Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fair Eastside


This past week the second security video came. It's official: Footballer Ray Rice punched his then-fiancée Janay Palmer in the face. The Ravens running back was suspended and his contract was stripped. You may remember the original footage from several months ago: Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer off the elevator in an AC casino. Now, thanks to TMZ and ESPN and Anderson Cooper, we’ve seen what happened inside that elevator again and again and again. Imagination no longer required.

The questions swirled: Did the NFL know about this second video all along? More importantly: Did League Commissioner Roger Goodell lie when publically stating he’d seen it for the first time this week? The collective outrage came (as it always does) and the calls for Goodell’s resignation raged. Forget ISIS. We’ve got a serious threat to the national wellbeing now.

Even if Goodell saw Video #2 before last Monday, what do you want him to do? The NFL has degenerated into Eastside High (that’s a LEAN ON ME reference) and Goodell has been cast to play Principal Joe Clark. It’s literally one player after the other being busted. As I’m writing this, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is being booked for child abuse. The NFL’s players union is fighting to get a stable of stars reactivated off drug suspension. The 49ers' depth chart reads like a rap sheet. Who could forget bounty-gate or bully-gate? What about Michael Vick’s dog-slaughtering ring? It’s literally never ending.

If Goodell dragged every NFLer who engaged in criminality onto the proverbial stage (Joe Clark style) and tossed them out, we’d be left to watch the PGA Tour on Sunday instead of football. There'd be no football. That wouldn’t jibe with the sponsors (It’s Jake, from State Farm) or the owners. If Goodell lied to cover Ray Rice, believe me, he was ordered to do so by someone behind the Oz curtain. Have you noticed the support he’s seen from NFL owners this week? Hello, McFly!

The two strongest forces in the world are nuclear missiles and suburban moms. The NFL's personnel is on the decline because suburban mom is no longer allowing little Caleb to play organized football. Not when there’s lacrosse and ultimate frisbee. Football’s becoming an urban sport. And the NFL is drafting these urban kids. They’re showing them real money for the first time, telling them to play this blood sport, or the bling-bling goes poof-poof. And make no mistake: You better have a touch of something like crazy to pass, punt, and kick with the big boys. It has to be hard to turn that kind of crazy off when the whistle blows. These guys must live their whole lives in the echo of that whistle. It’s Richard Sherman’s world now.

How outraged are we supposed to be about this Ray Rice mess? Ms. Palmer took the punch, picked herself off the carpet, and married him a month later. When the second video leaked, she bashed the media and stayed right by his side. Suddenly everybody's so righteous about DV. Exhibit A: This week, when asked by a beat writer about domestic violence, NY Giants’ Head Coach Tom Coughlin said there was no place for it in the NFL. Then he was reminded by said writer that players he’d signed on his own team had been involved with DV. Oh yeah. Cue coach’s angry face. Next question!

Now I have to hear that phony Drew Brees bash Goodell as a hypocrite. How’s this for hypocritical: Ray Rice is going to be back in the league next season. If a team was willing to sign Michael Vick, who’s as despicable a human being as you'll ever encounter, then Ray-Ray will make his way-way back. Believe me. You haven't seen the last of #27.

This past week, hundreds of women were seen wearing Ray Rice jerseys to the Ravens vs. Steelers game on Thursday night. When asked by ESPN why they’d do that on the heels of punch-gate, they explained their fandom for Rice and shrugged off the elevator incident. The fans don’t care. The owners don’t care. Janay Palmer doesn’t care. But I should care?

I watched the just-mentioned game on TV. It was halfway through the second quarter. The Steelers were driving. They were feeding the rock to a running back named Le’Veon Bell. He was cutting and juking and jiving. He looked great. And I thought: Here’s a kid who made his NFL dream happen. He’s doing it the right way. I felt good for him. I felt good for the game. Then Phil Simms, the CBS commentator, remarked on Bell’s arrest this past summer for DUI and marijuana possession. Oh yeah. I forgot about that.

Sing with me now, “Fair Eastside . . .”

Brian Huba
9.14.14

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