Thursday, September 18, 2014

9/18 NFL Travails Continue Quickie

Jon Stewart on the NFL mess: "Actual Vikings don't treat their children like that!" Click here to watch the full segment. Obviously, he takes it to the league, and it's absolutely worth a watch.

There are a couple levels of pressure at work here. When you are mocked by Jon Stewart (or, more recently, by John Oliver), that's a biggie. But there are limits to mockery -- the NFL can largely deflect those.

The ultimate, of course, is pressure on the NFL from its sponsors, which is why the condemnation Tuesday from Anheuser-Busch and, yesterday, from Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi, were both huge.

Those corporate partners -- and the others sure to follow -- are protecting their own investments (and brands), in part because they are pragmatic and in part because they can (per Will Leitch) read the public mood.

The next level down are the major media influencers -- Schefter and King, most notably. They drive so much of the conventional wisdom that when they report things out (with any level of atypical outrage) or take strong positions, the league is paying very close attention.

King's suggestion that Goodell have an "I'm NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell -- Ask Me Anything" press conference is a good one, if unlikely for the league to heed, in part because I think they must be scared out of their minds that Goodell won't or can't present genuous enough responses to not make things worse.

(It's an inaccurate comparison, but consider the way NBA commissioner Adam Silver at his Sterling press conference completely changed the Sterling scandal -- and public perception of him, albeit filling in what was a largely blank canvas at the time -- simply by plain-spoken, straight-forward answers, which Goodell has been averse to providing for most of his tenure.)

Below that -- not unlike the way that smaller, repetitive blows to your head through a football helmet ultimately erodes your brain and shortens your life, or at least the quality of it -- it is simply the constant background of news and punditry about all this from every source, reaching almost every fan, that puts the league in an increasingly untenable position without some sort of executive leadership change.

Sure, mockery on the Daily Show is a signal. But the league was losing this this well before 11 pm last night.

More Faves:

Sarah Manchester: The Takoma Park (MD) Middle School math teacher won $1 million on Wheel of Fortune last night, and the moment is as awesome as you think it would be.

"Wheel" gets scoffed at by "Jeopardy" snobs, but Wheel's signature moments of triumph are vastly more telegenic than the monotonous -- if astonishingly impressive -- definition of success on Jeopardy.

Misty Copeland: You've seen the instant-classic Under Armour ad -- next, the profile of her in this week's New Yorker provides essential context to better understand one of the great athletes of this era.

David Ash quitting football: Whether it was his choice or not, the Texas QB walking away from football after multiple concussions will likely add years -- if not decades -- to his life, at a vastly higher quality.

Here is the natural follow-up question: How many concussions are enough to convince someone to get out of the sport? How many of the above-referenced infinitely repeated little knocks to the head, which probably ends up causing even more damage than the single big hits? And how old do you have to be to worry -- college? Prep? Pee-wee?

FWIW: This week's Time cover and cover story are on the massive risks of playing football, with the line: "Is Football Worth It?" (h/t Rebkah Howard)

Wait: Do you need a 2,000-word reported story to answer that? What if you flipped to the page where the story started and it just printed a huge "NO."

(Now, let's be clear: The Time story isn't about Rice/domestic violence or Peterson/child abuse or the NFL/teetering -- it's about the risk of kids playing tackle football, and to a lesser extent, the risks taken on as they progress to the college or pro level.)

FWIW, cont'd: Here's "Friday Night Lights" director Peter Berg, calling out youth football coaches and programs for putting kids in harm's way -- and suggesting kids skip tackle football altogether.

iOS8: I upgraded my 5S and... I mean, it's OK, I guess? Not really seeing the revolutionary utility yet, but I suppose I will when they finally add in the Pay system? (I downloaded the much-vaunted Swiftkey app to replace the standard keyboard, but I'm sort of skeeved out by the level of access Swiftkey wants to my data.)

If you missed it yesterday: Louisa Thomas' essay about the state of the NFL is definitely worth reading. It got a ton of notice yesterday, deservingly.

Football on TV tonight: Are you ready for some... cognitive dissonance? Auburn-Kansas State on ESPN/WatchESPN (arguably the best Thursday night college football game of the entire season) and Bucs-Falcons on CBS/NFL Network, which is probably worth tuning into if only to watch the awkward attempts to not talk about Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Jonathan Dwyer and Roger Goodell.

(It's not a cognitive disconnect at all that I'm also thinking about fantasy football -- whether to start hobbled Bucs RB Doug Martin or his backup, Bobby Rainey.)

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