Today is Bastille Day. Sadly, I have no news to report here that resembles the storming of the prison fortress in Paris on this date in 1789. So, in lieu of trying to force-fit some sort of sports story/event into the narrative of the French Revolution, I will just fais marcher with the normal happenings here.
Before I took my brief hiatus, the NFL announced a couple of 4-game suspensions for players who had violated the substance abuse policy. Sheldon Richardson and Rolando McLain will each sit out 4 games. However, it is important to note that neither of these gentlemen failed a drug test involving PEDs; they will sit out for flunking a drug test for “recreational drugs”. So, I think it is important to understand what they had to do in order to “earn” this 4-game suspension. The following is my understanding based on my reading of the current CBA that is available to the public:
Players are tested once a year for “recreational drugs” – such as marijuana. These are not PEDs; they are specifically spelled out in the CBA; the tests take place during the team OTAs in the spring. The players know this; the agents know this; the coaches know this. There are no “gotcha moments” here.
The first time there is a positive test the player is placed in the NFL “drug watch program” which means there will be more frequent tests and some counseling. If the player goes along with the counseling program – or appears to be going along with it – it takes two additional positive tests before he can be suspended.
If the player is uncooperative or refuses to participate in the counseling activities, a second positive test – not a third positive – can get him a 4-game suspension.
These two players – and all the ones that have gone before them who have been caught up in the substance abuse policy – have failed at least two and possibly three drug tests. However, they only came up on the NFL radar because they failed a drug test when they knew in advance when it would happen. If you wonder why the NFL administers the Wonderlic Test to potential draftees, this might be one of the reasons. Failing the first drug test that puts you on the league’s “watch list” is nothing more than an IQ Test.
These two players – and others before them and future players to be identified later – miss out on 25% of a season and 25% of their salary for a year because they got caught (or will get caught sometime later) with “stuff” in their bloodstream even though they knew when and where their blood test would happen. Let me be clear; no one from the Nobel Committee is banging on my door to tell me that I am in the running for one of their prizes. Nonetheless, I know for sure that I could avoid a positive test in this sort of a regimen even if I were a regular user of one of the substances on the “substance abuse list”. It really is not all that difficult…
The NFL announced a 10-year partnership agreement with Tottenham Hotspurs last week. The NFL will play two of its London Games at the new Tottenham stadium between 2018 and 2027. The new stadium will have features that the NFL may use to “motivate” current stadium managers to adopt:
There will be a retractable roof. While this is very important in a place like London where it rains a lot, be assured that the league can point to various “mud games” in many of its existing stadiums and it can appeal to the comfort of the fans paying exorbitant prices for tickets as ways to hint – ever so subtly – that a retractable roof would be a great addition to existing facilities.
There will be a retractable grass field with an artificial turf field below it. The grass field will be used by the Spurs for their EPL games and any other futball matches that may need to be scheduled there. When the NFL is coming to town, they can move the grass field away and expose the artificial turf underneath so that the NFL game can be played in top notch conditions without tearing up the pitch for the Spurs in their next home game.
Look, if the NFL wants to play 2 games a year in London, I have no problem with that so long as the teams in the league have no problem with that. However, consider these comments from the Mayor of London; the not-even-veiled implications bother me a lot:
“We are already working very closely with the NFL including on plans to get more Londoners involved in the sport … Touchdowns at Tottenham can only add to our reputation at a global sporting powerhouse and help us take another step towards our goal of having a permanent NFL franchise here in London.”
I just got off the train. Having one franchise in London would be a logistical nightmare for the team based there and for teams in its division. That is a bad idea whose time ought never to come. If the NFL is hell-bent to expand to Europe, it needs to have more than one team there. And that statement alone ought to give fans a problem.
How many teams in the current NFL have rosters that are made up of marginal players? If that is too broad a question for you, then let me be more specific:
How many of the current 32 teams have marginal QBs?
If the NFL expands in order to accommodate “foreign market expansion”, that is going to dilute talent all around the league; there is no way to pretend that it will not. It is painful to watch some of the bottom feeders in the league already and expansion to accommodate teams in Europe – and or any other markets – will simply create more teams that make your teeth itch when you watch them.
I wish the NFL and the Tottenham Hotspurs nothing but good fortune and financial windfalls in their 10-year deal. However, I hope that the Mayor of London and the global expansion forces within the NFL – (Hint: Roger Goodell) – find ways to prevent all of this from becoming permanent.
Finally, a word from Scott Ostler in the SF Chronicle:
“I worry about Draymond Green. He says he got to where he is because of his determination to ‘overcome the doubters.’ Now that he has the big contract and universal respect, there are no doubters. Can Draymond overcome the handicap of not having any doubters? I doubt it.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………