OBR Daily Blog 1-15/16

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The Karma of Ben
Dave Kolonich on January 16th, 2011 AT 12:00 PM


The laws of NFL Karma typically state that no player or team can always sustain positive momentum.  What goes up, must come down – or vice versa. 

So far during these current playoffs, the recently reversed fortunes of the New Orleans Saints finally plummeted in Seattle.  The redemption story of Mike Vick ended with a late-game interception.  Peyton Manning returned to his early career playoff follies, while Atlanta's brilliant regular season run was derailed by the Packers. 

Earlier in the regular season, this same universal constant was shown in both Minnesota and Dallas – as two of the league's higher profile teams were reduced to reclamation projects.  Along the way, Cincinnati returned to a more natural and familiar state, while the likes of one-year wonders Mike Singletary and Josh McDaniels were exposed to a cruel cosmic fate.

On the other end of the Karma spectrum, the NFL saw a revival of sorts in New England, along with hints of success in Kansas City, Tampa Bay and St. Louis.  While not a perfect science, NFL Karma basically states that all teams and players have to take a turn at both extremes of the league.

And naturally, the Browns' expansion malaise is simply the exception that proves the rule.

However, there is one player who is completely immune to these laws.

Ben Roethlisberger. 

In fact, I would go as far to suggest that Roethlisberger is completely untouchable.

On Saturday, the Ravens gift-wrapped a Steeler victory by fumbling away a first-half lead, before delivering yet another futile fourth-quarter performance.  Among the highlights were a dropped touchdown pass by Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice's first fumble of the season.  Throw in some critically ill-timed pass interference penalties and yet another chapter was added to the eternally glowing narrative of Roethlisberger.

To recap, let's revisit Roethlisberger's career so far.

  • Roethlisberger is drafted by a playoff-caliber team, then put into perhaps the greatest position to succeed in league history.  Roethlisberger becomes the quintessential "game manager" in Pittsburgh, relying on a powerful running game and devastating defense.
  • A year later, Roethlisberger delivers perhaps the worst quarterbacking performance in Super Bowl history, but is rescued by a combination of Steeler defense and some suspicious officiating.  Naturally, Roethlisberger manages to bring home the first of two championships.
  • Roethlisberger survives an offseason motorcycle accident – one that could have easily killed him, or at the least permanently damaged his body.  One face plate later, Roethlisberger picks up right where he left off.
  • Roethlisberger is again bailed out in a Super Bowl – this time by Santonio Holmes – who makes one of the greatest catches in league history.
  • During this past offseason, Roethlisberger again escapes trouble – as the ineptitude of Georgia police officers allows him to avoid rape charges.
  • Then, only a few short months later, Roethlisberger's profile and popularity are restored to an elite level, thanks solely to his on-field performance.  In many ways, it's like the incident never even happened.

So, the question now becomes – will Roethlisberger ever face the laws of NFL Karma?

If such a thing occurs, I expect nothing less than a parting of the rivers surrounding Pittsburgh.  Perhaps all of Roethlisberger's incredible fortune so far will be swallowed up into the NFL abyss.  In terms of true Karma, this could prove epic.

But then again, the Browns fan in me has been waiting some seven years for this new answer to reveal itself.  But, the rationalist in me knows that this answer may never come.

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The Silent Debate
Dave Kolonich on January 15th, 2011 AT 9:57 AM

Lost in all the bi-annual coaching change speculation is the 800-lb. gorilla in the room.  Or maybe 800 billion dollar gorilla is more appropriate in this case.

Once all the talk regarding Pat Shurmur dies down in Cleveland, the bigger story on the horizon remains the fate of an actual 2011 NFL season.  As of now, progress between the NFL Players' Association and league owners has been reduced to a public relations battle – as each side is clearly preparing for an epic offseason staring contest.

While the owners have claimed significant financial losses over the past several years, their evidence has yet to be presented for public viewing.  In not doing so, the NFLPA has been unable to organize any tangible arguments on their behalf.

However, some players are now beginning to entrench themselves for the upcoming battle.

Perhaps the most vocal of these player representatives has been the Browns' Scott Fujita.  In the past days, Fujita shared his thoughts with New Orleans' WDSU.

Below is the link to WDSU, along with Fujita's letter stating his concerns regarding a lockout….

WDSU – New Orleans – Fujita Warns of Dire NFL Lockout Consequences

We’re approaching the end of the current league year in the NFL, and if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement isn’t reached by midnight March 4, the players could be locked out. Translation: We can’t even show up for work. The players have suggested having a "lock-in," where we would basically hunker down in a hotel somewhere for as long as needed and hammer out a new CBA before the clock strikes midnight. We have received no response from the league about this.

What all this means is that our families will lose their health coverage, injured players will no longer get treated by our doctors and trainers, and games could be cancelled. Do I expect anyone to feel sorry for us? Absolutely not. The real issue is what’s at stake for everyone involved in the business of football and the undeniable impact that a lack of football will reap. Each NFL city is expected to lose about $150,000,000. Trust me, the city of Cleveland can’t afford that. And as for the city of New Orleans, whose economy is so dependent on the service industry and visitors staying in their hotels and eating in their restaurants, it’s just not fair to them. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently claimed a lockout wouldn’t be all that devastating. For someone with his level of influence, that’s one of the most irresponsible things I’ve heard yet. This is much bigger than some gripe the owners have with the players.

So what’s the gripe? In a nutshell, the owners are demanding that the players play two more games each year AND take an 18% pay-cut. And when we ask why, they tell us it’s none of our business. The players are willing to be reasonable about this, and if we knew the NFL had fallen on hard times and that sacrifices were a must, then that’s a different story. But as we all know, the league is doing just fine. Revenues are as high as they’ve ever been and the fan-base is growing every year. This season, TV ratings for regular season NFL games blew the World Series out of the water. The NFL has negotiated TV deals that will pay them $4.5 billion in 2011… even if NO games are played. So when we ask them to explain how the "current economic model is broken," I think that’s a pretty justifiable question.

And this season, when it comes to player safety, the NFL suddenly pretended to be the flag-bearers for our health and well-being. This comes after years of denying even the possibility of a link between the game of football, concussions, and long-term traumatic brain injury. And despite the raised level of awareness concerning our post-career health realities, they still want two more games and haven’t even suggested any improvements in post-career care. Their hypocrisy infuriates me. Right now we get just five years of coverage after leaving this game. Five. And that’s only if you’re lucky enough to become vested. In the meantime, more and more of our brothers fall victim to ALS, dementia and depression, among other afflictions. My heart screams for these men. Add to that the hip and knee replacements that are sure to come up 10, 15, 20 years after we stop playing. And through the whole PR battle that’s currently being waged, in what some are calling a battle of greed between "millionaires and billionaires," the players have asked for nothing. Ultimately, we just want to be taken care of after we leave this game. My message to the NFL: You say you care about us…Now please, prove it. For the sake of guys like Andre Waters, O.J. Brigance, Orlando Thomas, Earl Campbell and Mike Webster…prove it.

So what can you do? Visit NFLLockout.com to submit your petition to block this lockout and to find out how you can participate with "Let us Play Day" on Tuesday, January 28.

And if you’re feeling really ambitious, a letter to your local Congressional leader could potentially go a long way. I know a lot of people would prefer that Washington just stay out of this; that it’s none of their business. But when whole communities of people will be adversely affected by this lockout, my feeling is that they absolutely have an obligation to take an interest in what’s at stake here.

Listen, I know there’s a lot of posturing out there right now, and I recognize that this email could be viewed in the same light. But everyone in this email chain are friends and family, and as things start to get cloudy these next few months, I wanted you to hear the truth from me. And trust me, I "get" that this is just a game. But I’ve lived and worked in communities that I’m convinced can’t afford to lose football. And there are people very dear to me whose current health and well-being may have been negatively influenced by this game. These are the issues I care about. These are the issues that light my fire.

Thanks for taking the time to read. I wish you all the best for the new year.


It's refreshing to see this kind of honest and eloquent dialogue – especially when you view the victims of a potential lockout as primarily the fans and economic base of NFL cities.  Clearly, if this lockout drags into the Spring and Summer months, there will be a lot of revenue lost – both within NFL cities and extending to the billion dollar TV contracts that fuel the league.  In this sense, an NFL lockout doesn't help anyone. 

However, if you pay attention to Fujita's thoughts on player safety and health, it's obvious that the NFLPA is fighting a lost battle.  Merely because of the paradox that results in trying to protect the combatants of an inherently violent game, any concessions given by the owners will have to paid back in the form of more games – or at the least by reducing player salaries. 

For example, extending health benefits for vested NFL players beyond the five-year mark that Fujita states is a major indicator of why the owners are pushing for two extra games per season.  After all, the body and mind of a typical NFL veteran can only degenerate over time – which proves extremely costly to someone – presumably the owners in this case.

Of course, two bits of common sense have to be stated here.  First, what Fujita is asking for in this instance is nothing extraordinary.  If the league is suddenly concerned about the safety of its players – which probably more reflects the societal shift towards recognizing the severe impact of brain injuries than genuine caring – then obviously adding two games to the schedule is among the more ironic developments in league history.

But then again, common sense also dictates that two more regular season games equates to bigger attendance gates and a larger chunk of the league's overall television revenue. 

In this sense, the current battle is being framed as "quality of player life" versus "quality of revenue."  And in the capitalistic frenzy that is the NFL, it would appear that only one winner will emerge.

However, a point that is being lost here is the actual "quality of games."  While the league will clearly benefit by adding two games per year, it's worth asking what the effect of an 18-game schedule will actually have on the league’s product.

Beyond the vital issue of player safety, another two games could result in some dismal television ratings and half-empty stadiums.  Just imagine a scenario where a 2-14 team is playing out the stretch in a cold-weather city.  Despite the passion of fans around the league, the prospects of selling out another two games for a team whose season is clearly lost are pretty slim.  Conversely, a playoff-bound team could be facing a situation where they want to rest up key players for close to a month – which creates a series of virtual lame-duck games.

In either scenario, an extended season does virtually nothing for an NFL city – much in the way that Fujita suggests financial ruin during a lockout.  No better evidence can be found than during this past December, where the likes of the Bengals, Buccaneers and Jaguars struggled to fill their stadiums.  Adding another two games to the season will only compound the financial woes these cities already face.

But of course – as the tone of Fujita's letter suggests – this is an issue that isn't up for debate at the present time.  Then again, it appears that nothing is currently being debated.

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