Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NFL Office Needs to Re-Examine Its Priorities and Logic

Cleveland Browns v Green Bay Packers
The National Football League has been wildly popular, a tremendous success story and the model for professional sports in many ways. That being said, the executives who run the league continue to have skewed priorities and counter intuitive thinking.

Over the years, the NFL has paid particular attention to ensure that their players wear uniforms with robotic precision, teams meticulously update injury reports to keep gamblers in the know and, heaven forbid, they drive any show of elation or fun to the confines of closed locker rooms. (Well, unless you are a Green Bay Packers player, which gives you license to jump into the stands and table dance with your fans after each and every touchdown while your team song pumps through the stadium loudspeakers.) Conversely, the NFL seems to have difficulty with the concept of protecting the safety of its players. A few recent events and NFL office rulings highlight their paradoxical approach.

On Sunday, the Eagles Donovan McNabb scrambled for a 3-yard touchdown run to extend the team's lead to 38-10, but his rib was broken when the Panthers 301 pound lineman Damione Lewis drilled him in the back at the end of the play. Not only was he already on the ground at the time, but he was also 3 yards into the end zone. Anyone familiar with NFL rules, including extra large sized 9-year veteran defensive tackles, knows that the nanosecond that a player crosses the goal line with the ball it is a touchdown.

A penalty was not assessed and the NFL office (relying specifically on head of officiating Merton Hanks) ruled that the hit was legal, no penalty should have been charged and no fines were in order. Perhaps Mr. Hanks needs to familiarize himself with the rule book as the play was dead on two counts with McNabb on the ground and well into the end zone. It also contradicts the league's longstanding desire to protect its signal callers. To add insult to injury, this same Panthers' team used a similar play to put McNabb out of the NFC Championship game a few years ago and help them advance to the Super Bowl- and did not get penalized or fined then, either.

While the NFL saw nothing wrong with a defender gratuitously breaking a marquee quarterback's ribs, they took strong objection to the Eagles touchdown celebration that took place an hour earlier in ironically the same spot. It was deemed to be a particularly heinous display of joy apparently due to the players' circular formation that smacked of premeditation. For their deeds, Eagles players were levied fines up to $10,000 apiece and $60,000 in total.

Speaking of fines and injuries, the NFL has just announced that it is fining the New York Jets, their GM and last year's since departed coach a total of $125,000 for not properly divulging Brett Favre's torn bicep injury last season. Of course, if they had, wouldn't that have put a large bulls-eye on Favre's arm for opposing team's 301 pound linemen?

Philadelphia Eagles v Carolina Panthers

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