Monthly Archives: December 2014

Ndamukong Suh Exposes Culture of Cowardice in the NFL

Today we learned that Ndamukong Suh won his appeal of his one game suspension and will now be allowed to play in this weekend’s wild card game against the Dallas Cowboys. Suh’s suspension generated some debate with some claiming that the league overreacted to a relatively harmless offense while others claimed that he got off light based on his long history of dirty play. Both sides make valid points, but all of the commentators in the sports media have completely overlooked what I believe to be the most significant part of this story, which is that no members of the Green Bay offensive line were suspended, fined, or even flagged on that play.

Most NFL fans would find it odd that I would be questioning why no Green Bay offensive linemen were punished when they didn’t commit any fouls of any kind on the play; but that is exactly my point. Five 300 plus pound offensive lineman who are paid to protect Aaron Rogers, by far the most important player on the Packers and the leading candidate to win the league MVP this year, stood idly by while 300 pound Ndamukong Suh stood on Aaron Rogers already injured calf. The only person who retaliated against Suh was Rogers himself when he gave the defensive tackle a shove in the behind as he was walking away. Even if you want to pretend that none of them noticed the infraction at the time, Suh played the rest of the game and didn’t have a single Packer commit a personal foul against him.

As someone who grew up in Canada watching hockey, the almost universal pacifism of NFL offensive linemen continues to be one of the most baffling phenomena in all of sports. In hockey, merely spraying ice in the face of a goalie will trigger about 20 minutes in penalties. A blatant attempt to injure a star player will start an outright war that will usually end with one or more suspensions, which is why even though an NHL season is 82 games long, you still rarely see someone blatantly take cheap shots at a star player. In the NFL, defensive players routinely take cheap shots and attempt to injure the quarterbacks and star wide receivers, but never face any retaliation from opposing teams. The only punishment a defensive player ever faces is from the league. In the NHL, if you go after Sydney Crosby’s ankle the last thing you will be worried about what the league office will do.

Offensive lineman are critically important players and it is understandable that a team would not want its top left tackle thrown out of the game, but teams have at least one backup at every position, so it would be easy to throw in a backup for a play on 3rd and 20 after a sack to exact a little retribution. Even if you were to lose a top lineman for a game it would still probably be worth it in the long run if it meant opposing players would be less likely to try to hurt your franchise quarterback.

Perhaps the most appalling example of offensive linemen inaction I have ever witnessed also involved Ndamukong Suh. It was in a pre-season during Suh’s rookie year when he grabbed quarterback Jake Delhomme by his facemask and threw him into the ground. Suh was penalized on the play and later fined, but all of the offensive lineman just watched passively and meekly walked back to the line of scrimmage. The pre-season is when most of the players are guys just fighting to get a job as a backup or make the practice squad. One would think that some undrafted linemen trying to get noticed would have seized the opportunity to rip off Suh’s helmet and beat him with it, but no. In the NHL, the pre-season is when you see the most fighting as borderline players struggle to get noticed. If you were to take a cheap shot at a star player or goalie in a preseason game there would be players waiting in line to for their turn to take a swing at you.

It is often said that football is a “Gladiator” sport, played by the baddest and toughest men in all of sports, but the more I see examples of 300+ pound men watching someone stomp their star quarterback, or a safety who tries to take the head off a defenseless receiver but jumps out of the way of Marshawn Lynch, the more I doubt that. NFL players may be the baddest of all professional athletes, but you are kidding yourself if you think they are the toughest. If you don’t agree, keep in mind that there have been more examples of NFL players punching women this year than punching opposing players.

2014 – A Dream Year for Haters

As 2014 draws to a close, it is time to pause and reflect on the year that was in the world of sports. The allure of all sports, with the possible exception of tennis, is that you can expect the unexpected, but this year seemed to an abnormally large number of shocking and unexpected news stories. Most of 2014’s biggest stories, even though they involve different sports and seemingly much different circumstances, seem to have a common theme – comeuppance. From Donald Sterling to Roger Goodell to Kobe, Carmelo, and Heat fans everywhere, some of the biggest targets of sports fans’ ire have all been taken down a notch in 2014.

Though the theme is common to most of the major sports, it was by far the strongest in the NBA. First came the bombshell secret recordings of Donald Sterling, the most hated owner in all of North American sports, where he is caught telling his mistress that doesn’t want her bringing black people to games, although he apparently was ok with her sleeping with them. Sterling had long been a pariah as his legions of detractors had accused him of racist behavior and blamed him for making the Clippers the laughing stock of the NBA for decades, so when the tapes broke, he had absolutely nobody in his corner and was forced out of league, left with nothing only a real estate empire and a check for 2 billion dollars.

After Donald Sterling, the most hated group of people in the sports world are Miami Heat fans. Perhaps the most undeserving sports fans on earth, they were nevertheless suddenly blessed with a dream team four years ago when LeBron James and Chris Bosh teamed up with Dwayne Wade and subsequently went to 4 straight NBA Finals, winning two of them. Even after stealing the world’s best basketball player from Cleveland, they still didn’t bother to show up to games, and when Miami staged a remarkable last second game 6 comeback win in their first championship season, half the fans in the building didn’t even see it as they preferred to beat the traffic on the ride home. This summer, LeBron ditched the Heat and returned to Cleveland, which caused hypocritical Heat fans to rage against LeBron’s opportunism in ditching his aging team for a talented young team in his home town. That neither the Heat fans nor the Miami sports media could hide their angst only made it all the more enjoyable for all their haters.

The Lakers and the Knicks, who play in the two biggest markets, have millions of fans, but since most people do not live in New York and Los Angeles, most people outside those markets tend to resent teams from those cities who always have more money and an easier time attracting and retaining top talent. The dislike that most sports fans already have for these cities is compounded by the fact that both the Lakers and Knicks are led by two of the most polarizing players in all of basketball.

Carmelo Anthony, who along with being considered one of the most talented players in the league, has always been considered a selfish ball hog who could never take a team to a championship. Having previously forced his way out of Denver to get to New York, he resigned with the team for 120 million dollars and is now the best player on one of the worst and most dysfunctional teams in the league, only a few games ahead of the 76ers, who are not even trying to win this year.

Kobe Bryant has won 5 NBA titles but every bit as polarizing as Carmelo due to his comically giant ego, is currently wrapping up his career as the league’s highest paid player on one of the worst teams in the NBA. It is believed that Kobe’s ego and general dis-likability caused Dwight Howard to leave and big name free agents like Carmelo from joining the team. All of his haters who had to endure him winning all those championships over the years can now revel in Kobe’s misery as he curses out teammates and the GM in practice and sets the all-time record for missed shots.

Thought the NBA has been the most enjoyable league for haters, perhaps the biggest fall from grace was in the NFL, which has long been both the most successful and most arrogant of the sports leagues, and is run by the highest paid and more arrogant commissioner, Roger Goodell. Goodell, unlike the commissioners in other leagues, put himself in charge of meting out punishment for player misbehaviour. This blew up in his face when he completely botched the Ray Rice domestic abuse case, and made things worse by giving the impression that he was being less than honest about his reasoning and when he viewed the video of the assault.

On top of all of that, you can throw in the fact that the Yankees missed the playoffs, Brazil suffered one of the most epic blowout losses in the history of the World Cup, and Tiger Woods had perhaps the most disappointing season of his career. This truly was a dream year for haters.

Strange How the NFL Has a Problem with Adderall and Fertility Drugs But Not Steroids

Perhaps the oddest thing in all of professional sports these days is the rampant use of Adderall in the NFL. It seems that every time a player gets suspended for using performance enhancing drugs we are told that the drug involved was Adderall. Every now and then it is fertility drugs, but for the most part positive tests seem to be the result of Adderall use. That players take a banned stimulant like Adderall isn’t particularly odd in and of itself, it is that they never seem to take steroids that seem so bizarre.

In Major League Baseball, where super human strength is less important, and quick reflexes are extremely important when trying to hit a small ball travelling at 95 miles an hour, you would think that stimulants like Adderall would be more prevalent than in football and steroids would be less so, but the opposite is in fact true. All kinds of baseball players have tested positive for steroids over the years, far more than NFL players, which is strange given the fact that strength is much more important in football and that the biggest football players outweigh the biggest baseball players by about 100 pounds.

Try to reconcile these facts. Using steroids and human growth hormones, which help humans become much bigger, stronger, and faster, would give a football player a much greater competitive advantage than simply taking some stimulants on game day. Football players routinely violate the NFL’s PED policy and get suspended. The punishment for stimulants like Adderall is the same as the punishment for steroid use.

Given the facts above, how does it make any sense that a player who is willing to cheat and use performance enhancing drugs wouldn’t use the drugs that actually give him the greatest competitive advantage? One reason could be that NFL players are so moral that they simply could not look themselves in the mirror if they were to take such a powerful drug like steroids, but can rationalize the use of simple stimulant. Another explanation could be that because the NFL does not release the specific drug that was tested positive for, players often lie and say that it was just a stimulant like Adderall.

Major League Baseball publicly states what a player tested positive for, and positive tests tend to be steroids and HGH. The same is true for Olympic drug testing. Perhaps the only group of athletes who would benefit more from steroid use are weight lifters, but yet the only drug that NFL players seem to test positive for is Adderall. As part of the NFL’s new drug testing policy, the league apparently can correct public misstatements from a player regarding a positive drug test. Time will tell if we see a sharp decrease in the number of players claiming they tested positive for Adderall, although it is worth noting that while the league can correct misstatements, they have not said that they will always do so.

Jadeveon Clowney and The Lessons From the 2014 NFL Drart

I have nothing against Jadeveon Clowney and wish him nothing but the best. I hope he recovers from his various injuries and has a great year next year and goes on to have a great career in the NFL. That being said, my hope is that sports journalists and fans will bear in mind the complete lack of impact on the Texans this year when we get to the 2015 draft this spring.

If you recall, the sports world was in a frenzy about who would get the number one overall pick and be blessed with the opportunity to draft the most physically gifted college football player since Tony Mandarich. There was talk at the time that Jadeveon Clowney’s status as the number one pick was so solid that he could have sat out his entire junior year and be picked number one. As it turned out, he played, had a terrible year, had his work ethic sort of called into question by his coach, and was still picked number one.

The Texans, after selecting Clowney with the number one pick, turned their team around and still have a shot at the playoffs this year, although it has nothing to do with Clowney, who recorded zero sacks in his rookie year before being placed on IR this season. The Texans’ success is primarily due to their new coach, and undrafted running back, and one of the greatest defensive ends of all time who was the 11th overall pick a few years back.

The Cleveland Browns, who drafted the second highest profile college player in the 2014 draft, Johnny Manziel, has also turned around their fortunes and have not yet been eliminated from the playoff race with 3 games remaining. This success, however, has nothing to do with Johnny Manziel as he hasn’t started a single game this year.

In 2012, the Washington Redskins traded a tractor trailer load of first and second round picks for the rights to Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. RG3, as he is now known, has been benched in two straight years by two different head coaches. It might be worth bearing this in mind when start being force fed stories about the next franchise changing college prospect after the Super Bowl this winter, one that will likely be won by a team lead by a quarterback picked 199th overall.