The NFL season is finally underway, and no one is more excited for it than yours truly. Between rooting for the Bengals, rooting against everyone else (especially those women-disrespecting-Steelers), playing Fantasy Football, and gambling, the start of football season is a long-awaited prize. However, I can’t help but notice the one blinding, glaring, upside-down aspect of the NFL; for a league that is so concerned with the image it promotes and the standards it upholds (oh, and the money it makes), it is shocking how much the league rewards its members for bad behavior.
I know, I know. My Bengals are the perfect example of bad behavior getting rewarded: Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, Ced Benson, Terrell Owens…the list goes on forever. But the problem is beyond that. Yes, it is somewhat ridiculous that Pacman Jones can have a rap-sheet as long as Omar from The Wire and still get a spot on a roster. It is somewhat ridiculous that T.O. can be a human grenade (not the kind from Jersey Shore) within numerous franchises, and still continue to sign multi-million dollar contracts, or that Michael Vick can cruelly murder innocent animals and still get consideration as a starting quarterback. Yes, I see the insanity in all of that. But to be honest, it only scratches the surface of the NFL’s propensity to compensate misconduct.
Look at Ben Roethlisberger. Despite the fact that I would hate Big Ben even if he was saving seagulls from the oil spill during the day and ridding the world of graffiti by night, he is a great example of how the league rewards players, especially its stars, for bad behavior. The man has two instances of sexual assault over the past two years, both of which garnered legal action, as well as attention from the police and the league. And regardless of what you think about the cases or the validity of the charges against him, the league deemed his actions questionable enough to garner a suspension.
In April of this year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Ben for the first six games of this season, for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Should he have gotten more games? Less? Irrelevant, because he was given six, so that’s just the way it should have been. Except that not even five months later, Ben’s suspension was reduced to four games. Why is this exactly? Was the fact that Roethlisberger had avoided an arrest for less than half a year warranting of two games off the sentence? Is the absence of controversy – the lack of bad behavior – really worthy of leniency? Prisoners don’t even get parole hearings after five months. You give a kid candy for succeeding at his toilet training, not for making himself constipated.
Exhibit B: Darrelle Revis. Revis is widely considered the top defensive player in the league. He shuts-down opposing wide receivers as easily as Eminem makes white people think they have flow. And after an incredible season last year, in which Revis helped lead the Jets to the AFC Championship game, Darrelle felt he deserved to be a little better compensated. Despite being smack in the middle of his six-year rookie contract, Revis felt that the $1 million he was slated to receive this season wasn’t enough (and considering his profession and performance, he’s probably right). So the Jets’ cornerback decided he would sit out the season until his organization compensated him properly. He essentially quit on his team and his city, skipping organized team activities, training camp, and preseason, just so he could pad his wallet. And what was his punishment? He signed a four-year, $46 million contract, with $32 million guaranteed, and got his starting spot back without any offseason reps. Try not showing up to work for the next two months, and see how willing they are to throw money at you.
You can go back and look at the NFL over the past few years and undoubtedly see more and more examples of players, coaches, and management getting some type of reward, despite what most would consider “douchy” behavior. And it could all culminate after this season, with the impending lockout looking more and more ominous. According to all of those in the know, there is a very real possibility that we will not have professional football in 2011, or at least not on schedule. Why? Well, to those within in the league (players and owners alike), it’s due to a lot of logistics and numerous details, some of which are probably reasonable and deserved – especially on the players side of the argument. But to the fans, the reason there might be no football is simple dollars and sense. The average football lover, and general public as a whole, could really care less about the inside details of the labor arguments. In our eyes, we see two sides of millionaires arguing over money. We have no sympathy for that. All we want is football.
We have to make sure we enjoy the NFL this season. Cherish the comfort in knowing that with each new Sunday that comes around, we will have a new batch of games to watch. Because if the NFL stays true to itself, this collective bargaining process will end in a long, pointless, stupid holdout, resulting only in us as fans paying more money for tickets, merchandise, and TV packages, all while our interest continues to grow and the players and owners receive more and more money. Or, as it’s known around the league, business as usual.
Thanks for reading