Tag Archives: NFL

Recovering from a weekend of profound loss

My wife and I have just experienced one of the worst weekends of our married life.

We’re fine, she and I. However, my wife is seeking to recover from a profound loss of a loved one. Her mother passed away Sunday morning. She was 93 years of age. Her life was long, eventful, containing the full range of emotions over its span on this Earth.

I won’t wallow in the loss we have suffered. I want instead to honor the memory of Loretta Mae Bellstrom.

She was many things. She led a complicated life, but managed to soldier through with good spirits. However, she could be melancholy, owing to the death of her own mother when Loretta was a baby.

She didn’t have specific memories of her mother, but she missed her every day of her life. That’s not surprising, given that she and the oldest of her siblings were raised by their maternal grandparents in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. “Grandma” and “Grandpa” spoke often to Loretta about her mother, so she came to know of her mother through the expressions of her beloved grandparents. Two other siblings lived with their father in Kenosha, Wis.

Loretta went though many of the heartaches that others have endured. However, she found solace by keeping her mind alert.

She was a relentless reader of books. She was proud of her library. Indeed, she introduced her oldest grandsons — my own sons — to the joy of reading. The older of my sons has retained that love of reading to this very day.

Loretta also was an avid fan of the Green Bay Packers. I wouldn’t call her a student of the game of football. But, man, she loved the Packers. Growing up where she did, it was only natural that she would love to follow the Packers’ fortunes, especially their years of greatness during the era of Vince Lombardi, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor.

Ah, but Loretta’s greatest intellectual stimulus — in my mind — came from her worldwide network of pen pals. I don’t know how many of these “pals” she had at its peak. I’m not sure she quite knew, either. She would describe the pen-pal network as being “in the hundreds.”

It spanned the entire planet. She began building this network when she was a little girl.

But here’s the most fascinating aspect of it: Loretta was dedicated to writing original compositions to every one of her pen pals — and she demanded that they do the same in response. If she received one of those “Dear Friends” mass mailings, she would cut that person off — on the spot! She wouldn’t respond to them. She would toss their address into the trash can and stick just to those who would write her with the same detail that she would write to them.

Indeed, her letters were descriptive, heartfelt and — before she became accustomed to using a typewriter — written with impeccable penmanship.

Well, that was then. The end came quietly on Sunday. Her body gave out. And why shouldn’t it? She put 93 years worth of life on it.

Loretta was a big part of our life for many years. We will miss her.

Spare me the boycott garbage, please

Nike puts out an ad featuring a former pro football quarterback who’s made more of a name for himself by “taking a knee” during the National Anthem playing at games.

Many Americans go nuts! They toss their running shoes onto bonfires. They declare they’ll never buy a Nike product for as long as they live.

OK, so Colin Kaepernick is now the face and voice of an athletic apparel company.

I might be alone on this, but … I don’t care!

I’ve never let politics get in the way of purchases I make or, for that matter, the entertainers I watch. I’m just not into that sort of political statement-making, man!

It’s not that I purchase a lot of Nike gear anyway. I don’t buy the shoes; they’re too expensive. I might buy a hoodie or some workout shorts. Am I condoning anyone’s politics? No. I’m merely purchasing a product.

My politics leans left. Do I refuse to watch John Wayne movies? Are you kidding me? My John Wayne collection at home is fairly impressive. Do I forgo Clint Eastwood films because “Dirty Harry” also tilts to the right? Hah! Not even!

One of my favorite network TV shows happens to be “Blue Bloods,” a story of a New York City family whose patriarch, portrayed by Tom Selleck, is the police commissioner. Selleck’s politics also lean right. Yes, I watch the show with zero regard to the actor’s political philosophy.

So it is with Nike and Colin Kaepernick. Sure, others view it differently. That’s their call. I am making mine. I don’t believe the young QB is “disrespecting” the military, the flag, the nation. He is merely protesting certain policies toward African-Americans. Let him protest. If Nike wants to use his name to promote its products, that’s fine, too.

Count me as one American who dislikes commercial boycotts as a political statement.

It’s not about flag, military, or love of country, Mr. POTUS

The 2018 National Football League season is about to commence and once again — as we were a year ago — we’ll be talking as much about players kneeling as much as we’ll talk about touchdowns, first downs and superlative athletic prowess.

The NFL has issued an edict at the suggestion of Donald Trump that requires players who are on the field to stand while they play the National Anthem.

Some players are ignoring the mandate. They are continuing to kneel in protest of law enforcement policy relating to African-Americans. Some of them are raising a clenched fist. The players are angry that police in some communities treat black citizens differently from other Americans.

Of course, the president has managed to twist and contort the argument into something it is not. He blames the players — almost of them black — of disrespecting the flag and the military men and women who fight to defend it. He did so again this week. He is demanding the players who kneel be suspended by their team.

C’mon, man! It’s not about a player’s love of country. It’s about policing. It’s about the treatment of some Americans by law enforcement.

To suggest that the players are disrespecting our military, or the flag, or the nation is to reduce this discussion into another litany of maximum demagoguery.

Do I wish the players had employed another method to protest? Yes. However, I recognize what they’re doing, what they’re saying and we should allow them the opportunity to speak out.

Hey, it’s in the U.S. Constitution!

Penalize players for kneeling?

I saw this Twitter message from Donald J. Trump.

He asks whether the NFL player contract requires players to stand with the hand over their heart when the National Anthem is being played.

Then he suggests that players should be suspended for the season without pay if they kneel a second time.

Hmm. Interesting. That kind of reminds of when the boxing authorities denied the late Muhammad Ali the ability to make a living because he refused to enter the U.S. Army; he protested the Vietnam War on religious grounds.

The Supreme Court would rule later, unanimously, that Ali’s suspension from boxing was unconstitutional. He was being denied the right to protest the government.

Aren’t the players protesting local governments’ treatment of African-American offenders? Isn’t there a parallel here between today’s protests and the one that The Greatest made a couple of generations ago?

Why do simple ceremonies become such hassles?

Presidents of the United States have been doing these kinds of things for, oh, about as long as anyone can remember.

Professional sports teams win championships. They get invitations to come to the White House to receive a nation’s congratulations delivered by the head of state. They have a few laughs. They take plenty of pictures. They hand the president a ceremonial jersey, usually with the name of the president and the No. 1 on the back.

That’s not how it goes with Donald J. Trump in the White House.

Oh, no. He decides to weigh in on a controversy created by young men who decide to “take a knee” to protest police brutality. The president goes on the stump and says something about team owners firing any “son of a bi***” who declines to stand for the National Anthem.

The players object. Some of them don’t want to go to the White House. The president disinvites them.

Then all hell breaks loose. Other athletes condemn the president. The White House responds. Back and forth it goes.

Good ever-lovin’ grief, man!

The Philadelphia Eagles won the Super Bowl. Most of the team accepted a White House invitation. Then most of them backed out. The White House issued a critical statement that accompanied a picture of Eagles players kneeling in prayer prior to the start of a game, but then said falsely that they were “taking a knee” out of protest.

The president has managed to turn feel-good ceremonies into a sort of political demonstration that does nothing but engender harsh feelings.

This is how you “unify” a nation? This is how you define “winning”?

It’s how I would define “presidential petulance.”

Trump tells Eagles to stay away? Good grief!

Donald J. Trump’s petulance has reached an astonishing level, although it’s hard any longer to keep up with his guy’s sense of outrage.

He has told the Philadelphia Eagles to stay away Tuesday from the White House. The Super Bowl champions were supposed to show up for a little ceremony, some happy talk from the president about their athletic prowess. They were going to have a few laughs, exchange some good tidings with the sports fan in chief.

Oh, but that “take a knee” matter got in the way. Some of the Eagles were going to boycott the meeting because of Trump’s public shaming of pro football players who kneel during the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” before a game. They protest police conduct and their enforcing the law when it involves African-Americans.

According to NBC News: In an unusual statement early Monday evening, Trump said the Eagles “disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country.”

The National Football League has just instituted a policy requiring players to stand during the Anthem’s playing. Trump applauded the NFL decision.

Good grief. Now the president has taken it all to a new level by telling the Philadelphia Eagles to, um, just stay away.

I just want to remind the president that the players’ protest has nothing at all to do with honoring the “great men and women of our military.” It has to do with a perception of police brutality. The athletes, as near as I can tell, are protesting peaceably.

And I am quite certain that every single one of them loves our country as much as the president does. They just want to see some changes made.

What is so terrible about that?

NFL has enough on its plate

As if the National Football League didn’t have enough on its plate with which to contend.

The NFL has just issued an edict ordering its players to stand for the national anthem when it’s played prior to football games.

There is another issue on the NFL’s plate. It’s called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

I got to write about it while working part time for Panhandle PBS. My task in those days was to write blogs pertaining to public service programming. “Frontline” did a landmark special on CTE in 2015 and I was privileged to offer some perspective on it.

Here is what I wrote in September 2015 for Panhandle PBS.

I mention this now because the NFL is back in the news. The topic this time — players who “take a knee” to protest police brutality against African-Americans — is unpleasant. It’s not nearly as grim and grievous as the “other big issue” that plagues the NFL to this day.

CTE is taking lives. The league is trying to do better at protecting these highly paid athletes/entertainers. It’s a full-time job for the NFL. I am wondering how in the world the league is going to focus on players who launch their protests by “taking a knee.”

NFL tells players to stand … or else

Freedom of speech and political expression has just been dealt an improper blow to the gut by the National Football League.

To be candid, this story makes my gut churn. The NFL, though, has made the wrong decision to restrict the manner in which its players can express themselves politically.

It began a couple of seasons ago when a player decided to kneel during the national anthem prior to the start of a game. Former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick wanted to protest the treatment of African-Americans by police.

At one level, I wish the young man had decided to stand during the anthem. His decision to “take a knee,” though, didn’t bother me greatly. I understand why he decided to do that.

But a presidential candidate, Donald Trump, decided to make a major issue out of it. Then the candidate was elected president in 2016 and he kept up the drumbeat. He called protesting NFL players “sons of bit****” who should be “fired.”

This week, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said players henceforth will stand when they play the anthem. They are free to stay in the locker room, but while they are on the field, they will stand.

Trump won one, yes? I guess so.

I want to stipulate something here. The nation’s founding was based on its honoring of peaceful dissent. Its very governing document, the Constitution, guarantees citizens the right to protest.

NFL players who “take a knee” are exercising their right to protest. I have heard the argument that as employees of professional football team owners, they are obligated to behave the way their bosses dictate.

Yes, but they are performing on a public stage, subsidized by the public that pays top dollar to watch them play a game. As a social media acquaintance of mine noted recently, these men aren’t “indentured servants.” They are highly paid professional athletes, some of whom choose to make a political statement.

They do so peacefully. And to my way of thinking, their kneeling doesn’t disrespect the nation in the least. It honors the basis for the nation’s very founding.

Non-politician has learned how to politicize

Edwin Jackson died in a tragic automobile accident over the weekend.

He was a linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts. His death is a tragedy for his family, his teammates and for professional football fans who followed his career.

So … how does the president of the United States respond?

He fired off two tweets. The first one said this: So disgraceful that a person illegally in our country killed @Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson. This is just one of many such preventable tragedies. We must get the Dems to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!

Five minutes, Donald Trump wrote this: My prayers and best wishes are with the family of Edwin Jackson, a wonderful young man whose life was so senselessly taken. @Colts

Which of these tweets more accurately reflects the president’s instincts? Is it the one that offered the typical knee-jerk political reaction to a human tragedy? Or is the second one that should have been the only comment coming from the president?

Donald Trump entered the 2016 presidential campaign by touting his non-political background. He boasted of his business acumen, his instincts, as well as his ability to cut the “best deals” in the history of Planet Earth.

Here we are. One year and a few days after Donald Trump became president, the non-politician has acquired the politician’s taste — if not the nuanced ability — for politicizing an event that should remain far from the political arena.


You go, Philly Eagles!

Normally, I might be a bit down in the dumps over the result of a Super Bowl contest that ended the way Super Bowl LII did.

You see, I am a fan of the American Football Conference. I root for the AFC team over the National Football Conference team in the big game. I have rolled that way dating back to the original AFL-NFL Championship Game, in 1967, when the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the Green Bay Packers.

This year, the Philadelphia Eagles outscored the New England Patriots in a barn-burner.

Why aren’t I saddened by the outcome? The Patriots have won more than their share of Super Bowls. Head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady sought their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy together.

The Eagles had been denied the fruit of victory in their previous two attempts: once by the Oakland Raiders and once by, that’s right, the Patriots.

So it was their turn Sunday to bring home the coveted trophy.

It’s hard to feel too badly for a sports franchise that has won so much for so long.

As for the underdog upsetting the favorites, I return to one of my favorite sayings about such things: That is why they play the game.