It’s a damn good thing the NFL owners don’t run a car dealership; they’d have gone under insisting on selling gas-guzzling clunkers from decades ago. It’s fortuitous they aren’t running an electronics big-box store; they’d have gone bankrupt by still pushing DVD players and Gateway desktops. They’re lucky they didn’t buy into libraries or bookstores; they’d insist this Amazon thing was just a fad. Fortunately for them, these 32 owners have bought into an enterprise that has limitless appeal and no true competition, and thus they succeed in spite of themselves.
These 32 owners look in the mirror every morning and wink at themselves, convinced they’re the smartest businessmen that ever lived. Why not? Their million-dollar investments have turned into billion-dollar corporations, the enormous checks continue to roll in, the value of their franchises only climbing higher into the stratosphere.
But if there were another professional football league of equal quality, or if we suddenly realized we could live without pigskin on Sundays, these 32 weasels would scurry back into their dens with empty pockets and broken dreams of grandeur. Because there is no way you could have as many boneheaded, tone-deaf displays of ineptitude and still run a successful business in real life.
This is all quite ironic because many of them (not all) have accumulated wealth in real life, outside of football. But somehow when it comes to the very public, very intense pressure of running NFL teams, they all seem to fall flat on their faces consistently.
The Ravens are internally debating whether to sign Colin Kaepernick, which is downright hysterical. Owner Steve Bisciotti actually uttered, “Pray for us,” to fans as the franchise decides what to do with the polarizing quarterback. Never mind there are about 300 million better reasons to pray for people, groups, and victims before a billion-dollar football machine debating on its backup quarterback. This just underscores the enormous, never-ending self-absorption of the owners.
Assuming we are all praying for the Ravens right now to make an educated decision on Kaepernick, they hopefully don’t need outside advice. But the team is taking no chances by also leaning on former players like Ray Lewis to inform them. This is the same team that brought back Lewis, no questions asked, after his conviction for obstruction of justice in the stabbing death of two men. This is the same owner that just a few years ago knew Ray Rice had slugged his wife in the jaw, knocking her unconscious (the police report stated that as fact), and remained loyal to him. In fact, they trotted Janay Rice to a podium in front of assembled media so that she could publicly take partial blame. It wasn’t until the video surfaced that the running back would be deemed toxic. But now, they are taking a public poll for a guy who has committed no crime, and has merely taken an unpopular social stance.
The Ravens have already admitted Kaepernick makes sense from a football standpoint by the conversation going this far. The Cowboys, however, couldn’t even bring themselves to that. Jerry Jones discussed his third-string quarterback slot this way: “Dak is obviously No. 1. (Kellen) Moore obviously is No. 2, and so we’re looking for more somebody that we can evaluate and train and possibly be a quarterback of the future.”
So, the Cowboys signed 36-year-old Luke McCown, of course. Someone seven years older than Kaep. But it’s about the future. Right.
None of this compares to the NFL’s incredible take on the most recent CTE study done by Boston University. The numbers were jarring: 110 of 111 brains studied of former NFL players had CTE. But in context we must remember, these were all players whose families were looking for answers after their deaths. All of these players had family members who suspected CTE played a role in their deteriorating health.
We also are now informed enough to know CTE is a serious affliction to the brain, and the longer you play football, the higher your risk is of developing it. This should be simple logic by now: the harder the brain collision, the more times you suffer that, the worse it is for your brain. But the King of the Clowns, Roger Goodell, responded by saying, “The average NFL player lives five years longer than you. Their life span is actually longer and healthier, and I think because of all the advances and medical care, that number is going to increase for them.”
Forget that All-Pro defensive end Leonard Marshall told me in the wake of this study he was worried about himself, and peers like Tony Dorsett and Mark Duper. Forget the inordinate amount of stories of former players dealing with memory loss, dementia, and emotional instability. Swatting at the findings of the world’s leading CTE research clinic like an 8-year-old bats at a tetherball shows the NFL’s stance. They don’t want to absorb information and educate players and families. They want to steer the conversation away from the bad facts and towards the good ones.
Sure, Roger, NFL players are healthier than us. How many of us in daily American jobs are worried about the brain health of our peers in their 50s? How many of us deal with suicidal thoughts and widespread emotional disorders because of our jobs? But Goodell would rather remind us these players are living longer. Some of the greatest athletes in the world who have spent their lives training their bodies to be in peak condition should live longer than a average joe who eats too much fried foods and drinks too much beer and doesn’t get enough exercise. But even knowing all that, why should we ignore the consequences of brain damage for any reason? Because the Bozo Brigade known as the NFL’s leadership tells you as much. They’re the smartest guys in the room. Just ask them.
D.A. hosts 9am-12 pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.