|Doing the right thing?|
League's questionable stances on discipline will eventually hurt the game
Maybe Marvin Lewis never had a chance. Bloated egos and NFL modern nightlife may have doomed his authority from the word "go." Curly Lambeau couldn't survive in today's league, which is rapidly forgetting its roots.
Just examine different eras:
Earlier this month, cornerback Deltha O'Neal became the eighth Bengal to have a run-in with the law after driving while intoxicated.
Compare this to Lambeau's 1920s Green Bay teams when he prohibited the consumption of chocolate milk, believing it built fat around the lungs.
Cincy receiver Reggie McNeal somehow avoided a DUI arrest after resisting police while possessing drugs.
Fried foods and Coca-Cola were strictly forbidden under Lambeau's reign. Along with many other coaches in the league's infancy, Lambeau maintained that it took 48 hours to digest a bottle of Coke and that the sugar decimated a player's energy.
More than 80 years later, Bengals' linebacker Odell Thurman blew a .18 BAC level with McNeal and Chris Henry also in his SUV. Oh yeah, this happened when Thurman was serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
This isn't unordinary in today's sports. Through constant DUIs, middle-finger salutes to fans, and erratic loogies, the NFL has desensitized greatly. How else does Terrell Owens avoid suspension after admitting that he spit in DeAngelo Hall's face during a Dallas-Atlanta game? Even though suspension wasn't given a decade ago when Bill Romanowski sprayed J.J. Stokes with saliva, the league could have rewritten a vital precedent this time around. Poor administrative stances have steered the NFL down an NBA-esque path. Yes, scary.
Maybe the root of the problem is that such behavior simply isn't taken seriously anymore. After intercepting a pass a few weeks ago, Pittsburgh defensive back Anthony Smith high-stepped his way out of bounds. The classless act immediately drew the ire of Bill Cowher and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau who shouted at Smith on the sideline - a classic "old school vs. new school" clash. Unfortunately "old school" suffered a blow during an ensuing NFL Network highlight. "Analyst" Deion Sanders commended Smith for his celebrating and said LeBeau should get off his case.
Isn't it contradictory that the NFL shuts down ESPN's "Playmakers" due to its over-exaggeration, yet puts Sanders behind the booth on NFL Network? In his heyday, Deion could of played the role of Demetrius Harris better than Omar Gooding himself.
Even after Cowher and LeBeau were through instilling integrity and respect, Smith held no regrets.
"Nah, nah. We have fun. That's part of my game. The guys like it. That's what we do. We've got a lot of swag."
And once again Vince Lombardi turns in his grave.
Blue collar? Try popped collar (that's how Sanders and company ended a show last week). In the 60's any sign of "swag" was harshly dealt with immediately, and it didn't matter who you were. As Owens' questionable suicide attempt was quickly brushed under the rug by Bill Parcells and company, Lombardi operated without exceptions. Paul Hornung, the Heisman Trophy-winning ‘Golden Boy,' was fined $150 for arriving back at his room in St. Norbert College during training camp as 10:59 p.m. ticked to 11 p.m.- Lombardi's set curfew. Later he was tabbed another $500 on the spot for innocently sitting in a bar with a date in Chicago, a cardinal sin under Lombardi.
Gradually such a disciplined code-of-conduct dissolved into a league full of misdemeanors, rapes, and homicides. You think the Darrent Williams tragedy strikes in the Lombardi Era? Not a chance. I doubt players were permitted to celebrate in the a.m., let alone after a heartbreaking loss that just eliminated your team. An unwritten code of professionalism reigned.
Yet now, humbleness is eroding by each Osi Umenyiora "jump shot" and each attempt by Parcells to turn T.O.'s problems into a media conspiracy. Slowly a sense of arrogance is overtaking the NFL.
In Buffalo, a trend could be developing. The Bills failed to sell out their final four games despite being in playoff pouncing position and facing intriguing foes: Jacksonville, 'LT' and San Diego, arch-rival Miami, and Vince Young's Tennessee Titans.
So how do a slew of blackouts sweep through a competitive team?
Just a hunch but maybe fans are growing sick of paying outrageous ticket prices to see players pump their chests after gaining a first down while their team trails by 14. The quality of the game hasn't eroded, rather fans' perception of the NFL attitude. Maybe throwing a whole Sunday away simply isn't worth it anymore. With the media in full force today, fans don't need to attend a game. They can simply log on to the Internet and have the score fall in their lap.
Have blue-collar Bills fans really grown disgusted by the way players act and taken a stand? Could be. If the NFL isn't careful, this trend will continue into more markets. Harsher fines and suspensions for off-field crimes and on-field antics are the only way to steer the NFL away from the NBA's dismal path. Unfortunately, the actions of select athletes overshadow the good that many do like the New Orleans Saints' charity work after Hurricane Katrina, or hundreds of other athletes who work with state and local charities near their NFL team.
Only in the modern game is a book, dedicated to the Lord Savior Jesus Christ, entitled "Just Give Me the Damn Ball." And only in the modern game can the league's most villainous of egos, Terrell Owens, write a children's book.
If only ESPN's Ron Jaworski had his New Year's resolution come to fruition: that every player in the NFL could act like league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson. The league's best player is its shining light. Get this: It's possible to dominate in the NFL without the use of sharpies, celebration props, and Drew Rosenhaus. Thank you for blazing a trail, L.T.
As rookie commissioner Roger Goodell mulls over television contracts, an expansion team in Los Angeles, and international play, maybe he should prioritize the league's image ... the way Curly and Vince envisioned.
Tyler Dunne is a college student from the Buffalo, N.Y., area and frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.