NFL14 Cherry Picks W3: Only the Lonely

19 Sep

“The Loneliness of the Long Distance (Leader)”

Nobody likes a leader.

Most aren’t too crazy about clever blokes or knights on white charger, either, but that’s another piece.

Hyperbole, to be sure, but when it gets down to the nitty gritty, people just don’t get too jacked-up about forward thinkers and truth tellers. Go figure.


Oh, some will, in certain circumstances, follow a leader’s command, i.e., military (“fight & obey”), fire & police (rural) and Wal-Mart store managers, when you can find ‘em.

The great ones (Abe – JFK – Jackie) will remain in the memories of the populace;

Their loving spouses will stand by their sides in tough times, and nearly everyone will take full advantage of any broad benefits that may accrue from brave stewardship.

But to actually like them? That’s probably a ‘no.’

Leaders make hard decisions, give clear message, can sacrifice friendships, careers and sometimes give their lives. They test our integrity and force us to think beyond ourselves and our times. And their choices might mean we have to sacrifice for the greater good. Imagine that? In 1944, sure, but 2014, not a very popular proposition.

The Old Hickorys, Honest Abes, Grovers, Teddys & Franklins, Woodrows, JFKs, they can have their time in the sun but it doesn’t usually last all that long.

To say leadership posts are challenging is an understatement, though, some offices do provide their perks and compensate accordingly, i.e. the reported $40M earned by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2013. It may be lonely at the top but far from boring.

And those bronze statues proliferating everywhere? They ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.

It’s always been this way, as far back as the solitary tribal chieftain who stared into the unknown with no one to consult but the sky above and his or her person.


Baseball Commissioner Kuhn (‘69 – 84) was often at odds w/ specific owners (Finley / Turner) and sometimes players (Flood / Aaron), but there was a different level of respect back then, and Czars weren’t called upon near as frequent to act the disciplinarian.

Today we live in the information age. Combine it with a prevailing sense of entitlement, widespread aggression (MMA & Rd rage), disdain for integrity and an unbridled greed and you’ve got a state of cultural garden where leadership rarely grows (See: Vote 2016).

For Roger, that means this new wave of player criminal charging and League response can engender rebuke from, not only women advocates, but also from the torch & pitchfork crowd, meaning, anyone in conflict w/NFL policy, be it anti-Redskins, bitter Saints fans & the like, youthful angst, PED pushers, snobs on sport or just a pissy attitude.

The mainstream media does it’s part to fuel the flames of discontent.

Their goal: increase traffic on information highways (soc-media & TV), sensationalize the troubled topics, work the non-sporting, junior public into a frenzy with relentless and repetitious coverage of said topics, make a bushel of bills ($) and get that promotion.

But even Goodell’s biggest critics, those with a smidgen of humility, must concede that what the NFL is experiencing presently in off-field criminal and PED-related player conduct is unprecedented in its long history (c. 1919).

NFL, like other pro sports, is and always has been, a microcosm of the world in which it operates. The recent troubles besetting the League are largely age-old in their nature.

Drug – alcohol violations and / or abuse

Some recent violators: J. Irsay, J. Gordon, W. Welker & Aldon Smith

Back 30 years ago it was a different plague: cocaine.

I penned my first college paper back in the 80s (MATC) on the topic of recreational drugs in pro sport. The athletes whose careers were derailed or ruined altogether were many.

The PED plague is different. It has an element of chicanery that’s more widespread, more insidious. It’s disdain for fair-play & health sends terrible message to kids: ‘Look at me, I score big digits, big $ and don’t do LSD like grandpa & grandma did, how’s that wrong?’

The Phillips selection & off-field violence

Some recent chargees: R. Rice, R. McDonald, G. Hardy, A. Peterson & J. Dwyer

Like substance abuse, physical brutality is an enduring societal curse. The drafting of Cornhusker Lawrence Phillips (STL ‘96 / R1-6), and then his re-signing (MIA – SF), a man who’d been arrested for assaulting a former girlfriend while in Lincoln, in defiance of his character red-flags, was a bad sign for the League but not unique in the business.


Phillips is currently serving sentences in the California prison system for “felony assault (three teens w/car)” and “assault (on former girlfriend) with great bodily injury, false imprisonment, making a criminal threat, and auto theft (See: Wikipedia).”

One wonders if the believed prevalence of performance-enhancers is contributing to the upsurge in violence off the field, and outburst on it, making recent report of deal between NFL & union in upgrading League’s “Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse,” a welcome bit of news. That good is colored by report of an enabling down-grade of standard, courtesy of NFLPA cufflinks no doubt, in the “recreational” drug category, sending a glaring mixed message.

‘Rob Peter to pay Paul,’ who can‘t find his sandals in the haze? Oy vey.

Oddly enough, the Mob of Concern, aka, League critics, emanate a deafening silence, not just on the recent recreational drug enhancement, but on what should also be topics of concern in child gaming and a lowered Heisman standard, i.e., Jameis Winston (FSU).

Not the roulette wheel or Art Schlichter (80s) varieties of gambling, not yet (See: Silver (NBA)), but the seemingly innocuous, kid-friendly fantasy gaming that rakes in millions and indoctrinates children into routines useful in wagering, as if it were finger-painting.

Fantasy gaming just might be the new “Joe Camel.” ‘Gambling rocks!’ Ugh.

As for college’s reigning king Jameis, anyone telling you his recent high jinks are causing his stock to drop w/NFL Suits & scouts by way of the character issue, don’t you believe it. As long as Winston appears drug & criminal-case free, and keeps matriculating that ball, the Suits consider the young man “clean as whistle” and a lock for NFL Draft.15’s #1.


Goodell would’ve fared better and avoided much of the present faux-fuss had he gone the appeaser route, played to the crowd, aka, Adam Silver, by sensationalizing sad scenarios for PR (initially suspending Rice for a whole season), rather than respecting the template laid down by the Atlantic Prosecutor and likely approved by the victim, Palmer – Rice.

Off-field player issues are largely outside their employer’s control, beyond measures of deterrence & incentive. Goodell et al have, like an attuned, savvy signal-caller, audiblized at the line of scrimmage, having enhanced the PCP and “leadership team” on domestic issues. NFL does not seek and will not be expected to become a suedo-police state.

The dust is just starting to settle now on the NFL scene, with no new reports of any player being inducted into the criminal legal process as of this posting. Day’s not over.

Roger Goodell will keep suffering the slings & arrows of the non-sporting set who seek to capitalize ($) on his troubles (The Daily Show, Olbermann, Peter King, NOW, etcetera), but odds should favor him keeping his job even after the Mueller report is issued.

We know what Gloria Gaynor would say…sing, question on Roger is, does he want to survive as Commissioner? Owners & most fans would hope, yes, but “lonely are the brave” and no amount of loot can make a culturally thankless and very trying job worth keeping.

Curious Quote

“This is Robert’s team (Redskins). My job is to be the back-up quarterback.” Hmmm.

That was the soft speak of current #1 Washington QB, Kirk Cousins, who spoke Monday after subbing for the injured RG3 (ankle) and leading Redskins to a 41-10 win on Sunday over the hapless Jags whose junior fandom is biting at the bit for Mr. Bortles.


Message for Kirk: Make no apologies. Your “job” is whatever coaches tell you it is, and I’d guess that’s to lead your team into the end zone. Courtesy is good, but either you’re all-in and embrace the leadership role or it’s time to hand in your pads.

Encouraging Signs

Jay Cutler, Bears QB (@ SF): Tosses 4 TDs to bring Monsters back from a 3Q, 20-7 deficit for a 28-20 win. Equally discouraging for the other hombres, who miss Bowman.


Packers’ defense (v. NYJ): After giving 14, 1Q points, cheesy got chintzy and gave but one TD the next three. It was the Jets. As usual, Burnett (6-4) & Hawk (5 -5) lead the Pack.

Chris Conte, Bears’ safety: Conte made interception of the weekend as “that daring young man…(flew) through the air with greatest of ease,” to take away a 2Q Colin toss. Now, if speedy Christopher can only learn to fly (tackle) low (See: Bills’ Jackson, W1).


Cherry Picks Week 3: Bring ‘em on, please!

Chargers (2-0) @ Buffalo (2-0): 9-21 CBS 1:00 EST: San Diego wins
Redskins (1-1) @ Philadelphia (2-0): Fox 1:00: Eagles win
Ravens (1-1) @ Cleveland (1-1): CBS 1:00: Baltimore wins
Packers (1-1) @ Detroit (1-1): Fox 1:00: Green Bay wins
49ers (1-1) @ Arizona: Fox 4:10: San Francisco wins
Broncos (2-0) @ Seattle (1-1) (GOTW): CBS 4:30: ‘Hawks win, again
Chiefs (0-2) @ Miami (1-1): CBS 4:30: Kansas City wins
Steelers (1-1) @ Carolina (2-0): NBC 8:35: Pittsburgh wins
Bears (1-1) @ New York Jets (1-1): 9-22 ESPN 8:35: Chicago wins

Record: 12 – 7

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo Credits: Un-named US soldier & R. Goodell / Afghan. / 7.10.08 / wc.cca / Sgt. B.Del Vecchio; R.Goodell / 8.30.12 / wc.cca / SSG T.Wade / USMA; NFL – wikiproject; L.Phillips / 8.21.05 / wc.cca / LA-Sheriff; J.Winston / wc.cca / D.July / 10.8.13; K.Cousins / 7.31.12 / wc.cca / K.Allison; J.Cutler / wc.cca / 11.1.09 / M.Schadle; ripe cherries / wc.cca / Chirak / 6.24.07

Posted: 9-19-14 @ 2:28pm EST


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