Posts Tagged ‘NFL’

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

I have been a sports fan my whole life, and I engage with sports everyday in some fashion, be it watching games, reading articles, or talking with family and friends.

In all my years of sports, “Deflategate” may be the dumbest controversy I have ever encountered.

For those unaware, Deflategate is the ongoing controversy surrounding the NFL’s New England Patriots, who were found to have used underinflated footballs during their offensive possessions in last Sunday’s AFC Championship against the Indianapolis Colts. League rules require the balls to be between 12.5-13.5 PSI. The balls used by the Patriots were found to be around 2 PSI under those requirements. In theory, deflated balls are easier to throw, catch, and handle, which could have given the Patriots a miniscule advantage, particularly in the sloppy weather in which the game was played.

Deflated-NFL-Football

Note: This is way less than 2 PSI under regulation.

Before I continue, let me preface my comments by noting I am a Miami Dolphins fan. Not only do I not have an allegiance with the Patriots, but as division rivals, I actively root against them every season. I have no pro-Pats bias.

With that said, Deflategate is so stupid that I may scream until my lungs deflate. I am already tired of hearing about it and I know it will be the focus of all NFL conversations up to and through the Super Bowl. If the Patriots win, idiots will be screaming for an asterisk to be attached to the title; if they lose, fans will be screaming about karma.

Good lord – fans and media are going to lose their collective minds and ruin the biggest game in American sports over 2 PSI of pressure.

In my best Allen Iverson voice: "Pressure? We talkin' about pressure?"

In my best Allen Iverson voice: “Pressure? We talkin’ about pressure?”

Everyone, from commentators to fans to players on the Colts, agrees that the inflation of the balls had absolutely no impact on the outcome of the Patriots 45-7 dismantling of the Indianapolis Colts.

Still, plenty of people have been whining, “It doesn’t matter if it helped the Patriots win or not. It’s the principle of the matter; they cheated! Fine them! Take away draft picks! Suspend the Patriots head coach! Put the Colts in the Super Bowl!”

Wah, wah, wah!

Shut up, you horde of hypocritical, holier-than-thou sports fans and media.

In every sport, every day, players and coaches are bending or breaking rules to get an advantage, or they are actively trying to deceive the opponents or referees to gain an advantage. Anyone who has played sports at any level who claims they never “cheated” in any fashion is either a liar or a magnificently upstanding loser

Here are some examples of common “cheating” in sports:

  • Flopping, particularly basketball and soccer. The entire purpose is to deceive the officials into calling a foul, thus giving his/her team an advantage through an illegal act.
  • In football or baseball, when a player traps a catch. (ie: The ball hits the ground and the player knows it did, but they try to sell it to everyone else as if it was caught.)
  • In football and basketball, players illegally holding/grabbing on every play, hoping that they will not get caught by the officials as they gain an unfair advantage over their opponent.

When any sports fan, myself included, sees their team commit a blatant foul or penalty that is NOT caught by the officials, we don’t get upset and demand that our team be punished for their crimes. Instead, we say, “Sweet! We got away with that one!” and appreciate that the bypassing of rules will help us to victory.

Still, people will say, “But those examples are different! That’s gamesmanship! Acts like those are part of the culture of competition. Wah, wah, wah!”

Shut up.

Let’s talk doctoring, then. In football, there are stories about doctored jerseys going back for generations, from putting grease on jerseys to make them slick, to sewing ball bearings into the fabric.

Or, how about doctored footballs? In the wake of this Deflategate absurdity, current and former NFL quarterbacks including Aaron Rodgers, Brad Johnson, and Mark Brunell have talked about how doctoring the football is the norm. Brad Johnson even paid $7500 dollars to have people doctor the balls he used during his Super Bowl victory with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003.

Should Tampa Bay forfeit their Super Bowl title?

Or should the Dallas Cowboys demand an opportunity to play in this year’s Super Bowl, since they lost to Aaron Rodger’s Green Bay Packers in the playoffs? After all, Aaron may have had an over-inflated ball, which is his preference.

Be it sports or any other issue in our world, people will rail against perceived injustices in the most illogical, hypocritical ways.

For example, take another form of “cheating”: performance enhancing drugs – steroids, HGH, etc.

In baseball, many sports fans and media members will never forgive players such as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire for using performance enhancing drugs. They were among the greatest players of their generation, yet they will likely be ostracized forever in terms of being recognized for their on-the-field accomplishments.

In football, players who take performance enhancing drugs are penalized and suspended for several games. Yet, fans don’t blink and then welcome those players back with open arms, no different than if the same player had missed those games due to an injury. A few players on the Dolphins were suspended for illegal substances this year. All I thought, like any other Dolphins fan was, “I can’t wait until Week 5 when these guys are back to help the defense!”

My Dolphins are an irrelevent bunch of losers, though. How about a more relevant example. Before last year’s Super Bowl, the eventual champion Seattle Seahawks – who are back in the Super Bowl this year – had a league-leading five players suspended for PED usage. Raise your hand if you knew or cared? Where are the people marching on the NFL headquarters with torches in hand to demand that the Seahawks be stripped of their title? As Deflategate continues in the next two weeks, should all of the Seahawks players be tested to make sure they aren’t cheating?

Should any player or team cheat? No. I’m not advocating it. Whether it’s a holding call, PED usage, or a deflated football, if it is proven that rules were broken, then the team/player should be penalized appropriately. Then, move on with life.

However, the media has already blown up Deflategate to such absurd proportions that you’d think the Patriots had hired Jeff Gillooly to coordinate taking out Andrew Luck’s knee at halftime.

nancy-kerrigan-attack

Who saw a Jeff Gillooly reference coming in this post? Not me, and I’m writing it!

Ultimately, in this case, I think the outrage is a mix of jilted lover/jealous fan syndrome.

The Patriots and coach Bill Belichick have been caught cheating before – the “Spygate” controversy. Both Spygate and Deflategate had little to no impact on the games, but people jumped on their moral high horses. Now, like a jilted lover, people are mad that the dude who cheated on them once before and said he wouldn’t do it again has cheated again. Only, with 2 PSIs, it was less like having an affair and more like saying good afternoon to the female cashier ringing you up at the grocery store.

And, face it, fans are jealous of the Patriots. Any fan who claims otherwise is fibbing again. The Patriots are the preeminent franchise in football, if not all of sports, over the past 15 years. As a Dolphins fan, if it would help my team be dominant and go to six Super Bowls in the next 15 years, I’d go deflate some footballs right now.

So, to borrow Aaron Rodgers’ infamous line from earlier this season: relax. Enjoy the Super Bowl, which will be a great matchup between two great teams, both of whom deserve to be in the big game. And don’t worry about PSI unless you’re checking the air in your car tires.

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By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

During the first Sunday of the NFL season, I did a lot of “grown up” chores in the morning: I graded papers, cleaned up my house, did a little yard work, and went grocery shopping. Around 11:00am, I was on my couch doing some more grading with the NFL pregame programs on as white noise, all while having a big kid, low-cal breakfast of Greek yogurt and water.

In nearly all areas of my life, I can identify ways in which I’ve grown and evolved as a person from childhood to where I am now as a 32-year-old. Being disciplined enough to get up and be productive on a Sunday morning is just one example.

Then at 12:00pm, as the NFL season kicked-off, I devolved into a child.

Though I have lived my entire life in Chicago, I have been a huge Miami Dolphins fan since 1991-92. (Just accept that and move on. Explaining it would take a whole separate post.) My emotional investment in Dolphins games takes me from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Tantrum.

From Week 1, here are some of my person highlights:

  • Kick-off: I am on my couch, knees pressed into my chest, and shaking like I’m awaiting terrible news. (Which, as a Dolphins fan, I normally am.)

    A candid picture of me at kick-off.

    A candid picture of me at kick-off.

  • Dolphins up 7-0 early: I jump off my couch and swing my fists like I’m in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out.
  • Dolphins down 10-20 at halftime: I slump into my couch, mumbling about how it’s the same old Dolphins who are going to break my heart like every other season, and how I’ve lost faith in life, no one loves me, and the sun no longer shines.
  • Dolphins sack Patriots QB Tom Brady and force a fumble: I scream and pump my fist while saying a bunch of words to Tom Brady that he can’t hear and I can’t repeat on the Turtle.
  • Close game in the 4th quarter: I am in a half-squat position with my hands on my knees like I’m playing linebacker for the Dolphins, all with my face about two feet from my 50” TV screen.
  • Dolphins make a defensive stop against Brady: I have more choice words and perhaps a one-fingered salute for Tom, while still acknowledging that he is unfairly handsome, which may be part of why I am giving him the finger.
  • Dolphins win: I walk aimlessly around my house clapping. I begin commenting aloud on the team’s effort as if I’m in their locker room.

This behavior hasn’t changed at all from younger Paul, such as two incidents in 1997 when I was 15:

  • Monday, October 27, 1997: The Chicago Bears (0-7) defeat the Miami Dolphins (5-2) on Monday Night Football in overtime for their first win of their season. I stay up past midnight depressed and skip school to save myself the abuse from Bears fans.
  • Sunday, December 28, 1997: The New England Patriots crush the Dolphins in a Wild Card playoff game. I throw the TV remote across the room and watch batteries fly through the air.

This is all despite me not being a terribly emotive person. Though I am a very emotional person, I (often) exercise great restraint in demonstrating any real highs or lows, which has been noted at work where colleagues comment on how easy-going and even-keeled I seem.

However, the results of any meaningful Dolphins game will turn me inside out, putting all of those meaningless, superficial, game-related emotions out into the world. If the Dolphins win, I’m pleasant and cheerful; I’ll go out, do things, make friends, bake you a cake, whatever. If they lose, I am a grumpy terror, I hate the universe, and I may run over mailboxes with my car just so everyone else can feel some of my pain.

Check your mail for ads, bills, and evidence of my heartbreak.

Check your mail for flyers, bills, and evidence of my heartbreak.

This is all likely why my dad calls me after every Dolphins game. He loves pushing people’s buttons, and it surely delights him that there is at least one topic he knows will always elicit a reaction out of me. Even if the Dolphins play well, he will still poke at me by asking if I left the windows open in my house so “all the kids in the neighborhood could learn a bunch of new words.”

I’m not ashamed to admit any of these behaviors, because I know I am not in the minority. This type of over-invested, over-emotional response to sports is par for the course. If anything, I am one of the tame fans! (Just go look around YouTube or Twitter for all of the evidence of fans from all sports who have had complete, epic meltdowns after their teams lost.)

Why does all of this happen, though? Why do fans get so worked up? So invested?

The truth, I believe, is that the vast majority of us aren’t THAT invested. Sure, I love my Dolphins. Sure, I want them to win. But, in truth, if I was writing a list of the biggest priorities in my life, my seafaring mammals would be well down the list after food, water, shelter, health, family, friends, work, and lots more. Yet, externally, my reactions make it seem as though I’m more concerned with the Dolphins than the rest of the universe.

ESPN talk show personality Mike Greenberg hit on one of the keys reasons for this sort of emotional outpouring in his book Why My Wife Thinks I’m an Idiot: The Life and Times of a Sportscaster Dad. To paraphrase, he comments on the value of sports as a great piece of distraction and fun from reality. During the bulk of our week, we are caring for ourselves and others, working tons of hours, and hearing a never-ending cycle of bad news from around the world.

In normal circumstances, especially at work, we have to keep our emotions in check. But with our teams, what a relief and joy it is that we can scream, yell, complain, and wear our hearts on our sleeves without any real consequences.

Unless you’re a remote control or mailbox…then there may be some consequences.

By Jenny Jocks Stelzer, English Faculty. 

I know that I’m most likely overthinking, overreacting, and overstating this, but I find myself constantly on the defensive over my love of football, probably due to the unrelenting pace of my Facebook posts with tiny hearts and hashtags like #lovethenfl #lovecollegefootball, #adrianpetersonissohot, etc., etc., etc.

21spoy1223I’m a woman. I’m a feminist. I’m an annoyingly self-righteous progressive. So, in light of the social, ethical, and safety concerns brought about by the sport, I’m supposed to be a hater. My love of football is oxymoronic. It befuddles some. It irritates others. It appalls a few. So, I love it.

Like any form of entertainment, art, or sport, football creates a cultural and social space. It’s an integral space where men can be “men” in ways that are stereotypical and sometimes repellant, to be sure, but also kind of awesome. Our society expects men to maintain the precarious balance of command and cooperation, strength and tenderness, primal physicality and intelligence. All of this happens on the football field.  The players we talk about most are aggressive, unrelenting, self-aggrandizing, and Superman-tough, and I usually love those guys, so I catch a lot of shit for it. I’m supposed to oppose this kind of hyper-masculinity, because it upsets the social expectations of my feminist-liberal position. Certainly, I’m not supposed to enjoy the muscles and the trash-talk and the brutality. So, I love it.

Not only is it unrealistic to expect men to maintain the difficult primal/social balance of appetite and acceptable behavior, it is simply NO FUN if we demand that they adhere to such a strict social protocol at all times. Football creates a spacepatrick-willis wherein men can growl, pound their chests, and smash into each other with primal aggression, and I get to watch. Now, THAT is fun. They get to channel animal urges toward a common goal and I get to enjoy, unapologetically, watching men with superior physical strength and mental acumen crash their big, strong bodies into one another and out-think their opponents. Then, they do awesomely cute little dances, flex their muscles for the camera, and slap each other’s asses adorably. So (of course), I love it.

Now, I realize that this celebration of hyper-masculinity is not securely contained within the cultural space of football. I know the serious social and interpersonal problems that present when a man is encouraged to be aggressive and self-important, when physical violence is the go-to solution to a problem, when putting one’s health and future at risk is expected toward the aim of winning a superficial game for money and fame and to enrich a few a-hole owners and a grossly flawed system. These are problems, and I know I should be repulsed, but it makes football dangerous. So, I love it.

I know, football promotes many of the negative aspects of stereotypical masculinity, and it subsequently facilitates serious social problems like domestic violence, economic inequities, and mental illness when those aspects creep from the cultural space of the football field into the social space of the actual world. I get that, and it disturbs me. I don’t mean to embrace or forgive any of these social problems, but football is complex enough, and compelling enough, and fun enough, that these dangers create, for me, a conflicted set of feelings. I’m supposed to hate it. So, I love it.

For these dangers, and the sex-appeal of athletic bodies in strenuous battle, come with another level of complexity. All of these “negative” aspects of masculinity bring with them impressive and undeniable displays of camaraderie, cooperation, intellect, and, yes, tenderness. When eleven men are on the field together, on offense or defense, they must operate withNFL: Atlanta Falcons at Detroit Lions absolute connectedness to meet their goal and to protect themselves and their teammates from serious harm. Teamwork is real, and it works: WE win when we work together and protect each other. That connection, and the insanely hard work that teammates do together, makes football a space of intimacy and brotherhood, and THAT is beautiful. Intimacy and cooperation is subtly discouraged among men in our culture, which expects a certain level of rogue individuality to achieve an unrealistic masculine ideal: I win; you lose. Cooperation toward a common goal in football demands a level of intelligence and intellect that is often overlooked in discussions of athletics.  Football players are rarely given props for their intellect, but, in order to reach their common goal, these men have to study, collaborate, and think critically about their own, their teammates’, and their opponents’ strengths, weaknesses, and strategies. Teamwork, hard work, and smarts: now, THAT is sexy. I love it. And you should love it, too.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Ah, yes….Fall is in the air.  Though the weather doesn’t really say so (I HATE 90 degrees in September!), the television screams Autumn.  This past weekend marked the beginning of our yearly national obsession: Football season.  College football kicked off a week ago, and the NFL gets going tonight. Like millions of other Americans, my wife and I can’t wait. 

But, I try not to be simply an unthinking fanatic; I cannot ignore the sport’s troubling aspects.  As it is so popular, and influential, football as a cultural phenomenon must be closely read.  During the season though, it is easy to lose yourself in the action. The spectacle takes over, and analysis of said spectacle falls by the wayside.  These games are intended to be Heinz Fielddistractions. We inevitably pay attention to what happens on the field, and not off. 

The physicality of the game enraptures the viewer, providing us with the ‘circuses’ that makes him/her forget about real world issues. But this distraction has another layer, since most spectators of the game may be thousands of miles away from the action. The majority of fans sit at home, or at a bar, and watch the game on television. In this, we depend upon the commentators and play-by-play color men to describe, and explicate what occurs on the gridiron.   The Keith Jacksons, Al Michaels, Gus Johnsons and Mike Tiricos give meaning to the events on the field. Their voices are as much a part of the game, as the play itsefl. These men and women ‘talk the NBCs-Sunday-Night-Football-team-of-Cris-Collinsworth-Al-Michaels-and-Michele-Tafoya-not-pictured-picked-up-their-sixth-straight-Emmy-Award.game’; they make language central to our viewing experience.

Football, perhaps more than any other sport, is marked by language. Repeated metaphors, analogies and euphemisms are utilized by football announcers to make the game and players more human; more understandable.  But, language manipulates, as well as explicates. Metaphors, analogies and euphemisms have the ability to deceive, as well as simplify. There is a dark side to the football lexicon, though it can be hard to catch.

Here is a necessary, and necessarily quick, primer for the upcoming football season.

  • Racial codes:

 Racial profiling and stereotypes are commonly coded into commentator speech. Perhaps the most obvious example occurs when announcers compare one player to another, either of the same era, or a previous one.  Very rarely, if ever, do white players get compared to black players, or vice versa.  This is especially the case when discussing players at positions that have been traditionally composed of a different racial group  So, for instance, Russell Wilson is compared, not to Tom Brady, but to Michael Vick. Wes Welker is not compared to possession receivers such as Marvin Harrison, but guys like Steve Largent. The list goes on.

Such comparisons may be natural.  We inherently look for similarities between groups and people. But, commentators’ racialized understanding of the game goes beyond player comparisons. Coded racial language is also commonly utilized to describe players and their abilities. The obvious example of this is the term ‘athletic’ being constantly used as a descriptor for black players.  Similar and related terms, such as ‘explosive’, ‘physical specimen’ and ‘natural ability’, are simply different versions of ‘athletic’  Rarely will you hear white football players being described in this way.  Instead, white players will often be labelled as ‘hard-workers’, ‘intelligent’, and ‘dedicated to the game’.  If white players ever get the ‘athletic’ moniker, it usually comes with a disclaimer: the white player in question is ‘surprisingly’, or ‘sneakily’ athletic. On the other hand, if black players ever get the ‘intelligent’ moniker, it too comes with disclaimers: the black player has ‘football intelligence’.

  • Euphemisms for criminal activity

Arguably, the most common code word used during football broadcasts is ‘off the field issues’.  Watch any football game this year, and you will be sure to hear that common refrain.  Of course, this is not the same as the racial code words; those are terms that have been utilized for years, based upon very old racial stereotypes. Racial codes play upon the audiences’ subconscious racial absolutism.  ‘Off the field issues’, on the other hand, is simply a euphemism.  It is used to make the viewer forget many of the horrible things the players have done. Such euphemisms ensure that the ‘real world’ is pushed further afield for the viewer. The ‘off the field issues’ (ie. what is happening in real life) seems to occur in a foreign dimension.  During the game, the viewer is meant to forget about what is happening ‘off the field’.  The term itself is extremely broad ranging.  It can, and has been used when discussing a player’s divorce, or sick child. Most commonly though, it is a euphemism reserved for a player’s criminal, or immoral conduct. 

For example, the other night I watched the Florida State/Oklahoma State game.  FSU is led by Heisman Trophy winner Florida State v PittsburghQuarterback Jameis Winston.  The announcers mentioned that Winston ‘looked excited’ to be playing football again; being in the huddle would allow him to forget about his ‘off the field issues’.  What are these issues? Did he fail a class?  Did he get a little too drunk at a Tallahassee party?  No, his ‘issues’ that he wanted to forget about (and that we should forget about too) were petty theft, and more disturbingly, being accused of rape.  ‘Off the field issues’? Yes, I would say so. 

The NFL is by no means free of ‘off the field issues.’ This euphemism will undoubtedly rear its’ ugly head starting tonight, when the Seahawks take on the Packers.  If not tonight, then on Sunday, when the Baltimore Ravens play their opening game.  If you watch that contest, I will bet that ‘off the field issues’ will be mentioned in the same breath as Baltimore Running Back Ray Rice. Rice’s ‘off the field issue’ that made the news recently happened when he punched his girlfriend (soon to be wife) in the face, and dragged her unconscious into their apartment. Unfortunately, Rice is not the only player with this ‘off the field issue’.

  • The Language of Injury

 Football’s most controversial topic over the last decade has been the prevalence of concussions during the games, and footballwhat this may do to players’ long term neurological health.  With this in mind, I heard a disturbing euphemism during a college game last week that is extremely prevalent.  After a player got knocked out the game, and was on the sideline being checked for concussion type symptoms, the sideline sports reporter relayed the ‘good’ news that the player would be coming back in the game soon.  Evidently, the 20 year old was fine, and simply got ‘his bell rung’.  What a dangerous term!  I have never had a concussion, but I assume the term ‘bell rung’ means that you are confused, and perhaps, literally, ‘hearing a ringing sound’, as though you were inside a bell.  Using such terminology does two things. First, it covers up with folk language what could be a serious medical injury. Second, by using the ‘bell rung’ term as euphemism, it allows us to judge the player.  If he ‘only’ got his ‘bell rung’, then why is he not back out on the field?  He needs to keep going, as getting your ‘bell rung’ is simply a common part of the game.  If a player sits out for too long after getting his ‘bell rung’, the announcers and the audience often start to question the player’s toughness.   Is he a true football player?

Unfortunately, that is what we really want to know. Everything else is secondary.

 

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

The 2013-2014 NFL season is here! Like many Americans, I can’t wait to watch all the action, follow all the stories, and waste valuable time over-analyzing my fantasy football teams. My boldest prediction for the season is that the Miami Dolphins will defeat the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl. Beyond that, here are other bold predictions:

—Our nation will witness a steep increase in wildlife-based profanity, like, “WTF, Bears?”

—Chicagoans will whine all winter about the cold, all while proudly proclaiming it “Bear Weather” every Sunday.

—Someone will say “Buccaneer” without being drunk on Captain Morgan and speaking in a Pirate-y voice.captain-morgan-pic

—At halftime of a Sunday night game, I will realize that I’m still wearing the same clothes I woke up in, which will prompt me to reevaluate my life as I eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch with my only clean dishware: a mixing bowl and a serving spoon.

—Detroit Lions fans will finally question why their team name is so geographically inaccurate. “Are there lions in Detroit? And are they blue? What have we been doing with our lives…?”

—At least one man will finally realize how sad it is for an adult to walk around in public wearing a team jersey on non-gamedays.

ickey—Someone under 30 will think the “Ickey Shuffle” is another name for the “Walk of Shame.”

—The Miami Dolphins will sign Tim Tebow, prompting the media to nickname the team “The Jesus Fish.” fish_black

—After Tebow is cut by the Dolphins, he will be hired by the Saints as a holy water boy.

—Someone will say “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore,’” after a Baltimore Ravens sack and then act all smug like that just earned them their Ph.D. in American Literature.

—It will be revealed that Terry Bradshaw and Hulk Hogan are the same person.terry bradshawhulk hogan

—Jerry Jones will become dissatisfied with the size of his current stadium jumbotron and deciaaron-rodgers-cheddar chexde to project Cowboys games on the face of the moon.

—Aaron Rodgers, State Farm, and General Mills will team up to make Discount Double Chex Mix.

—For the first time, a professional athlete will actually be spotted eating a Subway sandwich.

—Tom Brady will continue to be annoyingly handsome.

—In a stroke of tactical genius, Bill Belichick will confuse his opponents by ditching his schlubby hoodie for a full tuxedo complete with top hat, cane, and monocle.bellitux