Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thursday Thrashing

It seems professional athletes are under an intense microscope these days.  Discipline in all sports has increased as fans cry out that cheaters and cheap shot artists be banned.  The question has become when is enough enough and will athletes ever truly learn?  The first question is posed towards the league and second towards the players.  The most prime example of perhaps going overboard is in the NFL.  Let’s face it, it’s the most popular sports league in America by far.  The TV ratings, the money, the attendance, and overall media coverage make it that way.  As I heard a few years ago, baseball may be America’s pastime but football is America’s obsession. 

James Harrison is probably at the forefront of the NFL issue.  He perhaps has a point...
Roger Goodell began his tenure as NFL commissioner in September of 2006.  His work includes season long suspensions for Pacman Jones and Donte Stallworth, half season suspensions for Chris Henry and Tank Johnson, and multiple game suspensions for Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, and Ndamukong Suh.  These were all rather warranted for their heinous crimes (or alleged, but seriously, Big Ben, who’s kidding themselves about that one?).  Goodell also isn’t afraid to challenge the coaching authority with a huge $500,000 fine to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick as well as top draft picks back in 2007.  Where it gets real testy for Roger is his fines that seem to show up week in and week out.  These hits include hitting defenseless receivers, helmet to helmet hits, hitting the quarterback pretty much anywhere, faking injuries, and just for fun because defense is non-existent.  While I agree that things do need to change, it seems that the nature of football has fundamentally changed under his tenure.  Offensive statistics have exploded because defensive players aren’t sure how to play their positions without getting fined or suspended.  Hopefully Goodell can truly show players, teams, coaches, and ownership what defines as illegal.

Baseball is just sad at this point...why did he even accept his MVP award?  What a joke
Major League Baseball honestly has become a joke in American culture.  In an up tempo society where everything is instantaneous, baseball has become slow and outdated.  On top of it, a lot of players aren’t even worthy of being called athletes.  Just take a look at some middle relievers or designated hitters and ask yourself if being that big qualifies as being a top athlete.  Does having tobacco in your mouth during a game make sense either?  So you can throw a ball fast or hit a ball really far.  I don’t care that much.  In fact, over the past 20 years, most players seem to get that edge by taking PEDs.  Just when you think baseball is making a move forward with an extra playoff team or just the players like McGwire, Sosa, Bonds, and Clemens now a distant memory, you get the recent NL MVP Ryan Braun facing a 50 game suspension.  You’ll hear it from me first, I dislike Commissioner Bud Selig.  I think he’s ancient history just his sport he is in charge of running.  I’m a believer he turned a blind eye to the scandals of PEDs and let baseball reach its peak without any worry.  I don’t know what baseball needs to move forward, but I can tell you where to start.  Start with the people that have been in charge during its dark days.

Yes, Kobe says "F**king Faggot" in this video

The NBA is in interesting case.  There is probably not a sport more visible than this one.  Fans sit right on top of the court.  Players don’t wear heavy equipment and their emotions are worn on their sleeveless jerseys.  David Stern actually has done a pretty decent job over the years running this league but it seems to have hit a wall in the past 5 years.  I believe it escalated with the brawl at the Palace featuring Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson entering the stands and beating up fans.  It then hit an all time low when Kobe Bryant was fined last season for using a homosexual slur.  Have we gotten so nitpicky as a society that trash talking now is too much?  God forbid you celebrate a touchdown but now you can’t speak during a game.  I understand it from where society wants to be accepting but it seems a little overdone.  I was hoping the lockout was going to change things because I think the players and owners needed a wakeup call before they lost all fans due to its eccentric players but I was wrong.

The game of ice hockey has been under the microscope as of late.  Head shots are running rampant as concussions have become an epidemic throughout the league.  Star players such as Sidney Crosby, Chris Pronger, Shea Weber, Kris Letang, Ryan Miller, and Claude Giroux all faced concussions.  In fact, Crosby and Pronger are most likely out the entire season because of it.  Hockey is a dangerous game of skill and contact.  Similar to football but played a much faster, quicker and “all-the-time” pace.  Brendan Shanahan has taken over NHL discipline and has tried his best with his explanation videos with suspensions and fines.  In fact, every player fears a Shana“ban.”  The next question has become why are head shots even allowed?  Why is there still fighting in the game when you are worried about head injuries?  The NHL is at a crossroads in terms of its physicality.  I hope Commissioner Gary Bettman and his goons can proactively change these rules in the next CBA because little 2-5 game suspensions for hitting a guy who ends up missing a month just doesn’t seem acceptable to me. 

Letang misses nearly 2 months and Pacioretty missed a couple games...what?

In conclusion, I hope each league can be proactive and truly redefine their sports in a positive way and not in a way that detracts from the game.  They need to have clear cut rules and consequences.  They need to be able to communicate these to players, coaches, staff, management, fans, and media alike so everyone understands them.  I think that’s been the missing link so far.  These constituents don’t fully understand the rules and/or rationale behind them.  Because like I mentioned in the intro, players need to be held accountable as well.  However, they need to understand why these procedures are in place so they can adapt.  Changing ones game is never easy.  When you’ve been trained your whole life to play one way, it is hard to change.  We all know one thing though:  there is only one constant in life, and that is change is always going to happen.  We can either sit by or jump on board.