When the NFL became a religion, America created sportscaster priests like Cris Carter, Bob Costas

Cris Carter cryingThe National Football league brings in roughly $10 billion in revenue per year. By 2027, it expects to up that to $25 billion. As USA today reported in February, that would put the NFL on track to haul in more money per year than the domestic gross product of “dozens of small countries.” At some point in time professional football became a weird religion for millions of Americans, and now the rest of us are forced to endure lectures by the High Priests of Sportscasting whenever the athlete-gods expose themselves as mere mortals.

If Americans didn’t idolize the men they watch each Sunday, then the world would not be forced to endure former Vikings receiver Cris Carter throwing his own mother under the bus on national television. In response to Adrian Peterson’s indictment on child abuse charges, Mr. Carter melted down on ESPN.

ABC News reported September 14 (while taking out the exclamation marks):

“My mom did the best job she could do raising seven kids by herself, but there are thousands of things that I have learned since then that my mom was wrong,” he said. “It’s the 21st century — my mom was wrong. She did the best she could but she was wrong about some of that stuff she taught me and I promised my kids I won’t teach that mess to them.”

A healthy culture enjoys the on-field exploits of their favorite player and gleans important lessons from what they bring to the game. A healthy culture admires the drive and dedication it takes to become one of only a handful of individuals in the world who can perform a particular sport at an elite level. An unhealthy culture creates shrines to its teams, hangs on star players’ every word via countless social media accounts, and dedicates more time to fantasy football each fall than actually playing catch with children.

Having to watch Cris Carter cry on national television while Mike Ditka uncomfortably fidgets in his chair is a sign that American culture has derailed. When Keyshawn Johnson looks like Mike Meyers after Kanye West said “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” during a live broadcast, then it is time for football fans to reevaluate the the importance leather balls and the men who carry them hold in their lives.

Hannah Storm emotionalESPN anchor Hannah Storm also gave a Cris Carter-esque sermon to viewers September 14, taking the NFL to task for the way it reacted to Ray Rice cold-cocking his wife in a hotel lobby. It was nice, and perhaps even appropriate, but a society with a working moral compass does not need to witness emotional testimonials from shaken sportscasters.

If things were as they should be, then individuals would realize that the NFL has a lower rate of domestic violence than the general population, silently reaffirm that they will always be their own harshest critic, and then vow not to put up with halftime lectures by guys like Bob Costas on the so-called need for strict gun-control legislation.

Bob Costas GunsWhen I tune in to watch sports, I do not want to hear wide receivers lump in people who occasionally spank their kids with those who leave children black and blue and bloody with a switch. When I want to see how my local team did over the weekend, I do not want to hear announcers go into extended diatribes — no matter how heartfelt they may be — about domestic violence. When I’m watching Monday Night Football, I do not want to listen to a sports pundit imply that millions of Americans are rotten people because they advocate on behalf of rights codified into law by the U.S. Constitution.

If the American people want to do the NFL a long-term favor, then they should turn off the television more often on a Sunday, buy less merchandise, and take their favorite players off the moral pedestals.

Marcus Allen’s Super Bowl XVIII run: Hall of Famer’s touchdown a metaphor for life

Marcus Allen Super Bowl

As a kid there were two things that I would watch endlessly if my parents plopped me down in front of the television: Julia Child and football. While I still don’t quite understand my fascination with the famous French cook, my love of football can in many ways be traced to Marcus Allen — including his Super Bowl XVIII touchdown run for 74 yards. I was only two when the run actually happened, but as I aged it seemed that every year the Super Bowl came around that clip would find its way into the network’s promotional footage. To this day I shake my head in awe when I see it. In many respects it was the “perfect” run and a metaphor for life.

Marcus Allen was given the ball on the biggest stage and told to run with it to the end zone. He met a wall, so he reversed course. As he did so, he found himself in the middle of a mess of moving obstacles all honed in on stopping him from achieving his goal. Instead of falling down he accelerated forward, gracefully weaving through his adversaries into the open. As daylight approached, he knew he that he still had far to go and that his pursuers would be hot on his heels. It was off to the races, and with steely determination he sprinted to his final destination without anyone else laying a finger on him.

Perhaps Allen says it best:

“That was a beautiful run and it turned out to be a beautiful career. And yes, I did reverse field sometimes. […] but in the end I ended up where I wanted to end up.” —Marcus Allen

As a kid, every time I touched the football I believed I could score, and on some level that confidence was cultivated by watching men like Marcus Allen exhibit greatness on the most elite level. When sports stars try and say they’re not role models, they’re lying to themselves. Whether they like it or not — they are. Kids will mimic the adults in their life; I just happened to have a lot of good ones around, whether it was my own parents or Hall of Fame running backs on television like Marcus Allen. Oddly enough, I even ended up going to his alma mater, USC, as an adult…

If you’re a football fan, look into Marcus Allen. His career is fascinating, especially when one considers that Al Davis did everything within his power to sabotage it while Marcus was in his prime. That, too Mr. Allen handled with grace.

I missed Marcus Allen’s induction into the Hall of Fame, but one day I’ll get to Canton, Ohio. When I do, Marcus’ section will be the first I visit.

Coach Tom Flores, I have already had a call from Moscow. They think that Marcus Allen is a new secret weapon and they insist we dismantle it.
“Coach Tom Flores, I have already had a call from Moscow. They think that Marcus Allen is a new secret weapon and they insist we dismantle it.” — President Ronald Reagan

Bob Costas takes all sides of Redskins controversy to hear himself talk, ultimately says nothing

Bob Costas Redskins controversy

What can be worse than watching the Dallas Cowboys win? Watching Bob Costas ramble during half-time of a football game, only to realize upon his concluding remarks that he has essentially said nothing. While it’s nice to see that Mr. Costas has graduated from haranguing viewers about gun control during a football game to actually covering a topic related to the sport, he still has a problem with talking in circles.

Bob Costas put his serious face on during halftime of the Redskin/Cowboys match-up on Sunday, took a deep breath, hoped no one noticed the bad dye job his hairstylist gave him, and said the following:

There is no reason to believe that owner Daniel Snider or any official or player from his team harbors animus towards Native Americans or wishes to disrespect them. This is undoubtedly also true of the vast majority of those that don’t think twice about the long-standing moniker.  And, in fact, as best can be determined, even a majority of Native Americans say they are not offended.

But, having stipulated that, there’s still a distinction to be made. Objections to names like Braves, Chiefs, Warriors and the like strike many of us as political correctness run amok.  These names honor, rather than demean. They’re pretty much the same as Vikings, Patriots or even Cowboys. And names like Blackhawks, Seminoles and Chippewas — while potentially more problematic — can still be okay, provided the symbols are appropriately respectful, which is where the Cleveland Indians (with the combination of their name and Chief Wahoo logo) have sometimes run into trouble.

A number of teams, mostly in the college ranks, have changed their names in response to objections. The Stanford Cardinal and the Dartmouth Big Green were each once the Indians. The Saint Johns ‘Redmen’ have become the Red Storm. And the Miami of Ohio ‘Redskins’ — that’s right, redskins — are now the Red Hawks. Still, the NFL franchise that represents the nation’s capital, has maintained its name.

But think for a moment about the term ‘Redskins’ and how it truly differs from all the others. Ask yourself what the equivalent would be if directed towards African Americans, Hispanics, Asians or members of any other ethnic group. When considered that way, Redskins can’t possibly honor a heritage or a noble character trait. Nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present day intend. It’s fair to say for a long time now, and certainly in 2013, no offense has been intended.   But if you take a step back, isn’t it clear to see how offense might legitimately be taken?

For more on this topic, including Daniel Snyder’s take, you can go to nbcsport.com/nickname.

Does Bob Costas realize that history is filled with terms that were once insults that have been re-appropriated by the targets of disdain? “Yankees” comes to mind, although I suppose in certain parts of the country ‘Yankee’ is still a slur… Black people have done the same, most notably by turning ‘nigger’ into ‘nigga.’ Turn on MTV or BET and see how many times the word is used over the course of 24 hours. If you still count on your fingers and toes you’ll need to borrow a few relatives to keep track.

These sorts of things cause many headaches among politically correct guys like Mr. Costas, but the point remains: words are like vases that are always filled with the meaning we give them. Over time, the meaning of words change (e.g., ‘literally’ no long means literally, which is actually rather sad), and some words disappear all together. If the majority of Native Americans don’t have an issue with the Redskins name, and fans of the team are singing “Hail to the Redskins,” then why should the owner do away with it over the howls of (overwhelmingly) politically correct white people?

Regardless, Dan Snyder weighed in on the issue in a letter he wrote to the fans. Here’s an excerpt:

Our past isn’t just where we came from — it’s who we are.

As some of you may know, our began team 81 years ago — in 1932 — with the name “Boston Braves.” The following year, the franchise name was changed to the “Boston Redskins.” On our inaugural team, four players and our Head Coach were Native Americans. The name was never a label. It was, and continues to be, a badge of honor.

In 1971, or legendary head coach, the late George Allen, consulted with the Red Cloud Athletic Fund, located on the Pine Ridge Indians Reservation in South Dakota and designed our emblems on the Redskins helmets. Several years later, Coach Allen was honored by the Red Cloud Athletic Fund. On the wall of our Ashburn, Virginia, offices is the plaque given to Coach Allen — a source of pride for all of us. “Washington Redskins” is more than a name we have called ourselves for over eight decades. It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage pride and respect — the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans.

Consider the facts concerning the “Washington Redskins” name:

The highly respected Annenberg Public Policy Center polled nearly 1,000 self-identified Native Americans from across the continental U.S. and found that 90% of Native Americans did not find the team name “Washington Redskins” to be offensive.

In April 2013, Associated Press survey, 70% of respondents stated the Washington Redskins should not change their name, while only 11% said the team name should change.

Read the entire letter. It’s worth it. And, unlike Bob Costas, Dan Snyder takes a firm position that can be held up to scrutiny. Particularly interesting is the response by a retired Chief of Virginia’s Patowomeck Tribe, who says:

“Frankly, the members of my tribe — the vast majority — don’t find it offensive. I’ve been a Redskins fan for years. And to be honest with you, I would be offended if they did change [the name, Redskins … This is] an attempt by somebody … to completely remove the Indian identity from anything and pretty soon … you have a wipe out in society of any reference to Indian people… You can’t rewrite history — yes, there were some awful bad things to our people over time, but naming the Washington football team the Redskins, we don’t consider to be one of those bad things,” (Robert Green).

The Redskins name controversy will continue to go on, and there is no easy answer. I have mixed feelings on the subject. However, hearing this commentary makes me more confident than ever that it’s a matter that should be settled between Redskins ownership and the fans — free from the halftime temper tantrums of men like Costas.

Tim Tebow a Patriot: The Jake Lockers of the world have a job, so give him a chance

Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow is going to the Patriots, and I couldn’t be happier for the guy. I’ve been rooting for Tebow ever since weird irrational hatred of him started. Every year there are guys who are in the league who shouldn’t be, and yet with Tebow it always seemed that a large contingent of people are out there actively rooting for him to get the boot.

There’s more I’d like to say, but since I’m desperately trying to nurse myself back to health in record time after a stupid “back” mishap. (Someone got cocky, lost his form on a set of dead lifts and paid the price. Out for a few days, I think.) … I’m handing off the ball to my good friend Denver Pat. He sums up many of things I was thinking, but could not articulate because a.) his football knowledge is light years beyond mine and b.) because it’s hard to write when you’re alternating between constant stretching exercises and a heating pad.

Denver Pat on Tebow heading to the Patriots:

I like Tebow’s character and work ethic, so I’m happy he found a spot. However, my thoughts are probably more football slanted as opposed to his character:

The Patriots have a relatively highly touted backup in Ryan Mallett that they have been grooming for the last couple years. Mallett needs to fail to show promise or Tebow will struggle to get a roster spot after the final cuts because teams only dress two quarterbacks. Teams often keep a third on the practice squad, who they sign to the real team in the event of an injury. Tebow has said he is only playing as a quarterback, so you either dress him for “wildcat” plays, or situations where both he and Brady are on the field, and only promote Mallett in case Brady goes down. This would be a weird situation where the #2 quarterback doesn’t dress because of Tebow’s versatility, yet he would inherit the majority of snaps if Brady gets hurt — leapfrogging Tebow on the depth chart.

The other option is not to dress Tebow and just let him learn. I’m not sure either Mallet or Tebow would find those scenarios positive. Why make the splash of signing Tebow if you aren’t going to use him? Part of me thinks Bill wants this to work to further stick it to the Jets (see, we figured a way to work Tebow in the game!) because those two franchises hate each other. There’s a long history of stealing coaches and players from each other, and it was the Jets who reported Bill to NFL officials on the “spy gate” scandal. Bill himself was the Jet coach for 3 days, mysteriously quits, and resurfaces the next week as the new Patriot coach… I might be reading into this aspect and creating a story that’s not really there, but again I point to history.

I will be more excited if Tebow actually makes the team. What someone has to explain to me, however, is how Tebow has a winning record and a playoff win — and  yet, with the God-awful quarterbacking of the Cardinals, Titans, Jets themselves, Jaguars, and frankly the Eagles last year — none of these teams would give him a chance. Tebow can’t do any worse in the loss column than the Blaine Gabberts and Jake Lockers of the world…and as it stands now it makes good business sense. Does anyone give a poop about the Jaguars or Titans? Is it to tough to modify your play book for Tebow? The Broncos figured it out, rode him to a division title and the second round of the playoffs. “Won’t we have to retool the offensive roster for Tebow?” I would say the Saints retooled their roster when Brees arrived, and the Broncos did the same for Manning.

Bill is a smart guy. He and his coordinator (Broncos old coach that originally drafted Tebow) truly believe they can teach him mechanics; I hope they are right and I hope he gets a legitimate shot; because I think the Jets screwed up in the sense that Sanchez has turned the ball over an insane amount of times the last few seasons; one thing even detractors will agree — Tebow doesn’t turn the ball over; the jets had no offense with Sanchez — why not give Tebow the shot? Why waste the time of a much ballyhooed signing if you aren’t going to use him? Moves like this are why the Jets are historically stupid.

Tebow won’t be Manning/Brady/Brees; but he has a winning record and a playoff win all before the age of 25; I think someone can give him a shot….plus, Tebow has never butt-fumbled!

So there you have it. With yours truly on the disabled list, Denver Pat nicely picks up the ball and runs with it. Well done.

Has Tim Tebow ever butt-fumbled? Answer: No. Give the guy a chance. He deserves it.
Has Tim Tebow ever butt-fumbled like Mark Sanchesz? Answer: No. Give the guy a chance. He deserves it.

Adrian Peterson’s work ethic breaks the mold

On Dec. 24, 2011, Adrian Peterson tore his ACL. On Dec. 30, 2012 he officially broke 2,000 yards and came less than ten yards shy of breaking the single-season record. The man is an inspiration, for young and old alike. (Image: AP)
On Dec. 24, 2011, Adrian Peterson tore his ACL. On Dec. 30, 2012, he officially broke 2,000 yards and came less than ten yards shy of breaking the single-season record. The man is an inspiration for young and old alike. (Image: AP)

When I was a kid I was fascinated by Barry Sanders. Watching him, it seemed as though every time he touched the ball he could score. Others guys often say that’s what’s going through their mind, but with him you just had the sense he believed it. Coupled with his professionalism (I don’t think I ever saw him do an end zone dance) he was one of my role models. It wasn’t until I first caught a glimpse of Adrian Peterson handle the ball that a similar sense of awe came over me.

Today, Mr. Peterson joined an exclusive club, and became an even bigger role model to a new generation of kids:

Peterson became the seventh player to rush for 2,000 yards in a season, plowing through the Green Bay Packers for a 20-yard gain that put him over the top in the third quarter Sunday.

Peterson entered the game needing 102 yards to join O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis and Chris Johnson in the 2,000-yard club. Peterson is the only one to do it after reconstructive knee surgery.

While most of the coverage tomorrow will be on Peterson’s numbers, the story behind the story is the speed with which he recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. SI’s Ben Reiter has a great piece (not online yet) titled ‘All Day All The Way’ that details the mindset of a man Americans would be wise to duplicate. Peterson’s first thought after the injury was to get in touch with a boy in the stands to whom he promised an autograph before the game; the child was tracked down and a jersey was signed “All Day/God Bless”.

Peterson’s second thought:

[He] would not just return to being the best running back in the world, which he’d been less than an hour before; he’d be even better, and he’d do it not in two years, or in one, but in 263 days — in time for the Vikings’ 2012 season opener. “It was remarkable to see how quickly he was able to digest it, get his mind around it and move forward,” says [Vikings’ athletic trainer Eric Sugarman.]

“My mind just clicked over,” Peterson explains. “I’ll come back. I’ll bounce back better.”

Sometimes, you have a bad day.  Sometimes, you have a really bad day. And sometimes, when giant football players fall onto your knee it just seems like the universe is doing its best to make you go into a deep dark funk you’ll never dig your way out of. Every obstacle in life isn’t really an obstacle, but an opportunity to prove to yourself and the world just how remarkable the human spirit is, how resilient the human body can be and how in imaginative the human mind can be when it is given a direct order with specific instructions.

Tony Robbins once said that the brain acts like a servomechanism when it’s given a very specific mission, and he’s right. Like a heat-seeking missile, someone who lays out a plan, believes in that plan and commits themselves to it for the long haul usually has a level of success they could be proud of.

Tomorrow, someone will lament the fact that they don’t have Adrian Peterson’s genetics. That same person will not have heard Vikings punter Chris Kluwe talk about the scars on Peterson’s legs: “[His scars] are from constantly just churning though people.”

Peterson is a machine. He is the ‘Gears of War’. He grinds through adversity, he grinds through opposing defenses and he grinds through that gnawing pessimism that well all have on a day-to-day basis. He does this to realize his full potential.

On Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012 Adrian Peterson fell eight yards shy of breaking the all-time single season rushing record. He did this after blowing out his ACL on Dec. 24, 2011. My bet is, he’ll use those eight yards as motivation to chase down many, many records in the years to come.

Somewhere, a little kid watched his efforts and took away lessons that will propel him him to great heights. Next time someone tells you “it’s just a sport” just laugh it off. When you watch to learn it is in fact much, much more.

Thanks, Adrian. God bless.