For the most part, I stop paying attention to professional football in this country once the Buffalo Bills are eliminated from contention. That generally occurs sometime between late October and, this year for most purposes, mid-November. But the game goes on for the rest of the country through this month and into next, and the most controversial moment of this past weekend's Conference Championships wasn't the pretty-white-boy matchup between Manning and Brady, but rather an unscripted moment from one of the defensive players in the later, more competitive game, one Richard Sherman of Stanford and Seattle:
I wasn't watching the game, nor did I see the video of this, but I heard the audio of it, and also heard about some of the player's antics following his game-changing interception- where he "bullwhipped" his opposing receiver and made choke signs at the 49er quarterback. And yes, based on that evidence, I was one of many people who responded by calling him out as a "thug" that the league should be reining in, to preserve whatever remnants of sportsmanship remain in this day and age.
It's now four days later, and the player has now suggested that my assertion of him being a "thug," and that of hundreds if not thousands of other commentators, is a dog-whistled substitute for dropping an N-bomb on him:"The only reason it bothers me is because it seems like it's the accepted way of calling somebody the N-word nowadays," Sherman said during a press conference on Wednesday. "It's like everyone else said the N-word and they said 'Thug' and they're like, 'Ah, that's fine.' That's where it kind of takes me aback and it's kind of disappointing."
This comment from the player himself follows numerous articles and comments which note his rising from the poverty of Los Angeles's Compton neighborhood, his excellence at Stanford, and his support of various good causes. Based on all of the above, I accept the assertion and withdraw the "T" word from my characterization of the man.
However, I reserve the right to substitute the "B" word for it- for when you look at his entire course of conduct in the moments following the amazing sports play, his lack of sportsmanship was not the mark of a thug, but rings truer as the mark of a bully.
The facts make it clear: Sherman was better, stronger, faster than his on-field opponent. He could not let those facts speak for themselves, but he resorted to visible signs of humiliation- whipping and choking gestures, followed by the content of his now infamous post-game interview- to assert that superiority over his opponent. It wasn't about his team being better, it was about his victim being vanquished. And that's the behavior I find offensive, which is just as offensive no matter what the color or lexicon of the bully."What's the definition of a thug really?" Sherman asked reporters on Wednesday before comparing his antics to those of players involved in the recent NHL line brawl between the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames. "Maybe I'm talking loudly and doing something I'm not supposed to. But I'm not ... there was a hockey game where they didn't even play hockey. They just threw the puck aside and started fighting. I saw that and said, 'Oh, man. I'm the thug? What's going on here?'"
I'd heard about that imbroglio before hearing or thinking much about Sherman's planetary meltdown. The NHL has always permitted, even glorified, fighting among players, just as onfield trash talk, per se,
is an accepted part of the NFL landscape. But when those on-ice NHL fights degenerated into attacks on opposing players' locker rooms (as they did during that particular lily-white Vancouver-Calgary contest), the league responded by suspending the locker-room instigator without pay for a near-record 15 games. Nobody's suggesting that Sherman be suspended from the Super Bowl for his
antics, but if it's cleaner to classify him as a bully rather than as a thug, I'm down with that. First down, anyway.
Perhaps to distract from all this flak, the NFL commish dropped a minor bomb the other day by suggesting that the league might change or even eliminate the utterly boring procedure for kicking points-after following touchdowns. As it now stands, a run or pass into the end zone gets an NFL team six points; they can then elect either a near-automatic kick for one point, or run a play from scrimmage to net them two. NFL coaches, being generally more conservative than Rush Limbaugh, almost universally opt for the former, until and unless the score is nearly out of hand in the waning minutes of the game.
The various ideas under discussion would give a team seven points automatically; a run or pass play would present a true gamble, as a successful try would add a point to the touchdown, but a failed attempt would roll the TD back to six. And that is why it is not likely to happen.
Why? Point spreads.
I'm sure the NFL is shocked, SHOCKED to find out that there's gambling going on in connection with their games. It's a major business in Las Vegas, and less but significantly so among wise guys everywhere. The whole system depends on reliable mathemetics; under the current scoring system, it's rare for final scores to be separated by anything other than four out of ten digits: three (the margin of a field goal), seven (the margin of a touchdown), or either ten or four (derived from those two numbers being added or subtracted). Yeah, once in a blue moon there's something called a safety, and in an even bluer moon there's a missed point-after or a two-point conversion, but the wise guys depend on those four digits to uphold their entire system. If you start giving coaches the option of turning those sevens into eights or sixes, it's the equivalent of adding four cards- elevens of clubs/spades/hearts/diamonds- to a blackjack deck; it will totally gork the odds and the whole illegal betting process will become untenable.
So I'm betting against this change ever seeing the light of day- and
I'm taking the points on that.
This entry was originally posted at http://captainsblog.dreamwidth.org/184975.html
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