conducted a test of its revised personal conduct policy. And on Tuesday, Adrian Peterson became its poster boy.

In a statement released by the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell ruled that contrary to popular belief, Peterson would not be eligible for reinstatement by the league until April 15, 2015 at the earliest. His conditions (which include counseling, therapy, and community service) and reasoning were clearly spelled out in a letter addressed to Peterson and made public through the media.

“First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old.  The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child.

 

Second, the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete.

 

Third, you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct.  When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child’s mother. You also said that you felt ‘very confident with my actions because I know my intent.’ These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future.”

 

-NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to Adrian Peterson

In the end, Goodell left no room for doubt. It’s not perfect. There are still ethical, legal, and procedural issues to navigate. But in one long overdue ruling, the NFL finally demonstrated it’s not messing around when it comes to violence against women and children.

And for the first time in months, I was proud.

XO

Letter From a Female NFL Fan

Dear Commissioner Goodell and DeMaurice Smith,

Before you file the Ray Rice incident away as a cautionary tale for the NFL Rookie Symposium, I want to take the opportunity to speak to you as a member of the female fan base.

First, I want to credit all the players, current and former, who stood up, spoke up, and manned up when the disturbing video of one of their peers was released to the public. It wasn’t all of them, but it didn’t need to be. The players who came forward: Terrance Knighton, Scott Fujita, LeCharles Bentley, Brady Quinn, Jason Taylor, Chris Harris, and others made an impact that will stay with us long after the news cycle of this story.

More so than anything else (and maybe despite anything else), it is the players of the National Football League who have the ability and the responsibility to change the culture of violence that exists within it. Fines, suspensions, and litigation withstanding, the disrespect and shame of one’s peers may be the one and only thing that causes players to think twice about allowing the brutal nature of the sport they play to spill out and into their off-the-field lives.

I don’t know if athletes should be held to a higher standard. I just know that they are. And whether that’s a burden or a blessing is up to each and every individual player.

It only takes one guy to be a problem. But it only takes one man to be a solution. It’s time for the players to start policing themselves and hold each other accountable for what happens on and off the field.

By embracing the spotlight shined on this dark corner of society and redirecting it to awareness and prevention, the NFL and the NFL Players Association has the ability to not only better the lives of its family, but the families of its large, passionate, and proud fan base.

And that is the good that I hope will come from this sad chapter in our sport.

Signed,

A Female Fan

How TMZ Changed the NFL

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Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice and his fiancée (now wife) Janay Palmer.

The incident between Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his fiancée, Janay Palmer, was ugly when it happened. And what happened next was just confusing. They got married. They held an awkward press conference. Palmer apologized for her role in the incident. They met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. And eventually, Rice was suspended from the league for two games.

It all led me to one conclusion: there must be more to the story. Maybe we’d never know what it was. Maybe we didn’t need to know. Maybe it was none of our business.

Then, TMZ released the video. And that’s when I got angry.

Not that it would have made it better (much less acceptable), but I guess I expected to see Palmer attacking Rice and him defending himself. Maybe that’s what I wanted to believe. At least in part, it’s what I feel I was led to believe. And consequently, that’s exactly what some of Rice’s teammates have said.

I won’t post the video from the elevator in the Atlantic City casino, because I don’t want to see it again (and you probably don’t either). But, you know where to find it. There was obviously some kind of disagreement. Followed by an altercation. Followed by Palmer hitting the floor unconscious.

Rightly so, the release of the video sent social media into a frenzy. It wasn’t long before fans, journalists, even former and current players were calling foul. And not just calling it…screaming it.

By mid-afternoon, the Ravens had released Ray Rice and the NFL followed with an indefinite suspension. Both claimed they hadn’t seen the disturbing video until that morning.

What does it say that Ray Rice wasn’t blackballed until we saw video evidence of the brutal assault on his then fiancée? Among other things, that people are innocent until proven guilty. That it’s a tough area to prosecute by nature. That we want to give people (and especially famous people) the benefit of the doubt. And that sometimes, we believe what we want to believe.

As a result of the incident, the NFL put in place a new policy with a mandatory six-game suspension for players who commit acts of domestic violence and a lifetime ban for the second offense.

But what we’ve learned more than anything, is that the fans, the media, and the players have influence. That by speaking up, they can help draw the line on acceptable boundaries. And that on this issue, those lines are very clear.

Whether it’s the first time or not, any time a player puts his hands on a woman…should be the last time he steps foot on an NFL field.

Zero excuses. Zero apologies. Zero tolerance.

XO

The next NFL scandal…pursegate

Kate Moss toting a now banned oversize Chanel handbag

Kate Moss toting an oversized Chanel handbag now banned by the NFL.

He changed the overtime rules, the definition of a fair tackle, even kickoffs. We handled it. No problem. But when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went after our handbags…the ladies of the NFL united and rose up in outrage.

Where is the liberty? This is America…land of the free. We are home of the Big Mac, the gas guzzling SUV, the California king bed…and the giant, floppy handbag.

The NFL announced this week that in order to “enhance public safety” and ease stadium entrance, they will restrict the size and type of bags taken into stadiums beginning this preseason.

The NFL approved tote

*The NFL approved tote

Acceptable bags are defined as:

  •  Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12” x 6” x 12.” (*Official NFL team logo clear plastic tote bags are available through club merchandise outlets or at nflshop.com), or
  • One-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc bag or similar).
  • Small clutch bags, approximately the size of a hand, with or without a handle or strap can be taken into the stadium with one of the clear plastic bag options.

Is a ziplock bag a handbag? No. It is not. And you will not see me carrying one. Even with a chain handle. Is this just an attempt by the Commissioner to sell you an ugly beach tote and call it a handbag? No. It is not.

This is a matter of public safety. Football is America’s sport. On Sundays, NFL fans pack stadiums with 60-80,000 fans, all cheering for their team. And all wanting to feel safe while doing it. The Boston Marathon bombing opened up a new chapter in security at public events, much like 9/11 did at airports.

College stadiums have long restricted large purses and bags, mostly to avoid alcohol coming in. But also as a matter of safety in stadiums that hold 100,000 people or more.

We can do this, ladies. It’s time for us to take one for the team, or for the sport we love. In the meantime, they may want to add some security to the Commissioner’s staff. Because right now he is at a high risk of being beaten with a large, oversize handbag.

But it’s not Roger Goodell who is taking away your freedom. It’s the deranged lunatics of the world who harm innocent people as sport. So if you’re going to take your anger out on anyone, it should be them.

We are Americans. We figured out freedom. Keeping it…is another matter entirely.

Thankfully, the clutch is in.

A word of advice for the Commissioner though…don’t even think about touching our shoes.

XO