In America we enjoy moments of greatness more than anyone else. What we enjoy even more than greatness is a narrative to make the story greater.
So when it is Game 7 of the World Series, bottom of the 9th with two outs, and the bases are loaded with the team down by three, and the best hitter steps to the plate, well, imaginations open. If that player just came off a season of injury and people questioned whether he would play again, that right there is a moment that could be great.
It was a time of kids riding bicycles with baseball cards in their spokes, drinking colas out of glass bottles, and listening on the radio while great battles issued both at the stadium and the battle fields abroad. Now the ghosts of MLB are players like Ruth, Gehrig, Feller and many more are haunting the game in a way that hurts it more than any other. Those ghosts represent a time when America needed baseball, and those players were pure. Steroids has made their sacred records fall so often that they don't matter anymore. I grew up watching baseball. But if those players had never lived, would I feel so disillusioned by it?
For those who are not sports fans, Bob Feller was one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history and the only player to throw a no-hitter on opening day. Ever.
I met the late Bob Feller many times. We are both from the same area of Ohio. If there is anyone to me that represents the mystic game of baseball, it is him. In his later years he became the unofficial spokesman for the purity of the game.
I asked him about steroids once and let's just summarize it to say something to this effect. Anyone who cheats should not be allowed to enter the Hall of Fame. He talked about two record books, one for steroids and one for those who weren't caught.
If the ghosts of baseball's past haunt the game because of their purity from substance abuse, the ghosts of the NFL is the present.
First, the NFL has a major problem this season brewing with words like "repetitive head injury syndrome", and "chronic traumatic encephalopathy" coming with a hay-maker of a movie starring Will Smith movie titled Concussion. This is going to shine a light into the darkest corner the NFL has, and the roaches there will be scurrying from the light for years because of this.
Washington has an old saying: "It's not the crime, it's the cover up."
The NFL must know a lot more about this than they have stated. They settled a lawsuit that will cost the league $900 million. Over 200 players opted out of that settlement accusing the NFL of knowing more than they let on and plan to sue separately. In short, this scandal is far from over and the Concussion movie will make it more high profile.
This is a major financial issue for the NFL, but for the average American, it won't change how they view the game. Pretty much any educated person knows that if you get hit in the head too much there will be problems eventually. From those I have spoken with this is just another slip and fall lawsuit. Players make millions more than average people to play this game and they knew there were dangers. Suing the NFL is like working as a secretary your entire life and suing your boss when you retire because you now have carpal tunnel. Like the NFL knew of injury risk, so did the players. This was a mutual relationship.
The NFL seemingly knew there were major issues and did everything in their considerable power to kill the concern and the careers of those bringing the truth to light that will hurt the league. It is the youth football statistics on concussions that hurt the league as well, and as a parent I struggle with whether I will allow my son to play the game.
To be fair, the NFL supported this report, which is proof that villains don't always do the wrong thing. However, for years the NFL did everything they could to kill this story and on Christmas day 2015, this particular ghost of NFL past will come back to haunt them.
Here is a brief and selective summary of NFL player suspensions.
- 13 player suspension related incidents from 1925-1996.
So, we have a major American business making billions a year and strengthening every quarter, a powerhouse that is truly throwing its weight around, and major issues are looming.
There's crime and a commissioner that is in way over his head.
- A player is charged with obstruction justice, but no suspension given. Fined.
The NFL's most haunting issue isn't concussions. Right now the real problem is a history of inconsistent and unfair punishments with a commissioner that cannot do that job, constant criminal issues, and a fan base growing completely irritated with the leagues greed and ability to skate over issues they don't want to talk about.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently stated he is "open to changing" his disciplinary role after "DeflateGate".
The NFL is being slowly changed from America's favorite past-time (sorry, baseball), and turned into another example of corporate greed and the desire to crush people who disagree with them. These ghosts will eventually do more damage to the NFL than the ghosts of baseball's greats has done to the MLB.
The NFL official season kickoff starts Thursday night.
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