RIP Sean Taylor

There are lots of things that happen in the sports world that are worthy of ridicule and scorn. That’s why it is not difficult to find material for these many rants. However, the killing [and it may turn out to be a murder and not merely a killing] of Redskins’ safety, Sean Taylor, demonstrates that events on the field/court/pitch/wherever are not nearly as important as we make them out to be. Perhaps, the reason for the rabid reactions of sports fans everywhere is precisely because the ultimate stakes of the contests are so trivial. Were the games actually matters of life and death to fans, there would probably be far fewer fans.

In the past, I have had a few things to say about Sean Taylor that have not been flattering. Some of his prior behaviors led me to call him a meathead. In light of the events of yesterday and today, I must say that nothing that he did in his life merited the horrible end to which his life came. Rest in peace, Sean Taylor.

The Dolphins/Steelers game last night was a farce. The condition of the field in Pittsburgh made a mockery of a professional football game. The Chunky Soup commercial – where the players are in the mud at the corner of Halas and Landry Streets – portrays better playing conditions than the surface last night. The field had a consistency somewhere between quicksand and a bog. The final score of 3-0 was a blessing because if the Steelers had missed that late field goal, there could easily have been a 0-0 overtime tie.

The Dolphins took an 0-10 record into the game and started Ricky Williams at running back. Talk about desperation… Think about this; if the Dolphins had been 10-0 – or even 8-2 – and were challenging for a bye in the playoffs, do you think they would have added Ricky Williams to the roster and put him on the field so quickly? Me neither.

One of the talking heads on ESPN or NFLN said that the Dolphins were “looking for something positive” as they went into the final phase of the season. Here is something positive for them:

      Ricky Williams drug testing history.

Here is why I think the Dolphins were so eager to get him on the field. The Miami roster will probably need a complete overhaul in the next two seasons. The defense is still effective but it is aging; the offense is a mess. If Ricky Williams were to show that he is still a top-shelf running back when he is eligible to play, the Dolphins would have an asset that they could trade to acquire young players and/or draft picks from a team who would be willing to take a chance on Williams’ good behavior in the future. And as long as a player can perform on the field, there are always teams out there who know in their hearts that theirs is the organization to set this wayward soul on the righteous path. Last night was no test for the readiness or the remaining skills of Ricky Williams as an NFL running back.

The Dolphins might take solace in the fact that their plight has been recognized far beyond the reaches of the NFL. The United Nations has declared 2007 to be the International Year of the Dolphin and that body has declared that dolphin conservation is an important world issue. Those UN folks were prescient; they did that even before the Miami Dolphins took the field for the first time this year.

In the last 48 hours, I’ve heard about a dozen different people echo the comment made on the Sunday Night Football telecast that the Eagles may have “provided a blueprint” for the rest of the NFL as to how to beat the Patriots. Certainly, the Eagles gave the Pats a solid and competitive game and the Eagles could have won it at the end. But let us not fall all over ourselves here with the “blueprint” business. If you look analytically at that game, the Eagles provided this “blueprint”:

      1. Hold the Pats to 25 first downs and 410 yards of total offense.
      2. Hold the Pats to 31 points.
      3. Do not throw 3 INTs.

Somehow, I don’t think all of that will resonate with coaching staffs around the league.

The Dallas/Green Bay game this Thursday night will be on NFL Network. For lots of folks, this is the antithesis of “Must See TV” because the NFL Network is only available in less than 40% of the households in the US. I guess that makes it “Won’t See TV” for lots of folks.

The NFL would have you believe that this is the doings of the “big cable TV monoliths” who refuse to put NFLN on their systems. Pish-posh. This is a stare-down between the billionaire owners of the NFL and the multibillion-dollar businesses that are the cable TV providers. There’s plenty of blame for everyone here so when you start to hand out the blame for why you may not be able to see the game this week, be sure to give all sides a heaping helping of that blame.

At the heart of the issue is where NFLN belongs on the cable TV lineups. The NFL wants NFLN in the basic sports packages; the cable companies want it in the premium sports packages. Do not get caught up in the rhetorical flourishes of either side here. This is purely and simply a power play by the two sides regarding the fees that NFLN can generate from the public for the cable companies and the NFL. Moreover, the league is now using a fortuitous scheduling match-up between two teams with 10-1 records to apply pressure to cable companies. Look at the rest of the Thursday night line-up for the season and you’ll quickly notice that there aren’t many games nearly as compelling as this one.

Roger Goodell said late last week that the NFL’s intent is merely to “bring more football to fans”; that is the real reason they created the NFL Network and scheduled Thursday games. Therefore, it might be fair to ask the Commish how taking these Thursday games away from the “over-the-air networks” [FOX, CBS, NBC] brings more football to fans. True, it puts eight more games in time slots where there is no overlap. However, if bringing the most football to the most fans were the objective, how come the networks didn’t get to bid on those game packages?

In any event, how would you like to be a bartender in a sports bar working the Thursday night shift this week?

Finally, a comment from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“New York Post reported Michael Vick has bought a place in the Icon, a South Beach high-rise. My question: Who let the dog in?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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