1) Reiterating something I said to Jon in comments, however incompetent and/or corrupt Goodell is, it doesn’t seem to matter, does it? The league just keeps breaking its own TV ratings, it’s making money hand over fist, and the fact that it is legal to gamble on individual players has sent interest through the roof. On that latter point – do Draft Kings and Fan Duel have the largest advertising budgets in world history? In that ridiculous Stallone/Snipes/Bullock vehicle from the early 1990s, Demolition Man, the only place left to eat in the movie’s dystopian future is Taco Bell. I sort of feel like we’ve arrived at that dystopian future every time I hear another Draft Kings commercial.
*Only* one serious threat looms for the NFL, and it really has nothing to do with whether Roger Goodell is a schmendrick. It’s the long-term health consequences of playing football, about which the evidence continues to mount. According to the most recently released data, by Dr. Ann McKee and associates at Boston University and the Department of Veterans Affairs, 87 out of 91, or 96% of players whose brains have been examined posthumously were found to have CTE, the degenerative disease associated with repeated head trauma.
This is not a representative sample, as the researchers themselves note, since many players who agreed to donate their brains for research once they died had shown symptoms associated with the disease when they were still alive. And some are skeptical of the precision of the diagnosis itself.
Nevertheless, there is growing fear among parents and even players themselves about how dangerous a sport football is, exemplified by the surprise retirement earlier this year of 49ers linebacker Chris Borland. Borland is 24 and was an emerging NFL star. As such, he was in line to make many millions of dollars over the course of his career. And he walked away not because of any current injury but because he feared long-term damage if he continued to play the sport.
Though the dangers posed by playing football has received far more attention in recent years, it still receives much less than the minutiae associated with the NFL’s latest disciplinary bungle. But in every way that matters, it’s a far more consequential story.
2) The Eagles looked awful yesterday, managing only a field goal until a final, meaningless touchdown drive in the closing moments of their loss to Dallas.
I didn’t write about this at the time, so you’ll just have to take my word for it, but I was scratching my head all preseason at the praise being heaped on their offense, their QB Sam Bradford and their prospects for the coming season. I do think Chip Kelly is an offensive whiz and he has a track record to prove it. And the Eagles could become a juggernaut next week. But here’s what I found genuinely baffling – people were actually playing up their preseason performance as if that itself mattered. When Philly scored 39 points in their third preseason game – the one in which the starters get the most playing time – pundits were waxing rhapsodic about what an unstoppable machine the Eagles were going to be in 2015 and what a genius Kelly was for picking Bradford to run his offense.
I’m no expert, but I’ve been watching sports long enough to know this – preseason games don’t mean poop. As the Eagles sputtered yesterday, I was already looking forward to all the scorn that would be heaped upon them today, including by people who, just a few weeks ago, thought they were going to be the greatest offense of all time. I wasn’t disappointed this morning. Just two weeks ago, I heard many variants on the construction – “they might not score 39 points every week, but…” Today, I heard “Just because they scored 39 points in a preseason game…” And sometimes, these were uttered by the same person – (*cough,* Golic, *cough.*)
As for Bradford, it’s fair to argue that two bad games – actually one atrocious game and one uneven game – don’t mean much. But neither does one fabulous preseason game. This is Bradford’s sixth year in the league. He’s had some serious injuries, and he’s still only 27. But he has thrown about 2,000 passes, a decent sample. And his career QB rating is a very pedestrian 79. Unlike Jay Cutler, who I’ve staked my unprofessional reputation on insisting would never have that breakout year everyone’s always counting on, I’m agnostic on Bradford’s future.
But I’m just sayin’…
3) According to Elias, “the Giants are the first team in NFL history to lose its first two games while blowing fourth-quarter leads of 10 or more points.” Sometimes making history is really overrated.