Archive for the ‘NFL’ Category

Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the Washington Sports Fan

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

CB

Those of or around my generation remember Charlie Brown attempting to kick the football held by that female joker Lucy. What was fascinating is not that Lucy pulled the ball away to get Charlie Brown once. Anybody can be had once. However, ole Chuck kept falling for Lucy’s okie-doke over and over again. It was suckerism on steroids.

I hate to say it, well actually, I do not, but the Washington sports fan reminds me of Charlie Brown.

When you think about it, it is incredible. How can anyone run the same game on his/her victims repeatedly and have them fall for it repeatedly? It is not as if the game has been cleaned up or got a makeover. It is as if Bernie Madoff were released from prison tomorrow and a significant number of his victims would buy into yet another of his Ponzi schemes.

Every year across the four different major sports, the fans of this area are every bit as optimistic as Charlie Brown charging to kick that damn football. The fact that history does not dissuade them from accepting their inevitable fate is either delusional or optimistic on the level of spiritual faith……some will argue that their little difference between the two.

This isn’t just hyperbole. When the Cleveland Cavaliers won its first NBA title in 2016 and the first of any kind for the city since the 1964 Browns, that left Washington, DC and St. Paul/Minneapolis in the lead for title droughts among cities with at least three major sports teams. Not since 1991 has either city/metropolis won a title.

It is not just that they have not been able to win a title in nearly 30 years, but how they have lost. Each sports team has managed to tease its fans just enough to make them dare to believe, only to give up the ghost in the end. Personally, if my teams are not going to be good, put me out of my misery early. Giants let me know by May, Lakers let me know by December, etc., etc.

The biggest culprit among Washington sports teams is clearly the Capitals. They have blown five 3-1 post-season leads to lose game seven, twice to their nemesis, the Pittsburgh Penguins. I cannot think of any franchise in any of the four sports that has the number of another franchise the way the Pens own the Caps. Of their ten playoff encounters, Washington has only beaten Pittsburgh once.

The Penguins may as well be Lucy.

Then there is the Washington Nationals, who have yet to win a playoff series. They have been eliminated at home three times. I was at the 2012 collapse against the Cardinals and it was by far the most depressing sports atmosphere of which I had ever been a part. I was there in 2014 when my Giants rolled in for two games and rolled out with two wins. In 2016, it was the Dodgers, and last year it was the Cubs.

The Cardinals, Giants, Dodgers, and Cubs may as well be Lucy.

Then there is the Wizards who are good for winning road games against superior teams only to come back home and lose when they have a chance to get a strangle hold on a series. The last time the Washington Wizards franchise won at least 50 games was 1979, when they were the Bullets and defending NBA champions.

Finally, there is the football team. I contend that just maybe its racist name might be the curse over all of the city’s sports teams. Until they change it, I have no sympathy for them.

It is a shame because Washington has one of the truly great fanbases in America.

However, as the late native Washingtonian great Marvin Gaye would sing, there are “four” things in life for sure: taxes, death, trouble, and Washington sports fans believing that this year Lucy will not pull the damn football away.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

The Baffling Hall of Fame Denial of Joe Jacoby

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

JJ

It is not uncommon for an honor or denial of an honor to happen in sports with which I do not agree. However, in most such cases, I at least understand the why. For example, Terrell Owens should have been a first ballot Hall of Famer. He was not simply because a number of voters just did not like him. As sorry of an explanation as that is, it was an explanation.

No such explanation is at all clear why after 20 years of eligibility, the great Washington offensive tackle Joe Jacoby is still not a Hall of Famer.

The resume is easy to note. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, two-time All Pro, and three-time Super Bowl champion.

The situational case for Jacoby is even more compelling. He was undrafted out of Louisville and thus perhaps the greatest undrafted linemen (argument from Miami’s Jim Langer) in NFL history. Along with guard Russ Grimm, who is deservedly in the Hall of Fame, he was one of the two best linemen on one of the 2-3 best offensive lines of the Super Bowl era, along with the Cowboys of the 90s and the Raiders of the 70s. This line was affectionately known as, “the Hogs”. My primary reasoning for liking his team was that they could beat the Cowboys. Jacoby’s arrival initiated a changing of the guard in the NFC East from Dallas to Washington as the “Bully on the Block”. But in addition to that, what was fun and unique about the Washington O-line of the 80s is that their effectiveness was not so much based on scheme or chop blocking, but on raw smash-mouth football.  It is said that they only used four different running plays. They were known to walk up to the line of scrimmage and literally tell the opposing defensive linemen what they intended to do and never bluffed. As Grimm said in his Hall of Fame induction speech, “there is nothing more satisfying than to move a grown man in the direction you want to move him and there is absolutely nothing he can do about it”. That is about as good of a drop the mic statement I have ever heard in football.

That is what this offensive line routinely did for the better part of 12 years. It was the mainstay over the Joe Gibbs era, the greatest in franchise history. For the three Super Bowl titles, there were three different starting QBs, 3 different primary running backs.  The constant was Art Monk at receiver and the offensive line with Grimm and Jacoby. That point cannot be overemphasized. If you look at Super Bowl winners, you will find a 68 Jets team that was subpar on defense. The 81-49ers team did not have much of a running game. What you will not find is any Super Bowl winning team that is subpar on the offensive line.

Another factor that speaks to Jacoby’s greatness and Hall of Fame merit was the caliber of pass rushers he faced. The Bears had Richard Dent, the Vikings had Chris Doleman, the 49ers had Fred Dean and then Charles Haley, the Saints had Rickey Jackson and Pat Swilling, and the Rams had Kevin Greene. Those were merely pass rushers outside of the division. Within the NFC East, twice a year from the all-important left tackle positon, the QBs blind side, Jacoby saw Clyde Simmons and Reggie White from the Eagles, “Too Tall” Jones, Harvey Martin, and then Jim Jeffcoat from the Cowboys, Curtis Greer and then Freddie Joe Nunn from the Cardinals, and finally Leonard Marshall and the great Lawrence Taylor from the Giants.  Every pass rusher listed here is either in the Hall of Fame or at the very least recorded multiple double-digit sack seasons over his career. There is no way Washington gets out of the NFC 4 times, much less win three Super Bowls unless Jacoby could hold his own blocking these game wreckers.

Therefore, for me the case is clear. I do not know why it is not for Hall of Fame voters, but I have two theories. One is that Jacoby is not the best at lobbying for himself. He is clearly intelligent and a man of diverse talents, which is evident from his starting multiple successful businesses in his post football days. However, he is not the most articulate and it just does not seem to be in his personality to promote himself. Of course, in the world of professional sports where one’s work is as transparent as any other endeavor, being well spoken should not have anything to do with one’s Hall of Fame candidacy.

My only other theory is the fact that the Jacoby teams during that era are generally underappreciated. When most think of that era, they think of the stylish offensive trendsetting 49ers, deservedly so given they won five Super Bowls, to include a repeat in 88-89. Others will think of the Bears with their Super Bowl Shuffle and historic 85 defense, or the Giants playing out of New York more than Washington does. Yes, New York had Washington’s number but Washington won three Super Bowls, which is the the same as the Giants and Bears combined, in that era. In 1983, Washington also set what was then the single season scoring record. Would the Washington teams from Jacoby’s era be more appreciated had they finished the mission of repeating as Super Bowl champs by beating the Raiders? Likely. That is no excuse.

Joseph Erwin Jacoby belongs in the Hall of Fame and the longer he is denied the more the voters indict their own credibility.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

TEN REASONS TO HATE THE PATRIOTS THAT DON’T HAVE A DAMN THING TO DO WITH FOOTBALL

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

NEP

The football related reasons have been covered: they are cheaters; they own my Steelers and they just win too damn much.

But there are even more non-football related reasons to hate the New England Patriots. Coming up with 10 was not hard. Deciding which reasons to leave off the list was near impossible.

So, feel free to reorder as you see fit. Here they are:

Reason 10: “New” England??? The name New England shows that the area suffers from Stockholm syndrome, which is characterized by an oppressed or kidnapped victim identifying with and even defending their oppressor or captor. Why on Earth would you name yourself after the tyrannical country you fled, if those circumstances were the primary reason you left? The only explanation for this is that their intention all along was to do to others the very thing they called unjust in England. In other words, they were not against oppression. They just wanted to be the oppressors rather than the oppressed.

TB

Reason 9: Brady gets the model wife. No jealousy here from me. I have never thought Giselle Bundchen was all that attractive. Throw a nickel out the window and you’ll hit 25 women by accident that look as good or better. It’s just that the storyline of QB marrying the super model is clearly hate worthy.

Reason 8: Ted Williams. The late Red Sox Hall of Famer said that Joe DiMaggio was the best player he ever saw. DiMaggio was truly great. But he was not Willie Mays, period.

Reason 7: Boston Tea Party hypocrisy. Taxation without representation is what we have always been taught was the rallying cry. And yet to this day, if you are a resident of Washington DC, you have no full congressional representation, despite being among the most highly taxed regions in the country. You would think the area of the Tea Party revolt of all places would be allies against this injustice, but noooooooo. Not a peep out of New England in DC’s defense.

Reason 6: The Red Sox. They were the last team in baseball to get a Black player. Jackie Robinson came up in 1947. It would be 12 more years, in 1959, before the Red Sox would yield.

Reason 5: The Celtics. Beyond beating my Lakers year after year, how the city treated the Great Bill Russell when he played for them was shameful. For years he would not return to the city of his greatest athletic accomplishments.

Reason 4: The annoying accent. All New Englanders should be mandated by law to learn sign language so that we wouldn’t have to hear them talk.

Reason 3: They gave us Dr. Seuss. a straight up bigot who reinforced racist notions through his cartoons.

Reason 2: School desegregation. It was every bit as vicious in the this northern “Liberal” city as it was anywhere in the South.

Reason 1: They gave us the Bush family. I do not subscribe to the notion that either daddy or baby Bush weren’t so bad just because of how bad the current president is.

There you have them. I could have written 20 or 30 but no time or space. Of course, whenever one is this vested in hating a sports team, rest assured that team is very good. In this case, for the better part of the past 20 years, the Patriots have been even better than very good. They have been great, which is why this amount of hate is actually the highest compliment you can pay them. Hate is too valuable of a sports commodity to be wasted on losers. You will never hear anyone express frustration over how much they hate the Browns.

Rings

Any reasonable person must give the Patriots their due. But reason and hate cannot occupy the same space. You must choose one or the other and when it comes to the Patriots, I choose hate. They will always occupy a special place in my HOF (Hate of Fame), alongside Notre Dame Football, Duke Basketball, and of course those damn LA Dodgers.

So, for all the reasons alluded to here, this Super Bowl Sunday, I’ll kick back, raise a Bud Light to salute and root for PHILLY, PHILLY!

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Washington was Right About Cousins All Along

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

KC

With the agreement to acquire Kansas City QB Alex Smith, the marriage between Washington and its QB, Kirk Cousins, is all but over. Though Smith’s contract extension details have yet to come out, my guess is that it is front loaded for him and back end friendly, which would allow Washington to get out should he start to decline quickly. Cousins will become a free agent and command in the range of $27-29 million per year, making him the highest paid player in the league.

The issue was not if Washington would have saved money signing QB Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal two years ago. They obviously would have. If I had purchased a nice car in 2016, it would have cost me less than in 2018. But could I have afforded the maintenance and up-keep necessary for that vehicle to function at its maximum best? If the answer is no, why buy the car?

The issue was if they had signed him, would they have been any better off than the Baltimore Ravens have been since they re-signed Joe Flacco? Is Kirk Cousins a top 5-10 caliber QB that will keep you in the hunt for a Super Bowl every year? If the answers to these two questions are no, then Washington was right all along about Cousins.

Kirk Cousins is a more than adequate starting NFL QB. He was never as bad as ESPN talk show host Bomani Jones suggested, comparing him to Ryan Fitzpatrick. He also is not a top 5-10 guy, which is the only QBs teams should lock up with the big money.  The two glaring concerns I have about Cousins as a QB are: 1) that he is not a confident down field passer; and 2) he is not a good improviser. These happen to be the two QB aspects that defenses fear the most. They do not fear a guy whom they know will stay in the pocket and throw short passes most of the day. That is what Kirk Cousins has been.

It’s about now when some reading this will respond with stats. They do in fact look good for Cousins over the past 3 seasons. They are also terribly misleading. At no time in football history have QB stats been as artificially embellished as they are today. There are several factors that have created this environment: 1) the generational influence of the West Coast offense which emphasizes the short passing game (of which Washington Head coach Jay Gruden is a disciple) and; 2) increased defensive sophistication in scheming, especially in taking away big plays.  As a result, what was at one time the 3rd or 4th option, the check down pass to a back has now become the second and sometimes primary target. This leads to higher pass completion percentages and appeals to the defensive-minded coaches as well, as it is more risk averse. These same coaches are from the school of thought that says, “just don’t lose us the game”. This philosophy leads to a game manager mindset in the QB and less down field passes.

Don’t feel bad for Cousins. He is going to benefit greatly from a perfect storm of factors, most of all being the fact that the demand for quality QBs so far outweighs the supply. That is how the likes of Brock Osweiller and Mike Glennon could cash in and neither are near as good as Cousins. Some team will make Cousins the highest paid QB/player in league history. That’s just the way this thing works.

It’s not that you can’t win a Super Bowl with Kirk Cousins as your QB. You can. The 2000 Ravens won with Trent Dilfer, the 2002 Bucs won with a Brad Johnson past his prime, and of course the 2015 Broncos won with a washed-up Peyton Manning. What did all 3 of those teams have in common: all-time great defenses and the inability to sustain the success on an annual basis. Bill Cowher kept my Steelers in contention with a QB list of Neil O’Donnell, Kordell Stewart, and Tommy Maddox. But they could not get over the hump until Big Ben came. The Steelers were also an aberration in that they draft and develop players on an exceptionally high level, which makes them less desperate to over pay to sign free agents or re-sign their own proven players.

Don’t let this year’s NFL conference champion QBs fool you. Yes, you can win with a less than top 5-10 QB, but good luck at sustaining a team in the Super Bowl hunt without one. There are only two viable tactics for getting an NFL QB: you either lock up the top 5-10 guy to a long-term deal or you get a guy at a discount and invest the rest in your defense and other areas of your team. What hamstrings a team is when it locks up a guy in the 12-15 range, which is where Cousins is, to a long term deal that won’t allow it to add the talent around him.

Washington concluded this about Cousins and they were right. As one analyst put it, they wanted a prenuptial agreement with him and he found it insulting and refused to sign it, knowing what he could get on the free market. I don’t blame either side.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Why the Rooney Rule is Not Enough

Monday, January 29th, 2018

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

RR

In the Spring of 1994, I was completing my first year as a teaching intern at the Lowell School in Washington, DC. It was one of several prestigious private schools in the area, predominantly white, that had formed a minority teaching intern program. The idea was that this would create a pool of teaching candidates from which the schools could choose from to increase the diversity among their teaching cadre. As a result, that Spring I had multiple interviews with schools in the area, from Sidwell Friends (where the children of presidents have attended) to Landon. The interviews had two things in common: 1) all the schools were run by and served the upper class of DC; and 2) there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I was going to get hired.

But I served their purpose of being able to say, “We reached out”.

Whenever this time of year in the NFL comes around, it reminds me of that experience.  Black coaching candidates are on display like show ponies, often with little to no chance of actually getting hired. It’s all a byproduct of the Rooney Rule, which mandates that teams interview a minority candidate for NFL head coaching and general manager vacancies. It also validates my contention that the Rooney Rule, though effective to some extent, is not enough to get a management demographic that is reflective of the player demographics in the NFL.

To really understand the core issues here, it’s important to realize that the hiring process anywhere consists of two fundamental aspects: 1) Systemic; and 2) Cultural.

Systemic change can be largely accomplished through changes in policies, especially those with foreseeable outcomes. In this respect, the rule has been generally effective. Since its inception in 2003, more minority head coaches and GMs have been hired than in all the 70 years prior in the NFL. Its major limitation is that it does not extend to the most common source of head coaching candidates, which is offensive and defensive coordinators. The conventional thinking is that a head coach needs to be able to hire his own staff to give him the best chance to succeed. I have no football-based rejection of that notion, so I will not pretend otherwise.

The other aspect of hiring is culture. While systemic change is largely fostered by changes in policies and rules, the only way to change a culture is to either change the minds of people or get rid of those whose mindsets are at odds with the culture one wants to build.

And that is essentially where the Rooney Rule is limited in its capacity to change the hiring practices in the NFL. As the old saying goes, “you cannot legislate morality”. What happened when laws were introduced to curb money laundering, mandating banks to report deposits of $10K or more? The launderers simply kept their deposit under that number, because while the law could modify observable behavior, it could do nothing to change the mindset of the launderers. They put on the dog and pony show of compliance while continuing to think in a way that undermined the spirt of the law. Likewise, NFL teams do the same when they invite Black men to interview for jobs that they have no intention of seriously considering to hire.

I am not suggesting that there is no value in going through the interview process. I actually believe that there is. I am suggesting emphatically that the interview skills of Black head coaching candidates are not remotely the central issue. The mindset of those in power is the issue.

I serve as a Know Your Rights facilitator through The American Civil Liberties Union. The trainings are geared to educate the public about what to do and what not to do when pulled over by the police. I believe that they can literally save lives and thus cannot be trivialized. I am, nevertheless, somewhat conflicted when I do them because it can leave the impression that those being killed are the problem. They are not. The problem is the mindset of the people with the power to kill them with impunity.

The problem is not the coaching candidates. The problem is the mindset of those with the power to hire the candidates, which specifically are the 32 NFL owners, most of whom are white and all of whom are very, very rich. If you believe anyone that gets to that place in life is going to change his mind because of a rule, good luck.

Ultimately, the Rooney Rule needs to stay in place for the clear improvement it has shown and because doing nothing is not an option. It is an important step in the right direction on the systemic side of the issue. But we should be sober about its limitations.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Coaching, Parenting, and Lessons from the Saints’ Collapse

Friday, January 19th, 2018

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

MW

Nothing in sports is second-guessed and dissected more than coaching. Few other things in the lager society are second-guessed and dissected more than parenting. Without question, coaching is hugely influential on the development of a player. Likewise, parents are even more so in the development of their children. Another common thing between coaching and parenting is the degree to which both are prematurely judged by people who are not privy to all the factors that go into coaching or parenting. The last play of the Saints vs. Vikings playoff game made me think of this.

As you all likely know by now, the Vikings were down 24-23 with less than a minute remaining and in desperation mode. Vikings’ QB Case Keenum lofted a pass up for receiver Stephon Diggs, who leaped to catch the pass and then ran another 40 yards or so for a game winning TD. He was able to do this due to one of the worst defensive non-plays I have seen in my life, on any level of football. Saints DB Marcus Williams lowered his head and blindly missed him, completely allowing Diggs to run for history.

 

I was, as I imagine most of you were, speechless.

 

Then I noticed a few comments on social media questioning how he was coached? Still others theorized that he was afraid to get a penalty. I thought to myself, “What the hell are these people talking about?”. Youth football players are taught at 6 years old to see what they hit.

 

Sometimes a rock is just a rock.

 

This had absolutely nothing to do with inept coaching. The young man simply messed up. He has had a very solid rookie season with 4 interceptions and if he survives this mentally, he seems to have a bright NFL future. But there is no need to overanalyze this. It’s not throwing the ball into traffic on the goal line in the Super Bowl when you have Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. Now that was boneheaded coaching and we didn’t need to know any other factors to conclude that when the Patriots beat Seattle in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago.

 

These two examples are extremes. Sunday with the Saints, coaching was clearly not the issue. With Seattle, coaching clearly was the issue. But most coaching decisions, like most parenting decisions, have a great deal more nuance and gray factors to consider, and only those involved or very close to the situation are privy to these factors.

 

One of the best examples was how the late former Eagles coach Buddy Ryan handled the substance abuse problem of a young talented receiver named Chris Carter. When the team cut Carter, everyone familiar with his talent wondered why take such a young dynamic weapon away from QB Randall Cunningham? To that Ryan would only say, “All he does is catch touchdown passes”. For years, Ryan took ridicule for that comment and the decision to let Carter go. The receiver would go on to resurrect his life and career in Minnesota, which eventually led to his enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Carter would set the record straight years later, acknowledging that his release was all about how unreliable he had become, due to his substance abuse problem, and had nothing to do with his on-field performance. Had that come out, Ryan was afraid that Carter would be blackballed from the league. So, Ryan took the hits for years, never revealing the real reason until Carter was ready. He was actually trying to protect his player.

 

Go to any town hall meeting, hair salon, or barber shop, and listen closely for that inevitable moment when the discussion turns to today’s youth. That will start the clock toward the “it all starts in the home” declaration. The issue is not if the statement is largely true. It is! The issue is that it is often a simplistic cookie-cutter, broad-brush explanation for the behavior of youth by people who have little interaction with the very youth they castigate. Regardless of parenting, there will always be youth who decide to drink and drive with disastrous results. It does not mean parent modeling or condoning of such behavior was the root cause. Likewise, players will sometimes fail well below their professional standard. It doesn’t mean bad coaching is the root cause.

 

Whether it’s coaching or parenting, I don’t know why so many are so hell bent on making such conclusive public critiques while being so poorly informed about the individual situation. I do believe it often says more about the critic than it does about those being critiqued.

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

And the Platform Pimp of the Year is…………………..Jon Gruden!

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Donald Trump won it last year, with Daddy Ball taking a distant 2nd.

When the Oakland Raiders rehired Jon Gruden to a 10-year/$100 million contract, he without question did the best job of pimping his Monday Night Football analyst platform for the greatest return. Yes, the deal is back loaded with the first 5 years actually paying him in the range of “only” $5 million per year and the last 5 paying in the range of about $15 million per year. One would think even that amount is heavily incentivized with bonuses for making playoffs, winning super bowl, etc…but this is the Raiders. Common sense isn’t so common.

Let me be clear what I mean by “Platform Pimp”. A platform pimp is anyone that exploits a high-profile situation, under the guise of problem solving, for their own benefit.  The really good pimps raise expectations to unrealistic levels, even without much of a track record of meeting such expectations. These people are very good at giving the impression of expertise in a certain area that is either in high need of a solution and or very popular.

I am not actually even mad at Gruden. I am just dumbfounded at how often and easily these 3 Card Monty players can actually get someone to play his game. In this case, that someone is the Oakland Raiders…who have gone for this okie-doke before…see Lane Kiffin.

In fairness to the Raiders, Gruden is far more accomplished than Kiffin was when they hired him. Gruden has had some success as a head coach, including winning the Super Bowl with Tampa Bay. But we all know that Tony Dungy built that team. His best work was actually prior to that with the Raiders, the team his Bucs beat in the Super Bowl after the 2002 season. He did make the Raiders matter again, going 38-26 over 4 years. His two playoff losses could only be classified as bad luck. His 12-4 – 2000 Raiders lost to the Ravens, in no small part due to Baltimore tackle Tony Siragusa falling on QB Rick Gannon, knocking him out of the game. I have never been convinced that the Trent Dilfer-led offense of the Ravens come out of Oakland with that AFC title win if Gannon does not get hurt. I am convinced that the Raiders would have beaten the Giants to win that super bowl after the 2000 season. Then after the 2001 season, the infamous “Tuck Rule” game loss to the Patriots. One can’t blame Gruden for either one of those.

However, in Tampa, even with one of the greatest defenses of the past 25 years, his record was 57-55. The man who has promoted himself as quarterback and offensive guru couldn’t get much from his QB nor offense in his last coaching stop in Tampa.

The bottom line is that we are not talking about Bill Parcells in the 1990’s. Jon Gruden is basically Mike Shanahan, minus 1 Super Bowl ring.

So the central concerns are two: 1) if this happens, in the closest thing in American society to a transparent meritocracy, imagine what is happening where there is no transparency; and 2) It isn’t just the Raiders’ or even Davis family money. Though not directly, it’s taxpayer money as well. Connect the dots: part of the Raiders profit margin comes from generous tax breaks the city of Oakland granted them to move back and since to remain. These are tax breaks that have been pocketed and will certainly not be returning to the struggling working-class city, even though the team is slated to move. This Gruden contract is like the Raiders giving a final middle finger to one of the most loyal and greatest fan bases in all of sports.

What’s most important is to figure out why platform pimping works and how to recognize and avoid falling for the act. The simple reason it works is that there will always be a critical mass of people who love a messiah. This is true beyond sports. The notion that one person will come along and solve all of your problems, and in the process let the collective you off the hook is appealing. Though irrational, it is a lot easier to conceptualize one hero than it is to imagine the collective engaging in the tedious and often unsexy ground level work necessary for success. It’s the same as those whose primary economic freedom plan is to win the lottery.

Only the self-delusional have difficulty recognizing platform pimps. The three things necessary to avoid their game are as follows: 1) always remember that a platform in of itself does not equate to credibility…especially in the social media age; 2) Can you reasonably foresee the collective benefiting from this person’s work more than the person; and 3) does the person have a track record of success? Parcells always said, “You are what your record says you are.”

I hope that Terrell Owens is paying attention. His on-field performance is without question Hall of Fame worthy and yet he has been denied twice. I suggest he interview to become Gruden’s replacement on Monday Night Football. It would give him a platform to clean up the perception many of the HOF voters have of him….a perception that he surely had a role in creating.

If you are fortunate enough to secure a platform and stay in the public’s consciousness long enough to build a positive image, the fallacy of recently will impact its impression of you more than your actually merit based record. This is a good thing for Jon Gruden. Not so good for Terrell Owens.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

Why Fans Feel That They Can Throw Things at Athletes

Friday, December 15th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

JJ

By now, you have witnessed the scene in Jacksonville last Sunday when a fan (or fans) threw objects at an ejected Seattle Seahawks player, who then attempted to go into the stands. I could parrot the “company line”, which says under no circumstances should a player go into the fan seating areas with malicious intent, regardless of provocation. But there is a part of me that feels perfectly comfortable with the notion of a 300-pound man going into the stands to “lay hands” on any coward who throws an object at him.

To understand why I don’t think this is the worst thing that could happen, we first need to look at why fans do this. There are basically 4 primary causes, being alcohol, the ever increasing prices fans pay for their tickets, envy, and the impunity that they have learned from the larger society about how they can treat Black men.

The last point about Black men is not to suggest that they are the only athletes that are the targets. It is to say that they are the overwhelming targets of this behavior. The first is easy. Some simply can’t hold their liquor and contrary to the common narrative, alcohol does not make one do what one would normally not do. Alcohol does encourage one to do what one has ALWAYS wanted to do but never had the nerve to follow through. Sobriety can act as a filter and catch certain thoughts and behaviors. But it only catches what was inside to begin with.

The second cause is the increasing prices fans are paying for seats. A fan needs to be reasonably close for whatever he or she throws to have a chance to actually hit and harm an athlete. Seats in the section from where the objects came last Sunday in Jacksonville, price at about $238 per seat. These are among the cheapest in the league at that proximity to the field. Imagine what one would pay in New York or Dallas for the same seats? With the price of that ticket, all too many fans feel entitled to do whatever they want.

The third reason is envy. The overwhelming majority of the fans in these seating areas are white and middle to upper-middle class. While the majority do not engage in such behavior, even when drinking, there are some who feel that regardless of how accomplished and wealthy the Black athlete is, he is still subject to them. This leads us to the fourth and most complex of the causes.

It has to do with the message the general society has received loud and clear about how it can treat Black men. That message has been that violence and disrespect is not only permitted but one need not concern him or herself with any accountability. Add all four up: alcohol, entitlement, envy, and a sense that they can treat Black men any way they like with impunity, and we really should not be surprised when this happens.

The insult to injury whenever this sort of thing happens is the focus which shines much more on how the Black athlete reacts to the treatment than the treatment itself. The NFL is like most institutions in that managing the reaction to injustice is a far greater priority than the injustice itself.

In defense of the NFL, there is only so much it can do about this issue. It can and should certainly cancel any confirmed offending fan’s season tickets and push for any applicable criminal charges. While it should do these at minimal, it would be a band-aid. It’s not as if fans come to games as blank slates, free of any of the biases that exist in the larger society. When one looks at the message from the larger society, which clearly says Black Lives Don’t Matter, it’s understandable why they think this way.

Throughout history, from the reaction to the Black Panther Party till today, America has made it very clear that the idea of Black men standing up for themselves in any venue for any reason, regardless of provocation, is to be suppressed. The fact that there is a simultaneous obsession with the right of just about every other demographic to bear arms is not considered a contradiction. Therefore, until the root of this behavior is addressed in the larger society, there is no reason to believe it will cease to exist in the sports world.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

What To Make of the Tired and Disturbing Case of Ezekiel Elliott

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

EE

The only thing that I am certain of in the battle between the Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel

Elliott and the NFL, which wants to suspend him for 6 games over allegations of domestic violence, is that

I am tired of it and want it to end!

Beyond that, all bets are off.

My initial thinking when pondering writing this was to rail against the self-interest obsessed Cowboy

fans, Jerry Jones’ white male wealth privilege and those apologists, mostly men, for abusers.

Then I did what I hope every opinion writer does: I actually engaged in a more detailed researching of

the “central charge” (I’ll explain why the quotations for this later) against Elliott. After doing this I have

come to the only conclusion anyone could come to, which is that I have no idea who is the victim

between Elliott and his accuser. The inquire raises more questions than it answers. To briefly summarize

the reasons for doubting the accuser are the following:

1) Text messages secured by the NFL show the accuser discussing blackmailing Elliott with a sex

tape;

2) The accuser tried to convince a friend to lie on her behalf and support her claim that Elliott was responsible for her bruises. The friend refused and cited a fight between the accuser and another lady in an affidavit as the possible source of her bruises; and

3) She verbally threatened to ruin Elliott

It’s important to be an ally of women in the fight against domestic violence. As a man, I believe that I can

play a similar role in this struggle as Whites can play in combating racism. I also believe that I have taken

concrete steps to be an ally. The data is clear in that the overwhelming number of allegations of

domestic abuse are true. Having said that, the quest to be an ally does not mean that I am obliged to

blindly endorse the allegations of everyone. Basic fairness demands that allegations, even from a

historically abused demographic, be scrutinized and when that is done in this case, the only conclusion is

that the accuser’s credibility is suspect, so much so that the NFL’s own lead investigator recommended

no suspension for Elliott.

So why is this still a pending issue dangling over the head of Elliott, you ask? There are two primary

reasons for this:

1) Ezekiel Elliott has been a knucklehead with enough documented acts that indicate a lack of

respect for women and poor impulse control and judgment in general. When the totality of his

record is considered, it is not that much of a stretch to believe Elliott is capable of what he is

being accused. The NFL collective bargaining agreement, which the players sign off on permits

the commissioner to consider such incidents in a cumulative manner when pondering discipline.

Therefore, any reviewing of the “central charge” alone is incomplete. It cannot be refuted by

“the police did not charge him” common claim because it’s not a legal process but a workplace

disciplinary process;

2) The NFL has an inconsistent track record when dealing with its players accused of violence

towards women, be it Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, or Josh Brown. As a result, there is tremendous

pressure to get this one right;

3) Elliott is the best player on the most popular team in the most popular sport in America. Anyone in that position, regardless of race, with these accusations is going to draw more scrutiny than say a punter, as was the case with kicker Josh Brown.

You may ask how the NFL can get it right if the player is literally not guilty of the accusation. That’s when

it gets even more complicated. Like it or not, there are at least 2 factors that the NFL considers BEFORE

the actual merits of the accusation. Those two are money and public relations. The actual merits of the

charges are at best a distant third . Money is easy enough to understand. Anything that the NFL deems as having the potential to dip into its bottom line must be dealt with ASAP. Then there are the public

relations of the issue, which is a direct extension of the money factor. This can be best summarized by

saying that the NFL is more concerned with damage control than it is the damage itself. That means

actually caring about domestic violence is not nearly as important to them as appearing to care about

the issue. What this all means is that in the wake of botching the Ray Rice and Josh Brown cases, they

needed a pound of flesh.

Enter Ezekiel Elliott!

So, after multiple court injunctions and stays and no clear ending to the stalemate, here we are.

Based on history, it’s highly unlikely that Elliott will avoid a suspension. It’s not a question of if he will sit

but when, and for how long. After all, even the golden boy, Tom Brady, eventually had to sit. Judges are

very hesitant to overturn provisions of a collectively bargained agreement and that is what the NFL has

as its trump card. Given that, what I have never quite understood is why the Cowboys didn’t play this

differently. Why not take the precedent of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger back in 2010? He got the

same 6-game suspension for multiple accusations of sexual assault. It was eventually reduced to 4

games, during which the Steelers went 3-1. They would win the AFC that year, making it to the Super

Bowl, a highly unlikely accomplishment had they taken the Cowboys approach to Elliott’s situation this

year. Even if Elliott’s suspension were not reduced, the 6 games would be over by now. They could have

gone 3-3 (their record with him after 6) without him. They would have him back, healthy and rested for

the second half of the season, including both games against the high-flying, first place Eagles. Now that is all in doubt, as are the Cowboys’ playoffs hopes.

So why didn’t they take that approach? I can only come up with 3 possible reasons:

1) Jerry Jones is used to getting his way and would not back down;

2) Elliot, like most professional athletes, is programmed not to back down and is engaged in this process in the same way; or

3) He actually did not abuse her.

I do not know which one, two, or all three might have been at the heart of the Cowboys’ strategy.

That disturbs me but not nearly as much as the fact that this saga has given a platform to misogynist and

apologist for those who abuse women.

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

I Changed My Mind: The Case for Guaranteed NFL Contracts!

Monday, September 11th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

Image via The Point After Show

Image via The Point After Show

That’s right. For years, I have been of the opinion that NFL owners should not be at risk for fully guaranteed contracts in a sport where the risk of injury was so great.

Then a fiscally-conservative buddy of mine expressed surprise at my position.   

Whenever those types are to the left of me, I get concerned. LOL

So I began to rethink my position, which was based on “reasonable owner risk”.  

The good part is that the term reasonable is so broad and subjective that it was not hard to undermine my own position with factually based reasoning.  

First of all, player health risk should be, at the very least, as much of a concern as the financial risk of billionaires. Sure, players signed up for this and thus certainly assume a degree of health risks. That does not mean that they absolved themselves of any right to advocate mitigating those risks. Speaking of signing up for risks, that is what any business owner does when he/she starts a business. For NFL owners, guaranteed contracts should be among those risks.

But even with that, are the owners really at risk? The TV money is divided up evenly among all 32 teams.  Owning an NFL team is like having a cash printer in your basement. Your team doesn’t even have to be good. Even the sorry winless 2008 Detroit Lions made big profits. If owners can’t simply write bad contracts off on their taxes, I’m sure they will TELL their Congressional lackeys….I mean representatives, to simply rewrite the code for their benefit. The 1 percent has been doing that since the beginning of the tax system. The only obstacle on this front would be an adjustment to the salary cap, allowing the injured players debt to be removed which would allow a team to replace him without taking a cap hit.

So capacity is not the issue. NFL revenues are projected to surpass $13 billion when all the receipts come in for the 2016 season, and that number will only increase. Yet, of the 4 major sports, NFL players have the lowest career earnings, even when the comparison is adjusted for the same number of years.   

Simply put, they got the loot and between tax loopholes and insurance policies, owners wouldn’t lose a dime.    

There are two primary issues that will make this an uphill battle: 1) a lack of player unity; and 2) the owners’ control of the narrative that the public largely believes.  

On the first issue, NFL players must have unity if they are to have any chance of getting guaranteed contracts. That will be especially challenging given that they have a very small window to make as much money as they can. Getting nearly 1700 guys to come together would be no small task, even for the best of labor organizers, and the owners know this. The 32 owners, on the other hand, are far better equipped to miss a few checks than are the 1700 players. A good place to start would be to abandon these ridiculous long-term deals. They are highly misleading and the sports media is complicit in the deception.  For example, say a player signs a 6-year deal worth $100 million. Unless he is an upper echelon QB, chances are that the majority of the money is back loaded and everyone, including the player, knows that he will never see that money. This leads us to the second issue, which is the capacity of owners to craft a narrative that appeals to a critical mass of the 99%, and thus undermines the player position in the court of public opinion. That narrative basically says that “you are being paid good money to play a game. You play at your own risk. Shut up and entertain us!”   

Such a narrative exploits the envy that many fans have of NFL players and their obsession to themselves join the 1% so much so, that they are willing to do the ideological bidding of the owners. The line of thinking is not that much different from the fact that most whites supported slavery, even though very few were themselves slave owners, which was a sign of aristocracy. Or many of today’s poor supporters of the “crony capitalist” in the White House. The reality is that players will get guaranteed contracts BEFORE the cartel of NFL owners or any other element of the 1% permit the fan class to join them. Ask Marc Cuban, the very wealthy owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He is both rich and white.  But it was not enough to gain his admittance when he attempted to buy the LA Dodgers. Major League Baseball literally allowed the team to go into bankruptcy rather than allow an “outsider” into the fold. The NFL cartel is even more discriminating than that of baseball.

So what it comes down to is organized people vs organized money. Contrary to the misleading narrative promoted by owners and their mainstream media PR firms, the players are not among the organized money class. If as fans, you can say that you watch football more so because of who owns the team as opposed to who is playing, then disregard everything that I have said.  But if you are honest and get on the right side, then the players have a chance to reap a more secure piece of the pie that they largely bake.

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports