Thursday, March 8, 2012
Peyton Manning, Bountygate, & the Washington Redskins
First off, apologies for the lack of anything ACLB-related, all you Armchair Linebacker backers out there. Neil is burned out and working on some sort of psychosis-induced novella about sasquatches and Russian women taking over Michigan’s upper peninsula in some sort of apocalyptic thing (set two years from now, so be forewarned bros). And I am just I, sort of sick of humanity and sharing medicine with native shaman as often as possible because I can see the underlying concentric circles that unite us all molecularly, but seem to be frizzed by the electrosmog. I also had my neighbor’s son who used to live in her basement and has a backhoe come help me bury a shipping container in the hill in my pasture, which I’ve turned into my “lab” for writing-related endeavors. Which has meant I’m writing a lot, but outside of the nefarious reach of wi-fi or internet (and I’ve purposely positioned exactly 36 orgone generators in an hexagonal shape around the top of it), so none of that is here or now.
But I have kept abreast of all the wonderfully depressing developments of the NFL’s offseason. Who the fuck even played in the Super Bowl? Oh yeah… that actually took me about 13 seconds to remember it was Eli Manning and Bradyboy Bodean.
So yes, the two big topics of discussion are the Bountygate non-scandal of a scandal, which is actually a completely different and depressing scandal than you realize, and Peyton Manning, which has only depressed me to no end because if the Dan Snyder era of football ownershipping has taught me anything, it’s that if there’s a famous name who is half-crippled and will probably be a hollow shell of his self for the rest of his professional career, Dan Snyder is going to give him an extra two years and 39 million to come play for the Redskins. Which has meant I have actually gone through the process of emailing my man Will and we both going, “Will this be the end of our fandom of Redskins?” to mocking everything ever to begrudging acceptance to where I actually had at one point convinced myself that Peyton Manning would help turn the Redskins bad luck around and we might be a viable franchise again, right away, magically. This might be because I work with a lady who is a HUGE Peyton Manning fan, and in an office full of boring squares and normals, there’s a hidden quirkiness to her, so of course I love her in the secretive ways of a mental predator.
But honestly, now that the release has happened, and the Redskins are bandied about as a possible landing spot and making a hard pitch to Peyton, I am like, “C’mon Miami! C’mon Seattle!” I’m not sure there’s been a player in the past 15 years I’ve disliked as much as Peyton Manning, and probably no one before since Deion Sanders, and to have both of them sporting the maroon and black would just further piss on the grave of my football optimism.
Oddly enough, as the questions about Peyton’s ability to come back from multiple surgeries and experimental European treatments outlawed in America, Tony Dungy and his freakishly freckled face said he thought it all started with a Redskins tandem sack of ol’ Peyton a few years back, and how Peyton was never the same. This filled me with pride, as I remember that sack, because it pumped me the fuck up at the time. That game was painful, because you just wanted to see Peyton crushed left and right, but that dude avoids sacks like a champ, there is no doubt about that. But on one play, he got stuck, and in comes Andre Carter from one end and Philip Daniels from the other, Carter goes low which crumples Peyton just in time to catch a menacing Road Warrior Hawk clothesline from Daniels right across the neckbones. Sadly Peyton jumped right back up, and called a TO, but you could see he was visibly shaken, even if he was not in a crumpled heap between the hash marks. And if that was the beginning of the end, then so be it; we could proudly say that this Redskins team put both Peyton Manning and Troy Aikman into their final football chapter. Shit man, that’s about all I can hang my hat on from the past fifteen years.
But then the Bountygate story became a media moment of politically correct shocked hysteria, and Gregg Williams was cast as the NFL’s coaching boogieman, who cared not about the honorable tradition of playing football, and was a nefarious coaching Hitler with some sort of twisted pyramid scheme that rewarded maiming innocent people. But really, it’s not like Williams or this scandal was an extraordinary situation. I would imagine a ton of guys like Jack Del Rio and Mike Singletary and Jerry Glanville and Rex Ryan and even respectable dudes like Jeff Fisher and the Harbaughs and even probably Bill Belichick did the exact same thing, in one form or another. It’s not about paralyzing people, but if you can knock them the fuck out, then so be it. That’s what football is.
Or that’s what football was, I should probably say, because ultimately this has nothing to do with player safety, nor outlaw coaches. It is entirely about liability in regards to the poor health, specifically mentally, even more specifically neurologically, of former players. You see, I am a scientist, and at an army sponsored meeting regarding new trends in battlefield neurological assessments of blasted soldiers a couple years back, I had the joy of seeing a dude who was the Pittsburgh Steelers team neurologist speak. And I won’t tie any specific claims to him directly, but the gist of what I got from it was that the concussions and mental injury players were receiving was something no one really understood completely even six or seven years ago. But the MRI data is overwhelming – dudes are fucked. Which means dudes from every previous era of football are also fucked. Which means when dudes go off on suicidal binges or become raging drug addicts or just completely wreck their own lives like a textbook post-traumatic stress disorder Vietnam vet, there is a very identifiable cause to this – constantly bumping brains with dudes. And NFL helmet technology is pretty much based on army helmets from earlier world wars, which is designed to protect the cranium from projectile impact, not cushion the skull from jarring blows. So players have been playing unprotected to an extent, even with the new rules.
Ah yes, the new rules. Many like myself and what I assume is your average ACLB reader are like, “Man, this is bullshit. What happened to football?” And you are right in the sense it is not like the football you knew. But the change in rules and Bountygate’s eventual sacrificial lamb of Gregg Williams is the beginning of this new era of football, where the NFL is looking to establish a very public record of Zero Tolerance for head blows or on-the-field trauma to players, so that it can say – legally – that as soon as it knew from a scientific view that this was an issue, it did everything in its power to stop the trauma. Thus, the NFL avoids what could possibly be a crippling class action lawsuit from previous players and their families. That is what this all boils down to. There’s no real care for the players or anything like that. So the NFL will take steps towards making the entire season more like the Pro Bowl game, which I’m sure is going to require a good amount of re-training on all our parts to try and enjoy.
The NFL does a good job of encouraging beat writers and TV NFL guys to follow the league talking points though. Imagine you are a local reporter for like the Cleveland Browns, and you want to take the stand that the new NFL is fucking pussy, but then the Browns are like, “Look, you talk that shit and we’re going to limit your access to the team,” which then causes that reporter trifles in his ability to do his job. That shit happens all the time, and is why most “news” reports are nothing more than a re-wording of press releases with some googled-up stats thrown into the mix. And because of this, I would imagine your local NFL columnist, or the dude you like on the sports TVs, has already come out and been SHOCKED and GASPED at what Gregg Williams did. He’s supposed to react that way.
Mostly I feel bad for Gregg Williams. When Joe Gibbs retired again, I was a Redskin fan who really wanted Gregg Williams to be the head coach, but Snyder went with the Jim Zorn era instead. Yeah, Gregg Williams is a nut, but when he’s your defensive coordinator and you have guys like Sean Taylor and London Fletcher just salivating to crack a skull, on every play, you know, it hypes you up. The ol’ adrenal gland gets to pumping, which is one of the great benefits of a quality football product.
A Pro Bowl-style NFL football, which we were also conditioned towards last season with the exuberant passing performances of Brady and Brees and Rodgers and others, that doesn’t exactly get your adrenal glad pumping. It’s like watching the NBA, which is unfortunate for football fans, as well as the NFL ultimately, because most people don’t watch the NBA. But Williams is about to be laid out as a warning to everybody else, that this won’t be condoned by Sheriff Goodell, who really needs to not be thought of as a Sheriff so much as a dude just trying to completely recreate the backbone of an established sport. It’s wrong to me, and it’s wrong to you, but it’s what’s going to happen.
So basically forget about this being shocking, because it ain’t to anybody who, you know, has actually watched football for more than three years. And forget about thinking football is going to go back ever to that hard-nosed rugged smashmouth way. It’s over, bros. The lawyers have gotten involved and doled out the proper ass-covering warnings, and that era is as dead as Justin Strzelczyk and Rickey Watters.
But back to Peyton Manning and the Redskins… Thinking about Gregg Williams being overlooked for the head coaching job when Joe Gibbs retired, so that Snyder could hire Jim Zorn as an offensive coordinator, and then promote to head coach, that was a painful thing to endure as a Redskins fan. But I’ve come to expect that. Which is why I imagine even though it would be terrible for Peyton Manning himself to come to Washington, that’s exactly what will happen. Dan Snyder makes offers you can’t refuse. And Peyton’s doing an “aw shucks” routine like always, asking if you’re supposed to go take tours of teams or what, as he’s never done this before. That motherfucker knows the deal. He just got let go by his owner of forever, and he’s being as publicly classy as possible, to maximize his value to another team. A disgruntled crippled QB looks like the new Brett Favre, but a dude who is like, “Hey, I just want to keep playing football, and I understand why this happened but I’ll always love the fat ugly white people of Indiana!” is working the marks and being a company man so that another owner knows just how hard Peyton will work to try and be a good player, but at least be pleasing to the type of white people who pay $95 for a jersey with a number 18 on the motherfucker.
Which is funny too, because the Redskins have tried the savior routine so often it’s like the little Russian boy who cries “FIREWOLVES!” in a crowded school bus, I just don’t believe it. Just like football itself has changed forever, and will not go back, perhaps the Redskins have too. I mean, what’s the likelihood of me outliving Dan Snyder. That dude probably eats organic arugula daily, and I do peyote with drunkards. I’m doomed. So maybe it’s for the best the NFL is becoming the new NBA, because I certainly wouldn’t give a fuck about the Redskins if they were an NBA team. Maybe the Universe is doing me a favor, and maybe it’ll further do me a favor and make Peyton Manning a Redskin, to help aid and abet my break from this godawful pro football road I seem to stumbling down.