Monday, January 26, 2015

Another Super Bowl ... I'll be at the Abbey

     I wrote a blog piece 53 weeks ago about the Super Bowl, and how I wouldn't be watching. As you might have read last week, I haven't changed my mind.
     Downton Abbey, a series that is one of PBS' jewels, is on Sunday night, and I must keep up with the latest developments. The football game be damned.   
     I will do all I can this week to keep from reading any Super Bowl stories or watching any of the news. I will leave that to the rest of the uncivilized world.
     How would I feel if the Dallas Cowboys were playing this week? Not much differently, but at least I'd have someone to root for ... in my silent world.  (Yeah, now I know you're disbelieving.)
     Last I looked Dez Bryant was one of the Cowboys' biggest stars, and what a fool he appears to be. I know he can play; I know he's a special talent. But one of his talents is running his mouth on the sidelines, on the field, and acting out. I've seen the games (on replays, long after the live event).
     Find it difficult to root for him, or -- as I've written often -- the guy who owns the team.
     I have talked to reporter friends who say Bryant has grown up some off the field and that Mr. Jones is fine to deal with, but my problem -- again, I'm repeating -- is the NFL itself these days.
     Deflategate" was last week's example. Marshawn Lynch is this week's example. With each controversy, the people in charge of the NFL look dumb and dumber.
     I don't care to revisit the deflated footballs issue except for this: (1) I want to use the photo-shopped artwork designed by my friend Roger S. Braniff Sr. of Shreveport; (2) I want to reiterate that I think Bill Belichick is the most clever/wicked manipulator of the NFL rules, his players, his system and team formations of any NFL coach in history; and (3) maybe quarterback Tom Brady isn't quite the class act I claimed he was in last January's blog.
     Let's say that I cannot root for the New England Patriots or Seattle Seahawks (as I can't root for many other NFL teams). I don't care who wins.
     Two low-class organizations in a low-class league, thank you.
     But other than the devious Patriots, Lynch is what is despicable about the Seahawks. Last year it was cornerback Richard Sherman who turned much of the world against Seattle with his big mouth. He would not shut up about how good he was and how good his team was.
     Lynch doesn't want to talk -- not to the media. (More on that in a moment)
     Here is a guy known as "Beast Mode." He might be the baddest running back in the NFL; he certainly acts like one of the baddest.
     He has, on his record, a misdemeanor weapons, a hit-and-run charge with his drivers' license revoked, and a DUI charge. But there are people out there who admire him.
     In his first playoff game, in a 2011 NFC wild-card game against the Saints, he had a 67-yard touchdown run on which he broke nine tackles -- one of the great runs in league history, an instant legend.
     He is a remarkable football player. He also is remarkably deviant.
     This season he has taken to grabbing his crotch after a couple of touchdown runs, one of the grabs on a backward dive into the end zone. The NFL loved that. He was fined $11,050 for that; $20,000 for his "grab" after the game-winning TD against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game two weeks ago.
     In the past, he has been a reluctant media interview. In the 2013 season, he flat-out refused to talk to media, and the NFL fined him repeatedly. He did go through Super Bowl Media Day, petulantly, explaining that "I'm just here so I don't get fined."
     This season more of the same. He spent one interview answering every question with "yeah" and another one by repeatedly saying "thanks for asking."
     Look, athletes and coaches not wanting to deal with media -- or screaming at/threatening media members -- is commonplace. In the 1970s, Duane Thomas (Cowboys) and Steve Carlton in baseball happily went silent.
     And some coaches and athletes, and team officials, talk far too much. I give you Jerry Jones, and with our Yankees, Reggie Jackson. No one ever talked more than Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali, and some of us loved it and many despised it and him.
     I had my battles with coaches and athletes, and I gave as well as received. So that's part of the game. I don't think the media should hang on every word from team officials or coaches or athletes, and it so often all gets overblown. Do we really need to hear from them that badly?
     Super Bowl Media Day, as with many things about the Super Bowl, is pretty much a joke. But I guarantee you that -- unless Bill Belichick or Tom Brady or someone blows their stack about underinflated footballs -- what Marshawn Lynch does or does not do, says or does not say, on Tuesday will be the "news" of the day.
     It's not that Lynch can't express himself. I saw a video in which he narrates the great run against the Saints, and he's funny. And some people think his "yeah" interview was funny, too.
     I don't, but I will say that if he doesn't want to talk to the media, the NFL should let him be. Don't make a spectacle of it.
     The NFL has warned the Seahawks that if Lynch, or other players, do the crotch-grabbing or some other weird celebration, the team could be hit with a 15-yard penalty (and fines). So what? Think they care? Money and fines mean little to people making millions.
     Wonderful role models in this league, in this game, right?
      If the NFL really wants to punish teams and players, I say -- as I did in the previous blog -- to send a really strong message. Tell Bill Belichick he can't coach in this game; he can't even be in the Phoenix area. Tell Marshawn Lynch he can't play or eject him from the game first time he acts improperly.
     They can watch the game from elsewhere. Or they can be like me and watch Downton Abbey, which has so many story lines going that it's infinitely more interesting than the Super Bowl.


  1. From John Henry: Different world, ain't it? People ask me why I drink. I'll watch the game, though.

  2. From Rod Chandler: Downton Abbey will be on at my house that night!

  3. From Elsa Van Thyn: My father would never have believed this, but I will be watching the Super Bowl, while my brother is watching a soap opera. Things in life do change.

  4. From Patrick Locke Sr.: Can't stand Pete (I left after Reggie got us caught) Carroll and the Seahawks. Best line about New England was someone referring to their coaching staff as Beavis and Belichick. But since Downton Abbey has already been shown in Great Britton and most people already know what is going to happen, it'll be the Super Bowl and hopefully a win on the $20 squares.

  5. From Jimmy Russell: I agree. How about a fine of $500,000 for the first time and if it occurs again $1,000,000 or, yeah, you can’t play?

  6. From Maxie Hays: Very good. I agree. I could not care less who wins. Harsh punishment will take care of all those idiots who choose to act like idiotsat all levels in the NFLoosers. First offenders -- harsh punishment, and no second chances.

  7. From Perry Peyton: I don't watch Downton Abbey, but after reading your commentary on the Super Bowl participants, I think it'll be a good time for me to start watching it.

  8. From Ed English: Agree about the lack of entertainment value the Super Bowl provides ... and it goes back to the early 1990s. When Barry Switzer got to the Super Bowl (as coach of the Cowboys), I quit watching. Since then, I've seen maybe five or six.
    While I agree with your complaints about the league, I'll add one other. The NFL has to have the highest ratio of ads vs. programming. My favorite is when a team scores a touchdown. They'll run an ad after the extra point and another ad after the kickoff. If there's a replay review of the actual touchdown, you can almost go 15 minutes where the only action is an extra point and a kickoff.
    I can't take Downton Abbey. I know, how can a guy named English not like watching a bunch of English? Instead, our TV will be likely tuned to binge watching Sons of Anarchy. There may be more thugs and tattoos on Sons of Anarchy, but at least there won't be ads or a halftime show.