I'm an avid sports fan. I cannot fall asleep unless I catch the most recent SportsCenter or Jim Beam Sportsnight (because we all know that ESPN—or the
"Eastern Seaboard Programming Network" as my newspaper advisor once correctly put it—despises Chicago teams).
Sports are the one thing I truly stay on top of. And lately I've noticed a trend, specifically within the NFL.
The NFL is as popular as ever, but certain players and coaches are in the process of ruining it. We as fans are smarter than the ratings give us credit for, I hope. If the league doesn't clean up its image soon, people are going to stop watching, or at least I will.
The league is headed in a bad direction. The real role models of professional football are gone. Walter Payton, Dan Marino, John Elway: these guys exemplified football and sportsmanship the way they were meant to be. The so-called "athletes" of today's NFL can't hold a candle to those guys.
Blue-collar, well spoken, and responsible (responsibility being a characteristic most athletes today severely lack); the legends of NFL represented the true glory-days of football.
Most athletes today deserve the title of "money-hungry prima donna." Rookie contracts now are ridiculous. Let them work their way up the ladder. It's funny how most players who are willing to take pay-cuts are veterans who only want the best for their team (Randy Moss staying with the Patriots).
Some aren't even money-hungry. Some just like to break the law, just to get off with a suspension, or a fine. Players like Mike Vick, Adam "Pacman" Jones, and Tank Johnson are perfect examples.
Even coaches have gotten in on the fun. "Spygate" isn't looking like too good of a decision right now, is it Bill? I don't recall Jimmy Johnson or Mike Ditka being in a scandal quite like that. I don't see a difference between a player testing positive for steroids and a coach caught illegally videotaping. Each deserves the same punishment and—taking a page from Major League Baseball—an asterisk next to their achievements.
When I originally wrote this article, it was a rant in response to Donovan McNabb's comments during his interview on HBO. He was quoted as saying that black quarterbacks face greater scrutiny than their white counterparts.
Did he see, listen to, or read ANYTHING about Rex Grossman in the last two years? In a year where he led his team to the Super Bowl, Rex faced greater scrutiny than any quarterback that I have ever seen.
So why the need to bring up race? Because McNabb wasn't playing well and he was tired of hearing about it. The impression I formed of McNabb after that interview was one of a man making excuses and looking for a scapegoat to take concentration away from his poor performance.
McNabb is simply a decent quarterback who is expected to do great things (like win) and hasn't come through. Race has nothing to do with it. I don't understand how, in one of the more predominantly black sports, he can say that.
The dark days of the NFL are upon us, and they won't end until we, as fans, speak out, stop watching, and force the league to take action. The Cincinnati Bengals alone had nine players arrested within the past year (add Odell Thurman to that list). The Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears each were forced to cut up-and-coming starters for legal problems.
And yet some people were surprised, even disappointed. I'm sorry, but it's the fans' support of rule-violators like "Pacman" that keep the circus that is the NFL going.
However, there could be a light at the end of the tunnel. The suspensions of Thurman and Vick (Vick's not currently suspended, however you think anyone will give him a job? I doubt it.) are little instances that Roger Goodell is taking the league a step in the right direction, but the recent reinstatement of "Pacman" Jones says otherwise.
True role-models like Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson, and—I dare say it—the recently retired Brett Favre (who has spent more time listening to criticism than McNabb has on the disabled list) are the players who will lead the league out of the whole it has dug itself and return the NFL to its former glory.