Tag Archives: NFL

Is it gut-check time for the NFL?

The National Football League needs to re-evaluate a few priorities.

A young man is trying to find a spot with one of the NFL’s professional football teams. He’s a pretty good quarterback. He once led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013.

Then he did something foolish, perhaps even stupid. He decided to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem at the start of football games. Colin Kaepernick was protesting the plight of African-Americans. He decided to make a political statement by declining to stand for the Anthem.

He’s been vilified ever since.

Why the NFL re-evaluation? Well consider a thing or two. The league has allowed actual convicted felons to play football. They’ve been convicted of spousal abuse, sexual abuse, illegal dog fighting, drug peddling. Why, one of the game’s all-time greats — retired linebacker Ray Lewis — once pleaded no contest to a charge in connection with the murder of an individual. He retired recently and has been feted as one of the game’s giants. Huh? Yep.

Kaepernick has been convicted of nothing. He has committed no crime. He merely chose to make a political statement. Yes, I wish he hadn’t done it that way. But that is his prerogative. It’s in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees him the right to do what he did.

Kaepernick was waived by the 49ers. He wants to keep playing football. General managers, team owners and head coaches are afraid of fan reaction, I suppose.

Check out John Feinstein’s excellent column on Kaepernick right here.

Do you remember when a young boxer declined induction into the U.S. Army, citing his religious objection to the Vietnam War? The late Muhammad Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title in 1967 and then denied the opportunity to fight for a living. He was deprived of more than three prime years of his career. Then in 1970, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Ali had been denied his constitutional right of religious freedom.

Ali returned to the boxing ring and, well, the rest is history.

Colin Kaepernick is facing much of the same recrimination. It is unjust. It’s gut-check time in the NFL.

Yes, they should ‘fear’ CTE

Terrell Davis used to be a great football player.

The newly inducted Hall of Fame running back for the Denver Broncos now says he lives in fear — along with other former football players — of a disease he might get later on in life. It’s called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE.

Davis has reason to be very afraid.

The young man took a battering while carrying a football for the Broncos. He took many hits to the head, as did so many other professional football players. Indeed, studies have revealed recently that more than 80 percent of former NFL players are — or will be — afflicted by CTE, which ultimately diminishes cognitive ability.

“We’re concerned because we don’t know what the future holds. When I’m at home and I do something, if I forget something I have to stop to think, ‘Is this because I’m getting older or I’m just not using my brain, or is this an effect of playing football? I don’t know that.”

Read more about Davis’s comments here.

What does the NFL do about this? It already has taken steps to penalize players who hit other athletes on what they call “helmet-to-helmet contact.” The league has been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to players afflicted by CTE.

The NFL is now dealing almost daily with reports of athletes becoming afflicted with CTE at various stages of its progression.

The term CTE only recently has become part of every-day language, sort of like HIV/AIDS and ALS have become over the years.

Do these grown men stop doing what they do? Do we make football an illegal activity? Must the NFL resort to retooling the game into a two-hand touch football game? No, no and no.

But I surely can understand the fear that Terrell Davis and other former football players are expressing as they advance in years toward elderly status.

I suppose it would be imperative that the NFL do all it can to (a) protect the players on the field with improvements in the equipment they wear and (b) spend whatever it takes to care for those who are permanently damaged by the sport they choose to play.

Las Vegas Raiders? Oh, puh-leeeeze!

Media coverage of major professional sports these days seems to focus on salary caps, contract disputes, major stars’ holding out … and the relocation of franchises.

It’s the last item that troubles me today.

The San Diego Chargers are moving up the highway to Los Angeles; the St. Louis Rams already have returned to LA, from where they departed for St. Louis all those years ago. In fact, now that I think about it, the Chargers joined the old American Football League as the LA Chargers.

Oh, I know. There have been others: The Arizona Cardinals once played in Chicago, then St. Louis, now in suburban Phoenix; the Kansas City Chiefs once were known as the Dallas Texans; the Tennessee Titans moved from Houston, where they were the Oilers.

Now it’s the Oakland Raiders moving — of all places — to Las Vegas.

The Raiders’ move hurts a little more than the others.

As a teenager, I was a huge Raiders fan. My interest in the team goes back to the era of Daryle “The Mad Bomber” Lamonica and moved forward to the time of Kenny “The Snake” Stabler, Warren Wells, Fred Biletnikoff, Jim Otto (yes, I cheered the center, too), Ben Davidson … and a bunch of other guys.

Now the Raiders are moving to Sin City. Might they return — eventually — to the east side of San Francisco Bay? They did it once before; they moved to LA, played there for a time — won a Super Bowl while playing as the LA Raiders — and then returned to Oakland.

Ugh! I hate the idea of them moving yet again. They are stiffing their loyal fans, much in the manner that the old Cleveland Browns did when they moved to Baltimore, or when the Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis (in the middle of the night, I should add).

Pro sports doesn’t reward loyalty. It rises and falls on money.

I’m an angry Oakland Raiders fan today. I just cannot wrap my arms around the idea of the Las Vegas Raiders — or whatever they’re going to call the team.

NFL vows to fight Texas’s ‘bathroom bill’

Texas legislators might have picked a fight they are destined to lose.

They are considering a so-called “bathroom bill” that targets transgender individuals, requiring them to use restrooms according to their “biological sex.”

Opponents of Senate Bill 6 call it discriminatory against transgender people, those who could be in the process of changing their sexual identity.

Here’s where it gets tricky, particularly in a football-crazy state such as Texas: The National Football League might not return the Super Bowl to Texas if the Legislature goes through with enacting Senate Bill 6.

Was this year’s Super Bowl the last one in Texas?

Houston just played host to Super Bowl LI, doing a marvelous job of staging the event seen by tens of millions of TV viewers around the world. It might be the last time a Texas city enjoys the glory that fell across Houston.

It’s a complicated issue. According to the Texas Tribune: “The legislation does exempt stadiums, convention centers and entertainment venues that are owned or leased by a governmental entity from having to follow the state’s bathroom policies. That would include NRG Stadium in Houston, where the Super Bowl was held.”

There’s more to it. As the Tribune reported: “But Senate Bill 6 would apply to most college stadiums, which would be required to prohibit transgender Texans form using the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Under the bill, if a private association, business or sports league leased out a publicly owned venue for an event, the state or local governments that oversee that venue would have no say in the bathroom policies there for that event.”

There well might be little stomach for the National Football League to go through this kind of hassle in the future, which would deprive the state of considerable revenue generated by such a mega-event.

What’s more, it involves football, too!

Getting ready for the Big Game

A young colleague of mine told me today he is going to Houston this weekend. He’s going to attend a football game: the Super Bowl.

My friend is a diehard, true-blue, dedicated fan of the New England Patriots, who will face off Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

Our brief conversation prompts me to offer this off-kilter perspective on the game that’s about to overwhelm us. It is this:

I have no particular allegiance to a team. My preference is for the conference. The National Football League comprises two conferences: American and National.

Going back many decades, I have long been an American Football Conference fan. My reasons are weird. Perhaps there are others out there who share my loyalty to the AFC.

It goes back to the American Football League. The AFL came into being in 1960. I was intrigued that a brand new pro football league would challenge the NFL. AFL teams played an exciting brand of football. They scored a lot of points; they played initially before sparse crowds; yet they had some talented players engaging in some tackle football.

Then in 1966, the NFL and the AFL agreed to merge. It would occur at the start of the 1970 season. Before the merger took effect, the AFL played the NFL in a championship game. The Green Bay Packers won the first two of those games in 1967 and 1968. Then in 1969, the AFL’s New York Jets — led by quarterback Joe Willie Namath — surprised the sporting world by defeating the Baltimore Colts; the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFL battered the Minnesota Vikings in the following year’s championship game.

Then the leagues merged. My loyalty to the AFL was watered down somewhat when three NFL teams joined the AFC. They were: the Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts, the Cleveland Browns (now known as the Baltimore Ravens) and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Thus, my AFL loyalty was watered down somewhat by the presence of these old NFL teams playing in the same conference as the new teams.

But my AFC loyalty has remained strong. It has presented a struggle for me when the Steelers, Ravens and Colts have represented the AFC in Super Bowls. I continue to this day to root for teams that are held over from the old AFL … such as, oh, the New England Patriots.

I’ll root for the Patriots on Sunday, not so much because of the guys who play for them, or the fellow who coaches them. I shall root for them chiefly because of their origin as one of the founding franchises in the American Football League.

My young friend who’ll be somewhere in that Houston stadium cheering his lungs out Sunday for the Pats wasn’t even born when the leagues merged. He’s entitled to root for his team.

I’ll cheer for the league from which they came.

Go Pats!

A shout-out to two backup QBs

Tom Brady is basking in the glory tonight. Good for him. He gets to play in Super Bowl LI … that’s No. 51.

But wait a second, OK? The New England Patriots stud quarterback, who won the most valuable player award for tonight’s AFC championship game victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, ought to share the spotlight with a couple of young men who haven’t gotten so much as a mention tonight.

They would be Jimmy Garoppolo (pictured) and Jacoby Brissett.

Who are these fellows? They’re the backup quarterbacks who led the Patriots to a 3-1 start for the NFL season — while Brady was serving a four-game suspension over that infamous “Deflategate” controversy in 2015.

If the Patriots had floundered and flailed at the start of the season, they wouldn’t have been in position to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs, which well could have helped them defeat the Steelers tonight. Suppose, too, they had lost, say, another game or two to start the season. They might have become so dispirited that their fortunes the rest of the way could have turned out quite differently.

But they kept their poise in Brady’s absence. Garoppolo and Brissett held the team together while Brady watched. Then the Big Man returned and picked up where the backups left off.

I will tip my proverbial hat to Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, even if no one else is giving them the props they deserve.

Chargers’ owner shows his greed … go figure

I’m not a huge San Diego Chargers fan.

Still, as someone who used to follow the Chargers when they played exciting football in the American Football League, I am dismayed at the news that the team is moving up the Pacific Coast — to Los Angeles.

Greed drove the relocation, in my humble view.

The team’s owner, Dean Spanos, is worth billions. Does he need more money? He thinks so. The city wouldn’t pony up the dough for a new stadium, so he’s taking his football team to LA, he’ll build a new crib for his fellows — and the loyal San Diego fans who filled the Chargers’ stadium for decades will mend their broken hearts.

It sounds familiar, yes?

The Cleveland Browns left the Dog Pound for Baltimore, leaving those fans to mourn their loss; the Baltimore Colts skulked out of town in the middle of the night and made their getaway to Indianpolis; the Oakland Raiders once played in LA, then moved back to Oakland; the St. Louis Rams most recently relocated to the City of Angels; oh, and the Houston Oilers vacated the one-time Eighth Wonder of the World — the Astrodome — for Nashville.

Greed, man! It’s all greed!

My heart usually moans for the fans who are left behind. The owners of these teams — and there have been plenty others — often say the right things while thanking the fans for their loyalty.

However, business is business. Fan support? Who needs it? Now it’s the Chargers’ turn to stiff the fans who’ve ponied up good money over many years to watch their professional team play tackle football.

It saddens me.

How ’bout them Arlington Cowboys?

ALLEN, Texas — Something’s come over me.

I am welcoming the new year with my son, daughter-in-law and their family watching a Dallas, ‘er Arlington, Cowboys football game.

Am I now going to become a Cowboys fan who cheers wildly whenever this team scores touchdowns or prevents the other guys from scoring? Is there a new year’s resolution in the making?

Uhhh, I doubt it.

That’s not the point of this brief blog post, however.

What often interests me is why this team is still called the “Dallas” Cowboys.

The team came into existence in 1960. Its first few seasons took place in the Cotton Bowl, which is on property where they have the Texas State Fair every fall. It also is smack in the middle of Dallas.

Then the Cowboys moved to Irving in the early 1970s. Irving is a suburb between Dallas and Fort Worth.

After a few years in Irving, the Cowboys blew that stadium up and moved way over yonder to Arlington, where they play in that monstrous venue called AT&T Stadium; it’s also known more colloquially as “Jerry World” in honor of the Cowboys’ owner/general manager Jerry Jones.

I have had several friends over the years who have lived in Fort Worth. To a person they have bristled at the mention of the title “Dallas Cowboys.” It’s especially true these days, I reckon, given that Arlington sits at Fort Worth’s doorstep, about 25 miles or so west on Interstate 30 from Dallas.

One friend, who moved away from Fort Worth a number of years, refused adamantly to use the term “Dallas” when describing the NFL team. He would call ’em the “Irving Cowboys.”

I’m almost willing to bet a huge percentage of the fans who fill Jerry World on a given Sunday hail from places far from Dallas.

Does it really fit, therefore, to refer to this pro football team as being from Dallas? Just askin’, man.

Vick has paid his debt to society — in full!

It’s interesting to me how some people’s transgressions never get forgiven, the transgressor never repays his debt to society in the eyes of those he has angered.

Stand up, Michael Vick. I’m talking about you.

The Atlanta Falcons pro football franchise wants to honor several of its former stars during the Falcons’ final regular-season game this weekend. More than a few fans, though, don’t think Vick — once a standout quarterback for the team — should be among the honorees.

My own view? The guy has paid his debt. Let him take his bow.

Vick pleaded guilty to animal abuse when he was involved in a dog-fighting ring. He served nearly two years in a federal prison, got out and tried to resume his playing career.

Last I heard, Vick had cleaned up his act, changed his lifestyle and has apologized profusely for what he did to the animals he abused.


Shouldn’t there be at least some redemption in all of that? Shouldn’t the fans accept Vick’s apology and acknowledge that he paid his debt through that prison term?

Vick wants to retire from the NFL as a member of the Atlanta Falcons. He said this, according to the Sporting News: “With the city, the respect and the love was all there. It was genuine. When I think about my career and what I’m identified with, it is the Atlanta Falcons,” he said. “Maybe there are some conversations that need to be had. I look forward to it because that’s what’s dear in my heart. I’m just being honest and candid.”

I believe some of those “conversations” need to take place among the unforgiving fans.

Not every Texas resident roots for Cowboys

Mom had a million of ’em … sayings, quips, one-liners that is.

If she said something that I didn’t quite get or understand, she’d say, “Don’t look at me as if I just grew another head.”


Today while at work a very nice woman asked me something and my response prompted that look from her that might have made me ask about the appearance of a second head.

“So,” she asked, “did you watch the Cowboys game last night?”

“Um, no. Not all of it. I was in and out of the game,” I said.

“It was a great game,” she said. “Sure it was,” I replied, “if you’re a Cowboys fan.”

“What? You aren’t a Cowboys fan?” she asked.

“No. Not really,” I said.

“How can you live in Texas and not be a Cowboys fan?” she asked, sounding borderline incredulous.

I proceeded to tell her that I am not much of a pro football fan. I mentioned that one of my sons lives in a Dallas suburb and he and his wife are huge Cowboys fans. He watched the game, I told her, and I assured her he likely is deliriously happy today that the Cowboys won.

I told her I’ve lived in Texas for nearly 33 years. I told her I went to a Houston Oilers (remember them?) game years ago in the Astrodome. My favorite pro football team growing up was the Oakland Raiders; I alluded to my upbringing on the Pacific Coast, so I guess it was a regional thing with me. I suppose it’s the same way here.

Then something occurred consciously to me that I’ve more or less felt for many of the past three decades-plus my family and I have lived in Texas: Mere residency in this state does not necessarily make one a Texan.

I suppose if I were a true-blue Texan, I’d be a serious Cowboys fan. Since my aforementioned Cowboys fan son came of age in Texas, he probably qualifies as a Texan — along with his brother — way more than their mother and I do.

I did mention to the nice lady that I used to cheer for the Cowboys back in the 1960s when they tried to beat the Green Bay Packers for the National Football League championship. Roger Staubach, Mel Renfro — a fellow Oregonian — and “Bullet Bob” Hayes were my go-to guys back then.

Am I wrong to dismiss the Cowboys? I wish them well as the playoffs commence. But if you’ll excuse me for identifying the team for which I plan to root, I’m going to stick with the Raiders.

They’re having a stellar season, too.