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It is Final Four weekend.  Both the men and women’s Final Four are being held this weekend.  The men play on Saturday and Monday, and the women play on Sunday and Tuesday.  I think it is a shame, but hardly anyone seems to be following the women’s tournament.  It has been suggested that the NCAA move the woman’s tournament so it doesn’t directly conflict with the men’s.  I don’t know if that will do any good, but it may.

However, there is one piece that has come out that actually says negative things about men’s and women’s basketball.  That is Geno Auriemma’s comments that men’s basketball is “a joke”.  Part of his quote points out one of the problems facing basketball, and for that matter many sports.  He said: “….the bottom line is that nobody can score, and they’ll tell you it’s because of great defense, great scouting, a lot of team work, nonsense, nonsense. College men’s basketball is so far behind the times it’s unbelievable. I mean women’s basketball is behind the times. Men’s basketball is even further behind the times.

I have to admit that Auriemma is correct.  Scoring in college basketball is, on average, 10 points lower than it was about 20 years ago.  There was more scoring in the game before the 35 second clock.  That 35 second clock is another stupid item in the men’s game.  Heck, even the women play with a 30 second clock!  Why does it take the men 35 seconds to run a play?

Auriemma goes on to say that “Every other major sport in the world has taken steps to help people be better on the offensive end of the floor.”  That is also true.  However, I must ask Auriemma why these rule changes are necessary to improve or “help” be better on the offensive end of the floor?  There is a simple answer.  Players are not being taught, and not being held responsible to use the “fundamentals” of the game.

There is one “undefeated” team left in men’s basketball.  Kentucky.  However, the one knock against them is they don’t score!  Their shooting percentage is horrible!  Yes, they play good defense, but their shooting and free throw shooting are terrible.  That is their achilles heal.  I don’t know if it will hurt them in the Final Four, and that is the problem with the game.

There were at least two games in the “Elite Eight” that were decided because one team or the other couldn’t make free throws!  Half of the Final Four are in there because their opponent couldn’t make free throws.  What is wrong with that picture?  Why aren’t players, and their coaches, emphasizing fundamental play anymore?  Because it isn’t “sexy” enough and won’t get them on Sports Center “Top Plays.”

I believe the two sports most affected by this lack of fundamental play is basketball and football.  I am talking about both at the college level and at the professional level.  I am tired of hearing about Player A “going off for 45 points” as if he did something terrific.  Player A took about 50 shots himself.  When you take into consideration free throws and three pointers, that pencils out to about 38% shooting!

Not to mention that if Player A made half of his free throws, he might have scored 50 points.  I am also tired of being told that the “Top Plays” are dunks.  Let’s face facts, if a man 6 feet 6 inches tall cannot dunk a basketball, he probably shouldn’t be playing basketball.

Then there are the “violations” that aren’t “violations” anymore.  Like walking or palming the ball.  How can we expect players to use fundamentals when they aren’t being enforced by the referees?  I can’t tell you how many “traveling violations” I counted in just one game last weekend that were not called.  Before you argue that I am just being biased, I did referee high school basketball.

When these players move into the NBA it gets even worse.  The NBA almost never calls “traveling.”  On top of that, the NBA uses a “star hierarchy” to determine who gets the foul called against them.  If a “star” makes a move and there is a collision, the “star” gets the call in his favor, even if he was the one to commit the foul.

Football is even worse.  How many times have you seen a running back “break” six or seven tackles on one run?  Once in a while it is because the runner is that good.  The vast majority of the times is because the defensive players don’t know how to tackle!  Again, thanks to “Top Plays” tackling has become  “run as fast as you can at someone, slam into him, and hopefully he will fall to the ground.”

Those are the kinds of “tackles” that make it to the “Top Plays” list.  As a result, fundamentals of the game are lost.  I doubt that they will ever come back either.  I played football in my youth.  I loved the game.  I have basically stopped watching the game because they don’t play football anymore.  It is more like watching a demolition derby.

Auriemma is also correct in saying ” This is entertainment we’re talking about. People have to decide, do I want to pay 25 bucks, 30 bucks to go see a college scrum where everybody misses six out of every ten shots they take, or do I want to go to a movie?  We’re fighting for the entertainment dollar, here, and I have to tell you it’s not entertainment from a fan’s standpoint.

I have more-or-less abandoned watching both football and basketball.  Yes, I watch the NCAA Tournament, but more by flipping to it during commercials on other programs.  I cannot say I have watched an entire game for years.  The same is true for football.  I used the same technique during the Super Bowl.

This is not to say there aren’t exceptional players in both sports.  There are.  The trouble is that too many “stars” don’t know how to play the game correctly.  They have become more of a one-on-one game of egos rather than the team games they are supposed to be.

As a result, I find both games very boring to watch.  I don’t understand how a team can pay out $100 million to a defensive middle-linebacker who doesn’t know how to tackle or to a 38% shooter.  You can say all you want about how defenses in basketball has gotten better.  But, when one team misses six 12 foot open jumpers in a row, that isn’t good defense, it is bad shooting.

You can also complain about athletes leaving college early for the pros.  But, remember, they came to college not knowing how to play properly, so how can you expect them to play properly in the pros?  Imagine how much more money may be available if someone could actually shoot the ball, tackle someone, or block someone.

If you need to see an increase in offense, teach the game correctly and give the players the fundamental tools they need to compete.  Then you will see offense increase.  You may even see defense increase as well.  To me, there is nothing more dramatic than watching a fundamentally sound “unstoppable” offense pitted against a fundamentally sound “unmovable” defense.  That is sports, and that is something that neither basketball nor football gives us anymore.

Oh well, enjoy the Final Four and “Go Big Ten!”

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Our country sits on the crossroads in history.  For the last 100 years or so, we have what many people believe to be a model for democracy.  Yes, we have had our problems with race before like slavery and the Jim Crow laws.  But, beginning in the 20th century, we have basically been a country that passed laws that protected the rights of individuals.

All of that is changing in front of our eyes, and we don’t seem to give a shit!  The Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that abortion was legal.  Since then we have seen a strong opposition to that ruling.  In the last several years, several conservative states have passed laws taking that right away from women.  They have even passed legislation in several of these states that require doctors to tell women who want an abortion false information.  The object isn’t to protect the woman’s health, it is to make them change their mind about getting an abortion.

We have seen a so-called “church,” whose name I refuse to even mention,  protest at military funerals.  They claim that the soldiers were killed as “god’s punishment” for America’s acceptance of gay rights.  When the families object to their being there, nothing is done to keep them away.

There are voter suppression laws being passed in several states.  They are not-so-thinly veiled attempts to reduce the number of people who usually vote Democratic from gaining access to the polls.  In the last election just last year, several thousand people were denied their right to vote.  In some cases, it resulted in swaying the outcome of close elections.

Now, Indiana has taken the lead in authorizing legalized discrimination.  Governor Mike Pence signed the legislation yesterday.  It is called The Religious Objections Law.  Under this law, if you own a business and you don’t like someone, you can refuse service to that individual as long as you can say you have religious beliefs that says you don’t have to serve them.

The Governor says it is not a discrimination law.  He says “this law is not about discrimination.”  If it isn’t about discrimination, what is it about?  This law has come to fruition because the courts have ruled that same-sex marriage ban that was passed by Indiana is unconstitutional.  In order to fight against same-sex marriage, Indiana came up with this discrimination law to satisfy the far right-wing and the Christian Cult.

This is the reality in Indiana right now.  If you own any business, you can discriminate against anyone you want.  Pence may disagree with that statement, but it is true.  What if I owned a business in Indiana.  I decided that I don’t like Evangelical Christians.  I can deny business to any Evangelical Christian if I simply say it is against my religion to serve them because I consider them heretics.  This law gives me that right.

The laws about discrimination are very clear.  If you own a business, you are not allowed to discriminate against anyone.  Once you open your doors to the public, you are required to serve the whole public.  That is a very simple fact of doing business.  If you own a catering service and say you will cater all events except gay events, you are breaking the law.  This Indiana Law allows you to disobey anti-discrimination laws already upheld by the Supreme Court.

There is only one thing to do.  Businesses must boycott Indiana.  As a matter of fact, Salesforce.com co-founder and CEO Mark Benioff announced on twitter, shortly after Pence signed the bill, that he was cancelling programs that require his customers or employees to “travel to Indiana to face discrimination.”

The odd part is that Salesforce.com bought Indianapolis based marketing software company ExactTarget for $2.5 billion and kept several hundred employees in Indianapolis.  I hope he has the good sense to remove those jobs from Indiana so his employees don’t have to “face discrimination.”

Also, the timing is perfect for a national outcry.  Next week is the Final Four for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.  The Final Four is being held in Indianapolis.  For once, I would love to hear the NCAA do the right thing and announce on national television that this will be the last Final Four, or any round of the tournament held anywhere in the state of Indiana.  I am not holding my breath on that one, but it would be really nice if they did.

NCAA President Mark Emmert did say in a statement:  “We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Final Four are not impacted negatively by this bill.”  The law, by the way, doesn’t take effect until June.

He went on to say “Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it affects future events and our workforce.”  Sounds promising.  But, the NCAA isn’t known for always doing what is right.

Let’s look at just one example of a situation.  It is football season.  A team is due to meet Indiana University at Indiana.  One or more of their players have announced that they are gay.  What happens if the hotel the team is supposed to stay at refuses to allow the gay players to spend the night based on “religious grounds?”

Before you snicker, this is a very real possibility.  But, what if that hotel doesn’t say they won’t allow the gay players to spend the night until the team arrives?  That team will either have to find alternative quarters for the whole team, or follow the old Jim Crow laws and just find alternative quarters for the gay player(s).  What about pro-athletes?  There are a handful of openly gay players in professional sports?  Will they be denied a room when their team meets a team in Indiana?

Nothing will have a bigger impact on Indiana and this stupid law than the NCAA announcing immediately that they will hold no tournaments in the state due to this law.  Maybe that will make Indiana repeal this discriminatory law.

The only way to fight this kind of discrimination is through economic power.  If a state wants to legally discriminate against a segment of our citizenry, they should not be granted anything that would bring money into its economy.

Major sporting events like the NCAA tournaments, the Super Bowl, and others should not take place anywhere inside Indiana.  Wouldn’t it be great if the Indianapolis 500 was held without anyone attending?  Major corporations should sever their ties to Indiana.  Convention organizers should avoid Indiana like the plague.

At least two groups have announced that they were going to reconsider plans to events in Indianapolis because of this law.  These groups are the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Gamer’s Convention.  I hope both go elsewhere.

But, that is not enough.  Every person who lives in Indiana and opposes this law should boycott any business that is willing to discriminate against someone based on “religious grounds.”  Any business that openly discriminates against anyone does not deserve to remain open for business.  Boycott them and shut them down!

I have family in Chicago.  When I travel home to visit, I must pass through Indiana.  I promise you that I will make sure I have enough gas to get through the state and I won’t stop to eat.  I refuse to give any of my money to their economy.  I hope all travelers who need to pass through Indiana do the same thing.

If these things happen, the economic impact will be severe.  Not only to businesses who openly discriminate using this law as cover, but to the tax rolls in Indiana as well.

Since several other states are already looking to Indiana as the model to follow with similar laws, it is time to fight back.  By showing the economic implications of such legalized discrimination, maybe those other states will think twice before following suit.

To show just how much this law is legalized discrimination, Pence was asked if he would follow Illinois’ lead and add sexual-orientation to the state’s civil rights law.  He responded “That is not on my agenda.  I will not be pursuing that.”  Therefore, no one can argue that this law is anything but legalized discrimination sponsored by the state of Indiana.

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I like football.  I don’t love football.  I played the game when I was young and enjoyed playing it.  On the other hand, I am not one to sit on the couch all weekend to watch football games.  I admit when my poor Bears are on TV, I will flip back and forth to see how they are doing.  I don’t think I have watched an entire game in years.

One of the reasons I don’t watch a lot of football is because, in my opinion, the game has changed so much that it isn’t football anymore.  Forgive me for being old, but the fundamentals of the game have just about disappeared.  I am sick of watching grown men making millions of dollars who can’t even tackle properly.

The rules have changed so much, to protect the players which is a good thing, that no one even knows what a penalty is anymore.  Including the referees.  The last two games involving the Dallas Cowboys proves that point, I think.  As a result, all we see during the games is a bunch of men running around trying to “slam into” the opponent instead of trying to “tackle” them.  It has become very boring to me.

We have instant replay to “get the call right” but things like penalties cannot be reviewed.  Which is why in those two games involving the Cowboys in the playoffs there was no review.  So much for “getting the call right.”  On top of that, players “trash talking” has gotten so bad, I feel like I am watching Pro-Wrestlers at the microphone rather than Pro-Football Players.

I don’t have anything against trash talking on the field.  But, when you bring it to the post game news conference, it is more like WWE than football.  All of this is going on when the NFL has a problem.  It has mishandled all kinds of situations that crept up during this season.  Look at the Ray Rice and the Adrian Peterson cases.

Before the Seattle Seahawks game on Sunday, the NFL said that if Lynch wore “gold-colored spikes” he would be disqualified for the game and fined to boot.  They said it would violate the uniform rules.  They have fined him thousands of dollars already for not speaking to the media, and threaten to fine him in excess of $50,000 if he doesn’t speak to the media during Super Bowl week.  Then they fined one of his teammates for giving an obscene gesture after a touchdown.

This brings us to what is becoming the infamous “deflategate” incident in New England.  According to reports, the New England Patriots were using under inflated footballs in the game.  One of the Colts complained after he intercepted Brady because he thought the ball felt funny.  It turns out that 11 of the 12 balls the Patriots were using were under inflated by 15%!

According to the rules, footballs must be pressurized between 12.5 and 13.5 PSI.  All of these balls were retested at halftime and were found to be at 11 PSI.  I grew up in the north and I know that weather affects PSI.  But, not at a 15% rate.  Besides, the footballs that were used by the Indianapolis Colts were not under inflated.  So, you should be able to rule out the weather being a factor.

I know this doesn’t sound like something very egregious.  Nor am I suggesting that the Colts might have won if the footballs were not under inflated.  Let’s face facts, the Colts stunk in the game.  But, having played the game, I can tell you that under inflating the ball does make it easier to grip it making passing easier and forced fumbles harder.  Especially on cold wet days like Sunday was in New England.

You must also remember that it was Tom Brady and Payton Manning who lobbied the league to allow each team to bring “their own footballs” to the game.  Before the 2008 season, the home team supplied all of the game balls.  But because quarterbacks each like the ball a little different, Brady and Manning lobbied the league in 2007 to change that rule.  Now each team plays with their own footballs during the game.

Besides, we have to take into consideration that this is not the first time New England has been discovered to be cheating.  Remember “spygate?”  If the NFL is truly out to “protect the integrity of the shield” as they claim, then the only correct thing for them to do is suspend Brady and Belichick for the Super Bowl.  During their news conferences yesterday, both men said “I have no idea what happened” over, and over.

In an ironic twist, Brady said he wants his footballs at 12.5 PSI, but then said he doesn’t feel any difference during the game.  That is a real stretch for me.  He says he can’t feel the difference in the one piece of equipment he handles all of the time, but thinks 12.5 PSI is the “perfect football.”  Look, I like Tom Brady, but I believe he just got caught in his own lie and needs to be punished.

Belichick claims he knows nothing about inflating footballs.  Yet he also contradicted himself when he said that he alters the inflation of the balls in practice so his players “practice under the most extreme conditions” like during the game.  Another contradiction that is hard for me to swallow.

During his news conference Belichick threw his quarterback under the bus.  His quarterback then threw the equipment staff under the bus in his news conference.  All the while standing in front of a backdrop that read “Gillette Flexball.”  Now there is a subliminal message if there ever was one!

To use Belichick’s and Brady’s own words, I would be “shocked” if anything was done to punish the New England Patriots before the Super Bowl.  Even if there was some kind of punishment handed out before the game, it will not include the suspension of either Belichick or Brady.

Even if both men are telling the truth that they don’t know how the balls were under inflated, which I find hard to believe, remember what Commissioner Goodell said during the news conference handing out punishment for the Saints in “bountygate”.  He said:  “ignorance is not an excuse.”

I know “boutnygate” was far more serious than “deflategate” but as he likes to say, “rules are rules” and must be followed by all.  Therefore, I see no recourse but to suspend both the coach and quarterback for the upcoming game.  Otherwise we will continue to see the NFL become more and more like the WWE.

I think you can only sum up this NFL season as a really shitty one for the league!  Only, they have no one to blame but themselves.

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It doesn’t matter if you are reading a newspaper, a blog, an online magazine, or even watch television you see them everywhere.  This is the time of year when everyone seems to be enthralled with what happened through the year.  And, in order to make it easier for you to follow them, these stupid best and worst lists keep cropping up.

Just today, one online magazine has no less than twelve lists.  They include such notables as worst cable news, top 10 movies, 10 most outrageous reactions, best episodes on tv, what to read, best tweets, worst tweets, product failures, most talked about images, hair, and of course best SNL moments.

I have never really understood the fascination with these lists.  All of these lists are opinionated at best.  They are written by someone who thinks of themselves as an expert and their opinion matters on these subjects.  To make a point, most of the movies that always show up in the top 10 movies of the year are not things I would be interested in watching.  Or, take those “classic movie” channels on TV.  They seem to think that just because a movie was made years ago, it must be a classic simply because it is old.

Unfortunately, these lists are not just limited to the end of the year.  Even ESPN has a top 10 plays of the day, every day!  This time of year most of the so-called top plays involve dunking a basketball.  Sorry, but if a six-foot ten inch man cannot dunk a basketball, there is a problem with his skills.  I always believed that a dunk should only count for one point instead of the normal two.  I mean come on, be tall, jump up, and dunk the ball.  What is so skillful about that?

The best and the worst tweets are relatively new to this list of regurgitation of things that happened over the year.  Problem is that I don’t bother following any twitter accounts.  I really don’t care what a “famous” person is eating for dinner tonight.  I also find that most people with twitter accounts don’t really have a life, so I am not too interested in what they have to say.  Just like a lot of people probably don’t care about what I writer here.

All of this shows just how lazy we have become as a society.  We are interested in the most mundane things like twitter accounts and best and worst lists.  Does anyone really wait until the end of the year to look at the 10 best movies of the year list to decide if they are going to watch a particular movie?  Or, wait until the 10 best novels list comes out before trotting down to the book store and buying a book?

We already know that we aren’t interested in things that matter.  We look to TV news for those 20 second sound bites to determine if we favor a candidate or not.  We allow pundits to help us make up our minds on everything from politics to everyday life.

If someone really wants to make up a list to inform the public about something useful, how about lists like:  10 bills that would have created millions of jobs that the House refused to vote on,  10 lousy tactics politicians use to screw over poor people, or worst states to live in for health care coverage if you are poor.  Lists like these might actually make people think about real life.  But, I doubt it.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait until the new year starts and these lousy lists just go away.  At least until next year.  I prefer to make my own mind up on what is the best and worst.  I don’t need someone telling me what was.  That is why you won’t see a 10 best or worst list written by me.  I prefer you make up your own mind too.

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The last twelve months have exposed a lot of problems in our society.  I am not talking about our political problems either.  In the last twelve months, we have seen certain people in our society get away with just about everything including vehicular homicide.

A drunk rich kid driving under the influence was involved in an accident that resulted in the death of someone.  His lawyer argued that he was suffering from a made-up infection called “affluenza” and was therefore not responsible for his actions.  The judge actually fell for this nonsense and he is spending no jail time for killing a human being while he was driving drunk.

At the end of last year when a football player (the star quarterback of the team) at a university had been accused of raping a student nothing was done about it.  Reports even stated that local police told the woman that her life would be hell if she went ahead with the charges because of whom she was accusing.

Then there was a rash of NFL players who were accused of domestic violence.  One of the players pled “no contest” to child abuse charges in order to avoid a trial that might have put him in jail.  The NFL announced that he would be suspended for the remainder the season.  He announced that he would immediately appeal the suspension since he has missed all of the season so far.  But, he has been paid for his time off.

A star NBA player was recently accused of child abuse but Florida decided not to do anything even though the doctor who examined the child stated that there was bruising on the child because he was beaten with the buckle end of a belt.  The player’s lawyer immediately accused the players estranged spouse of “making it all up” because of a very ugly custody battle.  In the meantime, the state of Georgia has announced it will look into the matter.

A New Jersey High School suspended the entire football season over allegations of abuse by some players on others.  Normally, this is called hazing.  But, the hazing went way beyond the lines of decency and some of the players are now facing criminal charges.  Yet, many in the community say the High School went too far, not the players.

Recently two more football players (both starters on the same team as the rape accusation) were reportedly involved in a traffic accident.  The accident resulted in the totaling of both vehicles involved, and reports indicate the accident was the fault of the football player.  Reportedly the player was driving on a suspended license and fled the scene on foot.  Instead of being charged with “hit and run” he was simply given two tickets and was never tested or even asked if he had used drugs or alcohol.

Bill Cosby has been accused by 14 women of being a serial rapist.  All of the women accused him of drugging them and raping them.  The first accusation came out about 20 years ago.  Again, nothing was done.  In one case, Mr. Cosby settled out of court so nothing else came of it.

The one thing all of these cases have in common is that the accused is a “personality” in public life.  Most of them are sports stars and one is a TV/Movie star.  In all cases, the victims involved are the ones who are being questioned about their “honesty”.  In the Cosby case, even Whoopi Goldberg said she has a lot of questions for the accuser.  Why doesn’t she have a lot of questions for Cosby instead?

In rape cases, victim blaming is a simple game that the accused plays all of the time.  Now, as we see, victim blaming is something that goes even beyond rape.  It has infected our justice system to a point where victims are becoming more and more afraid to come out with their story.

Or, in some cases we see where law enforcement is willing to turn a blind eye to the behavior just because the person being accused is some sort of celebrity.  You will probably tell me that this type of thing has been going on for years.  That may be true.  But, isn’t it time for it to stop?

Quite frankly, I never read the “entertainment” section of newspapers.  I really don’t care about the lives of celebrities.  I don’t care how rich people, movie stars, sports stars, or any other celebrity lives.  They can afford to live however they want.  But, I do care when they are involved in criminal activity and get away with it simply because they are celebrities.

I get even more irritated when people defend their behavior and put blame on the victims.  Or try to brush it off as “boys will be boys” stupidity.  The over-militarization of our police forces is a real problem that has led to tragedy across the nation.  However, the complicity of law enforcement in helping these celebrities get away with crimes is even more troublesome.

We have seen way too many times when law enforcement has turned a blind eye to celebrity misbehavior.  The victims have been hurt.  In some cases people have died.  Yet, they seem to get away with whatever they have been accused of doing.

With this kind of reaction whenever someone with a public name gets in trouble we have to ask ourselves just how balanced our justice system really is.  In some states if you are caught with a bag of marijuana you get at least 10 years in jail.  If you are a college football player who flees from the scene of an accident, you get “well that’s okay”.

If you are a star running back in the NFL and beat your then fiancé you get paid 5 million dollars to sit out a season and then cry foul when an actual suspension comes down for your behavior.  And, you get the union to back you up on the matter.

If you are a star quarterback on a college football team and get accused of rape, the police tell the victim that she will go through hell if she continues with the complaint.  Then, when there is a scheduled hearing to determine if you broke university conduct policy, you get the hearing put off until after the football season so you can continue to play.

If you are a star comedian who is accused of being a serial rapist over the last 20 years by as many as 14 women, your friends “have questions for the accuser” instead of you.  Forget the large number of women accusing you, they must all be liars.

I don’t know if everyone who has been involved in these cases are guilty or not.  I am not making an assumption of guilt.  I am questioning how these cases have been handled.  These cases show clearly that our judicial system may indeed be broken.  In most of them it clearly shows a lack of interest by law enforcement to fully investigate cases involving “celebrities”.

Cynics have claimed for years that guilt and innocence is determined more by how much money you have rather than the actual facts of the case.  When we continuously see these kinds of behavior towards celebrities, maybe the cynics are correct.  As a result maybe the Statue of Justice should not be blind folded and holding a scale, maybe she should have one eye open looking at the bag of money she is holding.

But then, we are all to blame for this mess.  If we continue to believe the accused simply because they are celebrities, nothing will change for the better.

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I bet the NFL isn’t watching this too closely.  A New Jersey High School has suspended its entire football season after 4 games because of substantial and credible evidence of pervasive bullying, harassment and hazing in the program, including allegations of possible sexual assault.  This high school, Sayerville High School has won the state championship in its level 4 of the last 5 seasons.  It also has a running streak of 20 state playoff appearances.  So, this isn’t some scrub team where this action won’t be noticed.

In a news conference after he informed the players and parents, Richard Labbe said:  “There were incidences of harassment, intimidation, and bullying that took place on a pervasive level, on a wide-scale level, and at a level in which the players knew, tolerated and, in general, accepted.”  He also reported that the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office and the Sayerville Police Department were investigating “inappropriate conduct of a significant and serious nature” that allegedly took place within the football program. All three levels of the football program — varsity, JV and freshman — have had their seasons canceled.

Of course there are parents who disagree with the decision.  They have criticized the Superintendent for punishing players who were not involved — as well as cheerleaders and band members.   “It’s unfair for the kids that didn’t get to play this year that had nothing to do with it,” parent Joe Scirica told TODAY.

Now, Scirica may have a point about those not being involved and members of the cheerleader squad and band are also being punished.  But, the point is extremely minor.  There is a criminal investigation going on at the high school concerning “incidences of harassment, intimidation, and bullying on a pervasive level.  This appears to be on a wide-scale level and at a level in which the players knew, tolerated and, in general accepted.”  If that portion of the investigation proves out, how can a parent say their child was uninvolved?  If they knew about what was going on and failed to report it to the school, they are generally accepted it and thus were involved.

There have been many instances where high school, college, and professional players were involved in things of this nature and worse.  It is not uncommon to hear about football players intimidating and bullying other students.  I have never heard of another school, as prominent and successful in the sport as this school, cancelling the season over these incidents.  Usually, there is one or two scapegoats and the season goes along.

Maybe, just maybe, this will be the start of something big.  If a successful program like Sayerville can have its season cancelled over these incidents, hopefully, other schools will look to use the same standard.  That is probably going to be the only way for schools to put an end to this bullying behavior.  The action taken by this school district was honorable.  Of course, we have to wait and see what the criminal investigation proves as the case moves along.

But, I think Labbe did the right thing in cancelling the season.  About the only thing that is worse than the bullying going on in our schools is the fact that many schools silently approve it by doing nothing to stop it.  Sayerville chose not to silently approve bullying.  They decided to take a stand against it.  They should be applauded for that decision.

If we can stamp out the culture of athletes getting away with such behavior in high school, we may begin to see it end at the college and professional level as well.  I am dubious that other high schools will take such a brave stance though.  That is also part of the culture of bullying.  As long as championships are gotten, schools all too often look the other way.  Silence by administrators is the loudest approval there is.

 

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Bill Simmons at ESPN was suspended for three weeks for his rant on his podcast on the web magazine Grantland against Roger Goodell.  On the show he said:

I just think not enough is being made out of the fact that they knew about the [Ray Rice] tape, and they knew what was on it. Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar. I’m just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying, if you put him up on a lie detector test that guy would fail. And for all these people to pretend they didn’t know is such fucking bullshit. It really is—it’s such fucking bullshit. And for him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted.

To show how insulted he really was, he dared ESPN to discipline him:

I really hope somebody calls me or emails me and says I’m in trouble for anything I say about Roger Goodell. Because if one person says that to me, I’m going public. You leave me alone. The commissioner’s a liar and I get to talk about that on my podcast. Thank you. … Please call me and say I’m in trouble. I dare you.

ESPN took him up on his dare.  Remember, ESPN has a contract with the NFL to show Monday Night Football.  Since they received the contract, the majority of their programming is more about football than anything else.  So, it isn’t surprising that ESPN would not only suspend Simmons, but use the following statement to justify it.

Every employee must be accountable to ESPN and those engaged in our editorial operations must also operate within ESPN’s journalistic standards. We have worked hard to ensure that our recent N.F.L. coverage has met that criteria. Bill Simmons … did not meet those obligations.

There is really more to this story than meets the eye.  The NFL has been engaged in a lot of negative publicity in the last few years.  Former players have sued the NFL over brain injuries caused by concussions.  More and more players have been accused of domestic violence.  More and more players have been suspended for drug use.

Problem is these are not new issues.  They have been around for years.  But until recently, the NFL has been able to backseat these issues so the fans don’t lose their enthusiasm for the sport.  With the most recent problems with domestic abuse by players, sponsors have expressed their “disappointment” with the league on how they handle such cases.  There hasn’t been a huge break of sponsorship, yet.  As one reporter said “although gaining some points for fighting abuse would be nice, it isn’t financially worth losing potential revenue from not advertising with the NFL.”

The other problem in making the NFL more decent in these matters is the fans.  Every game is still being sold out every week.  That means that none of the problems are having any impact on the NFL’s bottom line.  Until that happens, there will be no real change in how the NFL handles these cases.

I have said before that the NFL is today’s version of the Roman Gladiator Games.  Hell, Fox even plays up that idea in their ads for upcoming games.  This just proves that our lust for blood-sport seems ingrained in our genes.  Yes, I know, no one is actually killed at the end of the event as in gladiator fights in the coliseum, but the brutality of the sport is what seems to glue us to the TV every week.

It is true that all sports are a reflection of society.  As a result, society can make changes in how sports leagues handle social issues.  In the 1970s, there was a huge backlash against the NBA over drug use.  Players were constantly getting in trouble for using recreational drugs.  People stopped going to NBA games saying that the NBA had become a bunch of street gangs in shorts.

This drop in attendance and TV ratings forced the NBA to make some changes.  The league cleaned itself up.  It was either that or go out of business.  Yes, players like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan helped turn things around.  But, it was also their “clean image” that helped bring people back to the game.  As a result, the NBA is about as popular as ever.

The Sterling crisis brought up another possible crisis for the league.  But, the commissioner handled it so quickly that it was resolved.  It was handled so well, that when another owner got caught with his own racial comments, he didn’t wait for the NBA to act.  He announced that he would sell his portion of the team as quickly as he could.  And, the league received praise over its handling of the situation.  That praise is something that is definitely lacking in these NFL cases.

The point here is that maybe Simmons was really insulted over the NFL and Roger Goodell’s recent new conference.  Simmons is widely known as a huge sports fan.  That is what makes his podcast so popular.  People look at him as a fan, not merely a reporter.  As such, wouldn’t it have been real nice if Simmons went on to say that the public should boycott the NFL until these matters are resolved?  What kind of shock-waves would have reverberated in the sports world if he had said that?  That would have been real news.

Football is not alone in problems.  As I mentioned the NBA went through problems.  Major League Baseball had their problems with PED’s.  In their case, it was the players who fought the dirty players, and they eventually won.  Contrary to popular belief, it was the players who fought for more drug testing to clean up the game.  Unfortunately, NFL players don’t seem to harbor the same fight to clean up their game.

The public proved with the NBA that they can force changes.  It is time for the public to force the NFL to make similar changes.  Look, football is a good sport.  The vast majority of players are good people who do wonderful work in the community.  But, the NFL is being tarnished by these abusers who have been getting away with it.

One step to force change is for sponsors to pull out.  Another step is for the players to revolt against the abusers and stop talking about “they are family” which only suggests they approve of domestic violence.  But, the best way to force change is for the fans to stop supporting the sport.  Let the fans stop going to games, or have TV ratings plummet for a few weeks, and you will see changes.

Despite the fact that many argue that sports figures are not heroes to our children, they are.  That alone should help ignite a fan revolt against the obvious reticent of the league to do something right.  I suggest that figures like Simmons should be leading the charge.  If he is truly “insulted” like he said he is he should leap on the opportunity.  Otherwise his comments are merely “fucking bullshit.”

 

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