Tag Archives: NFL

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.

Shameful.

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.

Nice ‘problem’ to have, Eagles

How would you like to be the head coach or the general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles?

You have a quarterback, Carson Wentz, who was thought to be the prohibitive favorite to be the National Football League’s most valuable player. Then he gets hurt.

Wentz’s backup, Nick Foles, steps in and leads the team to the Super Bowl. Then, against the odds, the backup throws for three touchdowns and catches another one.

The Eagles win, defeating one of those “teams of destiny,” the New England Patriots, who have a pretty good QB of their own, a guy named Tom Brady.

So … what now?

Wentz will come back from his injury. But what about Foles? What do you with Foles, who won the Super Bowl MVP award while lighting up the stadium with the performance of several lifetimes?

Foles is nowhere the end of his playing career. The young man is a creaky 29 years of age, for crying out loud.

Good luck, Philly, as you ponder how you might cope with this “problem.” Congratulations, too, for one hell of a victory!

NFL does well with its Man of Year selection

I don’t normally get excited about pro football awards.

This year is different. The National Football League today announced its Walter Payton Man of the Year award. It goes to someone I just knew would get it: J.J. Watt, the standout defensive end for the Houston Texans.

What did Watt do to earn this honor, named after the late Walter Payton, the Hall of Fame running back and one of the great all-round great gentlemen of all pro sports?

Watt decided to launch a fundraising effort to help victims of his adopted hometown of Houston, after the wrath it suffered from Hurricane Harvey. He set a modest goal of $250,000.

Uh, Watt finished with a lot more than that. He ended up raising a cool $37 million for the waterlogged residents of Houston, whose homes were destroyed by the epic rainfall.

J.J. Watt is a tremendous athlete. I am delighted to know that the NFL has recognized him for possessing a tremendous heart.

Many of us far away from the coast saw this award coming. Our hearts were broken when Harvey came ashore not once, but twice along the Texas Gulf Coast. It pounded the Coastal Bend with killer winds and storm surge, then backed away from the coast and returned as a tropical storm.

It was on its second visit to the coast that Harvey did its damage to Houston and to the Golden Triangle, just east of the big city.

J.J. Watt stepped up in a big-time way to raise money for those victims — and has richly earned the title of the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year.

Well done, young man. I would bet that Walter Payton, the man they called “Sweetness,” would be proud of you, too.

Super Bowl: Who gets the cheers?

Oh, the quandary I face.

The Super Bowl will occur next weekend and for the first time in about, oh, 52 years I don’t know for which team I should cheer.

Some members of my family know that I am a fairly dedicated American Football Conference fan. I used to watch the former American Football League games over the NFL back in the very old days. When the AFL merged with the NFL in 1970, I rooted for old AFL teams every time they played the NFL teams. There was a caveat, though: Three NFL teams — the Baltimore Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns — moved to the AFC, so I grudgingly rooted for them as well. Let’s not forget that the leagues met in four Super Bowls prior to their merger, with the AFL teams winning two of those games.

This year I am faced with this problem: The New England (formerly the Boston) Patriots are playing the Philadelphia Eagles. Normally I’d root hard for the Pats, except they’ve so damn many of these Super Bowls I am inclined to send good karma to the Eagles, who’ve never won the big game. The Pats beat them years after my beloved Oakland Raiders smoked the Eagles.

I have tumbled off the AFC bandwagon once, when I cheered for the New Orleans Saints to defeat the Indianapolis Colts. Lo and behold, the Saints won and gave the Big Easy plenty to cheer after the misery those folks had endured from Hurricane Katrina less than five years earlier.

It might take some kind of heart-warming story to make me switch my loyalty to the NFC for Super Bowl LII. Then again, perhaps I will simply tire of hearing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tell us how great he is.

I mean, c’mon! Would a sixth Super Bowl victory make him even an greater athlete than he already is?

Oh … the humanity!

You go, Marcus and the Titans!

There once was a time when I despised the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League.

You see, they once were known as the Houston Oilers. Then the Oilers’ owner, Bud Adams, decided he wanted a nicer place to play his home football games. The Astrodome — the former Eighth Wonder of the World — wasn’t good enough for him, so he packed his team up and moved to Nashville.

I lived with my family for 11 years in Beaumont and I became a fairly diehard Oilers fan. I hated the Titans for quite some time.

Then they did something rather cool. The Titans drafted a young quarterback out of the University of Oregon. Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy playing QB for the Ducks, which happen to be my favorite college football team; I am a native of Oregon, which you might already know.

With that draft pick, the Titans elevated themselves from the hated to the revered. Just … like … that.

Last night, I watched Mariota perform some gridiron magic that made me proud to call this former Duck one of my homeys.

The Titans trailed the Kansas City Chiefs by 21-3 at halftime of their American Football Conference wild card playoff game. The teams took the field in the second half and Mariota then demonstrated why he is considered the Titans’ “franchise quarterback.”

From from the Chiefs’ 6-yard line, Mariota tossed a pass, which got deflected and caught the pass himself — and then he dived into the end zone for another touchdown. Mariota to Mariota! Then he fired a 22-yard touchdown pass.

Late in the game, Mariota handed the ball off to another Heisman winner, Derrick Henry, who scampered around the left end — and got a decisive block from none other than … Marcus Mariota. Quarterbacks don’t usually throw their bodies at defensive players, let alone brutish linebackers.

The Titans won the football game 22-21.

I am a happy Titans fan today.

Well done, Marcus. You made this native Oregonian might proud.