There is nothing like the National Football League. When July nears, the excitement that I feel for training camp is like that felt by a kid entering a candy store. When September comes, I jump up and down with excitement and anticipation. And when February comes, I mope around the house, wondering what to do with myself.
It's the only sport where the amateur draft necessitates two full days of non-stop coverage.
The NFL has gotten it right for so long. It's been nearly a perfect league. Parity has much to do with the success. The salary cap has made it possible for every team to compete for a title. Except, of course, for the Lions. They are the hot mess of the NFL.
With all that is good in this world, I fear that the league is taking a dangerous turn under the new commissioner, Roger Goodell.
The collective bargaining agreement, or CBA, is set to expire in 2011. This seems far away to most of us. But it is important to realize that if a new agreement is not in place by the end of the 2009 season, the 2010 season will be "un-capped."
Can any of you imagine an NFL with no salary cap? How many of the teams would be able to compete? If any of you were wondering how the Cowboys were able to sign Roy Williams, or the rest of their high-priced free agents, it was by deferring money to that season and beyond. Most parties involved seem to think that it will happen.
Remember how bad baseball had become because of the disparity in team finances? Would the Steelers go the way of the Pirates? I don't want to find out. There aren't too many "large market" NFL franchises.
How about this mess called the NFL Network? This has become absolutely ridiculous. It was started by the NFL as a way to showcase the sport, and a place to feature games for all of the nation to see.
It hasn't worked out that way. The majority of the nation does not have the channel. Ongoing disputes with the major cable companies have prevented that. For those of us that live in the New York area, remember the Yes Network's feud with Cablevision? We lost nearly all of a Yankees season.
The cable companies want access to the NFL Sunday Ticket. They want to be able to sell it to their client base. I can't blame them, but both sides are stubborn, and the NFL has a contract with DIRECTV. It's beginning to alienate a very loyal fan base.
These are two very important issues that don't seem to be getting much attention. Roger Goodell has instead, decided to focus on fining every player that tackles someone. He has the referees throwing penalty flags for breathing heavy around a quarterback.
He has become quite the policeman, handing out fines and suspensions for "conduct unbecoming of an NFL player." And I agree with the approach. There needs to be accountability. It had become embarrassing at times.
But what about Adam Jones? Why, after all of his transgressions, has he been reinstated once again? I thought this was a zero-tolerance policy? It apparently doesn't pertain to Adam Jones.
Roger Goodell needs to get the house in order. I have officially launched my plea.