LOS ANGELES, July 15, 2012—For leatherheads, August cannot come soon enough.
In football, there is no offseason. Quiet Summer July days have actually had a ton of news related to the gridiron. So with that, let’s get to the business of football.
My avoidance of the Penn State scandal is not due to any blind loyalty toward any of the parties. This is a column about the National Football League, not college or high school games. However, the severity of the situation requires it be given some comments.
A new bombshell has come down in the form of the Louis Freeh investigation. Mr. Freeh has a reputation for being incorruptible and thorough. Mr. Freeh was the one who testified before Congress against his former bosses Janet Reno and Bill Clinton. He is about getting to the truth.
We now know that Jerry Sandusky raping underage boys was the tip of the iceberg. Top people at Penn State knew about it and said nothing. The entire civilized nation understands that Mr. Sandusky is a monster who should burn in Hades forever. It takes zero bravery to take that position. Yet other trains of thought against Penn State are more troubling.
Question of Whether Paterno Knew or Not
The new narrative is that Joe Paterno lied to Congress about what he knew and when he knew. Several Penn State employees have shown in their emails to have lied. They are all facing punishments of some sort. Yet the one problem is that there is no hard evidence that Coach Paterno lied. If so, Mr. Freeh has not released it.
This is where the hate mail starts pouring in. Let the emotions cool down, and let logic take over. Mr. Paterno did not know how to use email. The allegations that he lied are just that.
The response from many will be that there is “no way this could have gone forward without Paterno.” Yes, there is. Despite his overwhelming power, it is highly possible that the others kept him out of the loop to protect him and give him plausible deniability. People fall on their swords far too often for powerful figures, from presidents to captains of industry.
It is very possible that Paterno was up to his eyeballs in the scandal. Yet that is not the same as having an email or a videotape. There is circumstantial evidence against Mr. Paterno, but no smoking gun.
Also, those who want to permanently abolish the football program at Penn State need to cool down. While the scandal is one of the most horrific scandals in all of sports history, this is not specifically a “football” scandal. Yes, the culture of silence involving football needs to change, but this was not about issues related to the game (steroids), player conduct (think “The Program”), or academic fraud.
This is a law enforcement matter. The NCAA needs to get out of the way and let law enforcement handle it. None of the current players had anything to do with the scandal, and they should not be collateral damage just because (justifiable) bloodlust has taken over. Until people have read the entire Freeh report, the proper thing to do is read it and make informed conclusions.
Judge Freeh Next Takes on New Orleans Saints
Now on to the NFL, where Louis Freeh is getting involved as well. The New Orleans Saints have been rocked not only by the bounty scandal, but by accusations that General Manager Mickey Loomis wiretapped the opposing locker rooms. The latter would be a felony.
Saints Owner Tom Benson brought in Freeh because he wants to get to the truth. A guy like Freeh is not brought in if the goal is to remain ignorant or whitewash the truth. Mr. Benson is doing the right thing. The wiretapping issue is a law enforcement matter. The bounty scandal was more a football issue. Commissioner Goodell rightly handed down sanctions for Bountygate, but any punishment he renders for wiretapping will pale in comparison to what the Feds would do.
Whether at the pro or college level, the message is loud and clear that football had better be cleaned up internally, or Congress will get involved. The very existence of football is at stake, and no amount of television ratings will prevent the empire from crashing down if people think the game is corrupt. This includes the game on the field, the behavior in the classrooms, and the behavior off of the field.
The one thing the Saints did right this week is give quarterback Drew Brees the contract he deserved. The five year, $100 million deal contains $40 million in guaranteed money the first year and $60 million guaranteed money over the life of the contract. The numbers are reasonable. Drew Brees right now is the very best player in football, and deserves it. The NFL is a meritocracy, and Brees earned his money. He now makes more money than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. This is currently justified.
What’s the Story with Adrian Peterson?
Back to jurisprudence, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was recently arrested for resisting arrest. Yet this story is different from the “typical” athlete getting in trouble.
I met Mr. Peterson at the NFL Draft. The newly drafted players are instructed not to sign things. The fear is that those autographs will be sold on Ebay. When I was holding my football, a woman came up to me. She was Mr. Peterson’s aunt. A lovely but stern woman, she insisted that I go up to him and have him sign it. She said that “He was raised right,” and said, “You let me know if he doesn’t sign that football.”
Some of the other players signed nothing. Some signed one or two items. Mr. Peterson stayed and signed everything in sight. He was pleasant, humble, and determined to establish himself as a fan favorite. Later on that day his aunt saw me again and said, “I told you he would sign that football. He’s a good kid.”
Being a nice guy does not make Mr. Peterson innocent. Yet the situation just does not add up from a behavior standpoint. Mr. Peterson has hired a high-priced attorney that would normally be reserved if one is facing a murder charge. Mr. Peterson is being charged with a misdemeanor that would probably at most yield a small fine. The attorney is an elephant, yet the charges rise to the level of a mouse.
Mr. Peterson is going on the offensive and loudly protesting his innocence. Even under the strict NFL conduct policy, it is doubtful this situation would cause him to miss playing time. His endorsements seem safe. This man is about protecting his reputation. He is either the coolest customer on the planet, or it is quite possible he is innocent. Most people do not engage in a public defense of a very minor matter.
At the risk of going out on a limb, I believe Adrian Peterson. Nothing in his character suggests that he is a bad seed. He deserves the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully he is innocent, because if this type of young man could fool so many people, then the notion that all athletes are bad will just gain more credibility.
Another player in trouble with the law is Terrell Owens. He may be facing jail time for failing to pay child support. He has several children with different women. If Mr. Peterson is one of the most likable players in the game, Mr. Owens was one of the least. His famous crowing “I love me some me” was the tip of his narcissism. He was a locker room cancer, who burned bridges everywhere he went. This does not automatically make him guilty, but it certainly explains why people would not care if he rotted in jail.
Likability matters. Mr. Owen was bad for the game of football himself. While taking glee in his fall is too much, an absolute indifference to this man who hurt so many people during his career would be a fitting punishment. He keeps insisting that he is misunderstood. He is understood perfectly. He was a talented player who put himself above the team. The phrase “don’t go away mad, just go away” applies here.
Junior Seau’s Suicide May Save Future Lives
Lastly, the tragedy of Junior Seau could lead to something positive for future players. The former San Diego Chargers defensive hero committed suicide a few weeks ago at the age of 43. We still do not know if football had anything to do with his death. His family has made the painful decision to let scientists study his brain to see if he had any brain damage like former Chicago Bears hero and suicide victim Dave Duerson did.
The image of Mama Seau crying to the heavens on national television should be a stark reminder that this goes deeper than football. The ultimate parental nightmare is to see their child pre-decease them. Yet getting to the truth can possibly save lives in the future. Even in death, Junior Seau may help preserve life.
This has been a painful offseason for so many. August brings preseason games with the Hall of Fame Game from Canton, Ohio, kicking everything off. While the issues of July must not be ignored, it will be good to get back to football being events on the field. Hopefully, it will stay that way not because the real world is ignored, but because the game does not give us more examples of tarnish.
Let’s get back to football, and let’s do it the right way, with hard, work, honor, and respect for the game and society at large.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian who is obsessed with the National Football League. There is no offseason. Every February he pretends to care about other sports while sobbing uncontrollably each Sunday until September.
Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.” When not watching football, his only other hobby is Republican, Jewish women. Republican, Jewish women, you may contact Eric above.
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS
Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog.
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