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9/6/12

NFL Network Hires Donovan McNabb and Darren Sharper

Former Safety Darren Sharper is one of 4 new former players who officially join NFL network this season. I hate writing “former” cause it makes me feel old. ugh!

Both Donovan McNabb and Darren Sharper have been fabulous on television in my opinion. It looks like the NFL network agrees cause they announced they’ve both been hired yesterday. Or maybe the NFL network is like every other network who will hire any star whether they’re good or not. Either way, they have two winners here. 

McNabb is very sharp, but Sharper is even better to me. The thing I like about Sharp is that he doesn’t bash current players but he doesn’t kiss their asses either. He has a balanced approach to commentating I think people will enjoy assuming he keeps up the same style he brought during his appearances on the network last season.

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6/29/12

Jalen Rose Tweets Out A List of Tips for New Draft Picks

Last night was NBA draft night and I compiled Jalen Rose’s list of tips for draftees below.
Side note: I love that ESPN is giving Jalen Rose more prominent roles (including his podcast over on Grantland).
He is a tremendous talent and I’m glad that fact is going to become more readily observed.

Draft Day Tips. You will be approached daily by people that have ideas to make them..

I mean you rich(HA!) Establish your game then be a CEO.

Draft Day Tips. Be a sponge. Learn from your Coaches & Vets on/off the floor. Longevity is the key.

Never stop training 24/7/365.

Draft Day Tips. Thank God as often as possible for making your Dream come true.

Draft Day Tips. The more versatile your game is on both ends of the floor will put you in a position

to get minutes plus have a long career.

Draft Day Tips. Show up for practices/games early. Do all of your rookie team “chores”. Be gracious to fans.

Learn the history of the NBA.

Draft Day Tip. Your family & friends by no fault of their own just got an extended entourage.

“Money & Blood don’t mix” (Biggie voice)

Draft Day Tips. No monthly retainers. Make sure anyone on your payroll only “Eat’s what they Kill”

Draft Day Tips. You have 2 ears & 1 mouth for a reason. Respect the game & work harder than ever.

Average career lasts 4 seasons.

Draft Day Tips.

Make sure you have a quality agent & financial advisor that both will continue to work in your best interest.

Draft Day tips. In almost every case you are not only the most famous but the bread winner of the family

which can be a gift & curse.

CONGRATS to this years NBA Draft Class.

Welcome to an ELITE fraternity of 450 players that many discuss yet only a FEW can truly relate.

2/3/12

Rodney Harrison makes emotional plea for Peyton Manning to put health first

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Yesterday Peyton Manning was cleared to return to football. I still don’t understand what, exactly, that means [Update: Jim Irsay has said that the team is releasing a statement today as Manning as NOT been cleared by the team to play]. I also don’t know why he’d even consider playing after three neck surgeries involving bones being fused and scary things of that nature. Apparently Rodney Harrison doesn’t either. Harrison, along with other NBCers were on a panel for the debut of Bob Costas’s new show “Costas Tonight” and Harrison took a moment to address player safety and injuries. Harrison was clearly emotional and having some trouble expressing his himself coherently–maybe he didn’t want to go too far in criticizing the sport. But he started a sentence by saying if he’d known NOW what he knew back then when he was trying to establish his reputation as a hitter he… but then he didn’t complete the thought.

During his speaking turn, Harrison also mentioned his own chronic discomfort, headaches, and short term memory loss saying that his wife is constantly checking on him. He finished by addressing Manning’s situation. He didn’t come right out and say that Manning shouldn’t return but he did say that Manning should walk away before he ends up in a wheel chair. It’s worth watching if only because you don’t see Harrison’s sensitive side very often. I’m sure many of us remember hating Harrison as a player and thinking of him as dirty years ago when he was knocking folks down for the Patriots.

Odd moment with Cris Collinsworth, though. I didn’t see the show live so I don’t know if this was the result of choppy editing or not. But after Harrison is done talking, Collinswoth goes on a somewhat defensive tangent about how his sons play football and how it turns boys into men. It seemed off color since Harrison just explained how football also turns boys into men with chronic pain. I also thought it was tone deaf for a former wide receiver to make that point given that it’s a “safer” position. This is not to say that WRs don’t banged up too…when Chris Henry died his autopsy showed early signs of serious brain damage. But I have to acknowledge that being a hard hitting safety is a little different from playing wide receiver. Again, it could have been the editing. If you saw it live, let me know.

 

3/3/11

Media’s Frustration With NFL Owners Comes to A Head–Took Too Damn Long

The media’s coverage of the lockout has taken a while to catch up with reality. I can name any number of reasons for this, but the biggest one is that the threat of no football has given media outlets a lot of time to think about CBA minutia and to realize how reliant they are on football for clicks, views, and ratings. In particular, the biggest guy in town–ESPN.

My point about CBA minutia is important. This debate has transitioned from a dismissive and uninformed narrative about millionaires vs. billionaires, to a wholesale understanding that the more we know about player health and finances, playing in the NFL involves a lot of short and long term sacrifice.

Finally, the gloves are off. ESPN’s Rick Reilly had this to say:

Their estimated combined net worth is well over $40 billion, which is more than the GNP of 150 nations. Paul Allen, owner of the Seattle Seahawks, has a 414-foot yacht called “The Octopus” with two helicopters, two submarines, a swimming pool, a music studio and a basketball court. He also has two backup emergency yachts.

You’re really worried about his wallet?

Yes, many of the players are diamond-coated knuckleheads. But have you ever met Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder? He’s worth $1.1 billion and yet, two years ago, the Redskins sued a 73-year-old grandmother for not keeping up on her season-ticket package payments.

This man also got caught buying stale peanuts from a defunct airline and reselling them at games.

For the owners to lock out the players at this time in American history is unconscionable. You don’t like the players? Fine. There are still nearly 9 percent of Americans out of work. Think of the people who’ve lost their homes, lost their cars and can barely pay the rent. Watching an NFL game on a Sunday — and getting ready for it all week — is sometimes literally the only thing keeping them going.

Do you realize what having no NFL season would do to the economy? According to the NFLPA, it’s estimated it would cost each NFL city $160 million and 3,000 jobs. That’s 93,000 jobs nationwide. For what? Another Aspen chalet?

Question: In 10 years, do you think you’re going to find New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft wandering the streets because of the 200-plus concussions he didn’t know he had from his time in the NFL? You figure Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford will end up with ringing in the ears and depression the way former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson did? Within the past year alone, two former players killed themselves.

And over at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

We have billionaires sounding like struggling shrimp boat captains on the Mississippi Gulf coast after the oil spill. We have commissioner Roger Goodell claiming the financial structure of the league is broken. We have Jeff Pash, the NFL’s general counsel, proclaiming that teams are being “squeezed.”

Squeezed?

Television contracts alone pay out $3.085 billion per year, which basically means each team takes in over $96 million annually before it has sold a ticket, a T-shirt or a peanut. Half of the league’s 32 teams are valued at over $1 billion and the relative pauper of the group, the Jacksonville Jaguars, are valued at $725 million.

Don’t be surprised if you can’t access this article, AJC  had to close comments and the page won’t even load.

At the Washington Post, Sally Jenkins came around to the right side of this earlier than a lot of others, and I think her column on this subject is worth reading.

The average NFL player lasts just 3.3 seasons, and most of his salary, no matter how high on paper, isn’t guaranteed. The league minimum for a rookie is $310,000, and the median league salary is just less than $800,000. That’s wildly extravagant – isn’t it? Let’s see.

Sixty-three percent of all NFL players suffered at least one injury last year. The suicide rate among ex-NFL players is six times the national average, according to GamesOver.org, a Web site dedicated to helping former players adjust to retirement. A recent clinical survey found they are three times more likely than other men their age to abuse prescription medication.

Say a guy gets drafted and meets the average, plays for three and a half years. Let’s be generous and award him the median salary. He should walk away with at least a cool $2.4 million.

Right?

Hold on. Three percent off the top goes to his agent. Slice off another 40 percent because he’s in the highest tax bracket. So there goes 43 cents on the dollar.

He also has to pay a financial adviser, and he’s got legal fees.

He needs a specialized personal trainer, too, because his body is his living, plus training equipment, nutritional supplements, and a good computer to study game tape on, all at peril of being judged overpaid.

Some of this he can write off, if he remembers to keep the receipts, but the IRS tends to be strict and audits about 20 percent of all NFL players – perhaps because they’re reportedly so overpaid.

A job in the NFL is not a Hallmark card, and it’s not nearly as secure as most union jobs. It’s a grinding, dangerous, painful, short-lived pursuit, so abbreviated that it hardly qualifies as a profession in the way the rest of us define the word, and it comes at a heavy, heavy cost.

Whenever you’re tempted to yell at a player to try working for living, or to go dig a ditch, remember that by age 50 he may not be able to.

While at Deadspin, Drew Magary took the gloves completely off.

Regardless of how this shit plays out, starting tonight, this is all 100 percent the owners’ fault. Maybe you’ll grow tempted to start blaming the players equally as this thing drags out, but you shouldn’t. This isn’t like 1994, when baseball shut down because it had both asshole owners and a players union that didn’t even want drug testing and initiated the labor conflict by putting down their bats and striking in the middle of the season. This is different. This was premeditated and instigated by the NFL owners. And while Goodell may continually try and spin it otherwise as we go on (no doubt with help from his accordion monkey Peter King), and while some people might start buying into joint blame, I won’t. And neither should you. The players are cool. The owners are worthless titblisters. There’s no need for even-handedness here.

Now, I don’t believe in grassroots movements, like staging a mass walkout or any of that supposed fan empowerment shit. “Let’s all gather outside the stadium wearing red!” That never works. There’s nothing we can do to stop these 31 fuckheads from being complete and utter fuckheads. But, by chance, if you do spot one walking down the street, by all means shout at him to go fuck himself. Say it very loud, so that he’ll hear you. Make it quite clear to him that you blame HIM for this impasse, and that he deserves to die inside a dead horse’s asshole. Because he does. NFL owners, YOU are the villains in this little saga. You are miserable, shitsucking little fuckwits, and I hope David Doty presides over every goddamn lawsuit you ever sit through in your lifetime.

However late, it’s nice to see the media treat the NFL owners with the scorn and scrutiny they deserve. There’s no reason any company that isn’t even losing money should seek to drastically cut what it offers its employees–especially when we continue to be inundated with more information about what happens after these guys are no longer employed. But that seems to be the American way, it’s no wonder labor issues in this country are at the forefront of political debate.

2/28/11

Jason Whitlock Tackles “Baby Mama” Culture…But Why Won’t Sports Journalists Discuss Their Own Issues?

Let me first admit that I haven’t watched Whitlock’s special (I pride myself on not watching anything that involves the phrase “baby mama culture” so far I’m batting 1000), but when I read Whitlock’s column announcing “Connected,” a discussion between he and  former Cowboy Michael Irvin and sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards on “illegitimacy in the black community, I had a visceral reaction and had to write to get it off my chest.

Right now I’m working on an article about the perception of black athletes and how it’s impacted by the dearth of minority reporters, so I’ve been thinking a lot about writers like Jason Whitlock as well as Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter and ESPN’s own Michael Wilbon. As part of my research, I’ve been considering the role of prominent black sports journalists in the scheme of overall sports reporting. How are they different? Are they different? Should they be?

Whitlock in particular has expressed some views in the past that lead me to believe that he struggles mightily with race and gender. I’ve found his analysis of such subjects (which he writes about frequently) often lacking nuance and depth.  You can’t discuss the role of fathers in the black community without discussing issues like unemployment and geographical segregation that take the conversation out of the sports vacuum and into territory that is easy to mishandle. And the last thing black people need is another stereotypical conversation mishandled in mainstream media in the interest of ratings.

I’m torn on the idea of sports journalists taking on such broad race discussions by loosely tying them to sports. To me, it’s a little like walking around a dirty house and complaining that you’re bored. Whether a sports reporter is white or black, sports journalists on a whole do NOT report on black people. They report on people–many of whom, happen to be black. That’s an important distinction. Sports journalists are spending time discussing topics that are better served by other types of reporters such as those who routinely report on the plight of black men, the poor, and minorities while ignoring the smell right under their nose.

Not to mention, many of these same journalists who rush to participate in townhalls and panels or to discuss race in a “general” sense in a column, rarely, if ever, seem stop to reflect  (in real time) on what role race might play in the tone of some of their articles before they actually file a story. In other words, reporters seem to admit that race colors their writing but rarely appear to make an attempt to fix the problem.

One of the reasons I started this blog is because of the deficiencies I noted in coverage of NFL players. I felt that much of what is written about NFL players is unforgiving and lacking context or empathy. Rather than taking on issues more appropriate for the Al Sharptons of the world, sports journalists should first tackle issues under their control and influence.

A sports journalist would be better qualified and more productive if they focused on areas under their purview e.g. what role sports leagues should play once the player is available to them or under contract. That’s the kind of knowledge and perspective sports journalists should possess that other types of journalists do not.

In terms of the  NFL, I’d welcome if sports journalists would discuss how much should character matter when drafting a player? Can we drop the pretense surrounding that issue? Should the NFLPA and NFL do more to assist players since they are aware these issues? Does the NFL have a social responsibility to help players become better citizens since they profit from many of the players’ pain and desperation? If most football players were white would safety be addressed more aggressively? Should journalists use their platform to help the public understand the pressures on some of these men e.g. the fact that many have to take care of their families? Have sports journalists helped form negative perceptions of players and could be race be a factor? If so, what can be done to combat this issue?

And those questions are just the tip of the iceberg for me.

If any of you happened to watch “Connected” don’t hesitate to drop a comment about what you thought.

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