I may have not been “on the air” for a few days, but I have not been living in a cave. Stuff has happened and I want to put my two cents in on some of it. The first part of this relates to the Michael Vick situation. I’ve read and heard on some sports radio programs that the demonstration by PETA outside NFL HQs in New York last week demonstrates the danger to NFL popularity that the Vick “situation” presents. Horse Hockey!! The fact is that PETA is a fringe group; the people in PETA live to find a reason to hold a protest to get the public to look at them and recall that the organization continues to exist. The NFL can’t kowtow to PETA over this issue because if it does then PETA will likely be back in front of NFL HQs protesting the use of leather in footballs and the use of leather in football shoes and the serving of steaks at NFL pre-game meals. The PETA protest only means that TV networks and newspaper columnists had one more thing to comment on.
Here is the danger that the NFL has to worry about. It can be personified by a conversation I had with a gentleman last evening. He doesn’t care about PETA and he doesn’t care about Michael Vick or the Atlanta Falcons and he doesn’t care about the image of the NFL. This gentleman loves dogs; he owns dogs; he watches sports on TV with his dog at his feet. He wants any and all people who abuse dogs or act cruelly to dogs to fry in Hell. That is the kind of person that the NFL cannot afford to alienate because there are too many dog-owners/dog-lovers out there. The NFL can ignore PETA protests but it cannot behave in such a way that even 10% of the dog-owners in the US decide to turn their backs on NFL football.
And it is for that reason – and not really any other – that I believe that the NFL and the NFLPA and the Atlanta Falcons and Michael Vick’s representatives must find a way to assure that Michael Vick does not set foot on the field at any official NFL sanctioned event until and unless this matter is completely resolved in court or the charges are dropped by the Department of Justice. The potential for volatility here is much too great for them to take a chance with that.
I heard one goof on the radio say that dogfighting had to be taken in a societal context and then he used the growing popularity of UFC and other mixed martial arts fighting as evidence that cruel blood sports were acceptable in the US. Excuse me, but here is one of many fundamental differences that I see. None of the UFC fighters is forced to be a fighter; he can choose to fight or to become an oboist with a symphony orchestra. If he takes up fighting and isn’t very good at it, he’ll get his ass kicked a few times, but his manager is not likely to throw water on him and electrocute him because he can’t fight all that well. The differences between the people who run UFC and the people who run dogfighting events are so huge that you cannot try to use one to justify/rationalize the other.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Allen Iverson had a comment about the Michael Vick situation during halftime of a Celebrity Flag Football Game at the Allen Iverson Summer Classic Weekend on Saturday. Iverson said that Vick should “keep his head up” and that he understood what Vick was going through because:
“It’s always been like that from day one, since there was sports … There was always a bull’s-eye on us. Everybody doesn’t love athletes. Some people feel like we’re spoiled. Some people feel that because we are rich, we think we are above the law; we’re better than everybody else. But it’s not like that, but some people perceive us that way. And they give us a hard time about it.”
If you ever wanted proof that Allen Iverson does not have a publicist who is feeding him lines to speak or trying to “keep him on message”, this has to be such evidence. The only thing you can say about the Michael Vick situation at the moment is that the process needs to play itself out before a final judgment can be made – either way. But to tell him to keep his head up because all of this is happening because he is a rich athlete is nonsense – just as it would be nonsensical to say that the only reason this is happening is because the FBI sneaked onto the grounds of that house in Surry Virginia and buried the dog carcasses found there.
Now for a segue to the next topic. Last week, the story broke that an NBA referee was under investigation by the FBI for betting on games that he officiated. For more than a few hours, the story was out there with no name attached to it. Yet the sports radio shows lit up with people assuming it was true and virtually convicting whomever might be subsequently charged here in the court of public opinion. Why is that important?
Keep that in mind the next time someone tries to spin you a story that the only reason people rush to judgment on the guilt of some athlete is because he is Black. Remember, there was no name offered here when the public vilification began. Statistically speaking, you’d have to have concluded at that point that the person involved was a white male; there are far more white male referees in the NBA than there are all the other demographics put together. So, the public’s rush to judgment was not racially motivated. And now that we know the identity of Tim Donaghy, let’s note that the public has not been overly kind to this white male; he has needed police protection at his house because of death threats.
Actually, I think the Tim Donaghy situation is far more potentially damaging to the NBA than is the Michael Vick situation to the NFL. The NBA has to be in every church in the country lighting candles in hopes that Donaghy acted alone in this matter. Because if he gives up even one more name of a referee – active or retired – who has done the same thing, then the NBA is in danger of moving from the orbit of “real sports” to the orbit now occupied by “WWE” and “Roller Derby” and the like. The NBA cannot sustain its salary structure on the revenues generated by those sports exhibitions where the majority of the fans acknowledge that the outcomes are predetermined.
I heard a couple of sports radio hosts clucking this morning that the Tim Donaghy story demonstrated the stupidity of putting an NBA franchise – or any other pro franchise – in Las Vegas. Excuse me. There is no franchise there now and we have an official about to be arrested on these charges. Remembering that he is not yet indicted or convicted, let me only point out that a sport can get into this sort of difficulty without having a team in Las Vegas and it is just as possible that having a team in Las Vegas would prevent such a thing from happening as it is possible that the absence of a team in Las Vegas caused this to happen. Obviously, these radio hosts never had to study Aristotelian logic.
Here’s my question in all of this. If Tim Donaghy has been under investigation for a year – as has been reported – then he has to have been doing this allegedly for more than one year. So, what were the NBA Security folks doing all that time? How come they never came up with any indicators that things weren’t “hunky-dory”? How come they never noticed any untoward financial transactions involving Mr. Donaghy? How come …? I guess my series of questions boils down to two basic questions:
What do those NBA Security folks actually do for a living?
For all the times that they briefed the NBA Commish and the NBA executives in the past year without warning them that this problem was brewing, what should be the “accountability” that rains down on their heads?
Finally, here’s something from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:
“A Florida congressman has proposed investigating steroid use in pro wrestling. Talk about a shot in the dark! What’s next? Investigating collagen use in L.A.?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…