The National Football League is wreck. It’s product on the field is under question more than at any time in my 40 plus years on this Earth and off the field it’s an even bigger mess.
Yesterday Commissioner Roger Goodell officially suspended Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson for the remainder of the season. This wasn’t a huge surprise except for the fact that Peterson and the National Football League Players’ Association believed what they were told. NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith claims that Peterson was told by someone in the league office that his current suspension would be rendered as “time served.”
Clearly someone didn’t get the memo. Lost in this is the fact that we wouldn’t be here had Peterson not “disciplined” his four-year old with a switch.
What we as fans forget is that professional football is a collection of a couple of thousand men from over 100 million here in America. Factor in also that the majority of these players come from circumstances where things that are accepted there aren’t by the larger society as a whole.
We’ve seen a massive demographic shift in the type of players that the NFL chooses to employ. I don’t necessarily blame this all on the NFL either. Players come from the collegiate ranks and there was a time when those players actually put their academics ahead of any realistic thoughts of playing professional football.
In fact, an education was a necessity because pro football was only a six-month commitment. Players would finish the season and then head home to real jobs. Those days are gone if you hadn’t noticed.
It’s no longer about finding the most hard-working guy it’s about finding the most talented guy. Teams are willing to live with the ups and downs of potential problem players if it means they bring in dollars and championships. It’s this way across the sports spectrum in North America and football is just the ringleader.
When fans decide they’ve had enough and will no longer support teams that employ the Ray Rice’s and Greg Hardy’s of the NFL then maybe things will change but that time is unlikely to come. For Americans, college and pro football is basically what watching gladiators was to the Ancient Romans.
We love the violence and we love the drama and now we are willing to live with what happens off of the field too. Players are essentially nothing more than rentals now with the average career span being roughly three years. Much like the gladiator, the longer they can survive the better life will be for them.
The NFL and its’ players are under fire from each other and they are under fire from dozens of other entities as well. You need to look no further than the huge amount of attention paid to the recent World Cup as evidence of our nation’s moral compass being challenged. While Goodell makes the game of football softer and more tolerable to people in other countries, traditionalists like myself are left to watch the game we love become a shell of its’ former self .
Both the players and the league share equal blame in allowing the sport at the professional level to become corrupted and the college level is no better. Look no further again than what goes on at major universities all the time in terms of preferential treatment and the dismissing of poor behavior.
In many ways it really does get these young men ready for the pros where they are again coddled and given all the opportunities in the world to screw up and then when they do they are given passes.
My rant does not mean to poke a finger at every NFL player because there are many, many great men who do things the right way but sadly they are not what the public wants to hear about. A dramatic, dirty story is more enticing so why should we be surprised by the narrative playing out in the NFL today?