Sport and Society for Arete - Football Returns

The Olympics in Rio are over and the tales of the ridiculous and the sublime will now fade into the background. Our fascination with swimmers and gymnasts and the many and varied tales of obstacles overcome will give way to the sports that occupy the American fan on a regular basis. We can welcome back Ryan Lochte to the finer restrooms of Volusia County and Central Florida, and we can wish Matt Lauer well as he returns to broadcasting school to take a refresher course in interviewing.

So we return to the mainstream sports of the United States. We know that the college football season is approaching (actually it is already underway) by the increasing number of arrest reports of student athletes of the gridiron. Over the past few days and weeks arrests were made involving players from a gaggle of "major programs."

One of the early leaders in the race to the top ten is Notre Dame where six players in two separate incidents were involved in simple misdemeanors and potential felony charges. Brian Kelly expressed anger and embarrassment while suspending one player and dismissing another from the team.

On Friday an Auburn player was arrested when after a traffic stop he fled the scene leaving behind an unlicensed handgun in his car. Four other Auburn players were arrested in the off-season for marijuana possession.

Further west a Washington State player was arrested at a Domino's Pizza on an assault charge. The player became agitated and abusive because his pizza order was taking too long. At some point this led to an altercation with another customer who left the premises with a broken nose. The report did not indicate if the player ever got his pizza, but apparently no pizzas were damaged in the scuffle. This is the second assault incident at WSU in the past few months.

In early August at Baylor an offensive lineman was arrested on a stalking charge. Baylor, of course, was in the news for a major scandal the led to the dismissal of the Head Football Coach, the Athletic Director, and the University President. Another assault arrest took place at Texas A&M about a week ago.

And to bring you up to date, last night the Florida State University strength and conditioning coach was arrested for DUI. He was found asleep at the wheel of his car at a traffic light and tested out well over the legal limit for blood alcohol. He had done his imbibing in his office and that is a violation of University regulations.

College football seems to be nearly in mid-season form.

We know that the NFL season is about to begin as well. Draft Kings and Fan Duel are gearing up for the opening week of the season while launching their rebranding campaign. ESPN, which seems to be the unofficial media center for the NFL, is analyzing teams, predicting the playoff teams, discussing which coach will be the first to be fired, and, in general, overdosing on NFL minutia. My guess is, if it hasn't happened yet, ESPN will be running its first 2017 mock draft featuring Mel Kiper's picks for the first and second round sometime very soon. (Actually Mel's 2017 mock draft has been out since May.) This of course will set off hours of debate by all 7000 ESPN NFL analysts. This upcoming season has been dissected so much already that it seems like the playoffs will be starting next week.

We also know that the NFL season is approaching because Roger Goodell continues to make news for all the wrong reasons. Goodell's pursuit of NFL players mentioned in a sketchy report as PED users by Al-Jazeera America is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate to the players that he has too much power and will use it and abuse it. This is also an easy PR move to show how opposed the Commish is to PED's in the NFL and how vigilant he is in these matters. Goodell is almost as vigilant on this issue as he is on the issue of over-inflated footballs, while much less vigilant than he is on the enforcement of his domestic violence policy.

Meanwhile on the concussion front the NFL funded and endorsed "Heads Up" program seems to be less that it claimed to be. The New York Times reported that a recent study of the results of the program does not support the claims of concussion reduction. The NFL remains in so many ways a League in Denial.

The NFL is not alone. Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the National Hockey League, recently wrote to a Congressional Committee denying the connection between concussions and CTE: "the relationship between concussions and the asserted clinical symptoms of CTE remains unknown." Internal NHL documents introduced in a current law suit show that the NHL and Bettman were fully aware of the connections between hockey and brain trauma as early as 2011. (If you want to get a strong sense of what it is like to experience a concussion I would recommend an article by Gabriel Landeskog in the August 2 edition of The Player's Tribune.)

Meanwhile baseball is beginning its rush to the finish line. If August is the cruelest month, then September is the most exciting and painful month. At this point many teams remain in contention, at least for one of the wild card slots. The American League East and National League West remain extremely tight. In the West the Dodgers have surged despite losing Clayton Kershaw to injury and sending Yasiel Puig to the minors. Simultaneously the Giants have gone from best to worst in the National League west. The American League East remains in a log jam at the top with the usual suspects in or near contention.

The best storyline in baseball continues to be the Chicago Cubs. They have tremendous talent up and down the lineup and up and down the bench, manipulated by baseball's managerial guru, Joe Maddon. They have a very good closer in Aroldis Chapman and excellent starting pitching with an ERA over a run lower than any other team in baseball.

There are only two weaknesses. First, middle relief remains erratic. Second, they are the Cubs. The Chicago Cubs. Baseball's lovable losers. A franchise wedded to failure, often in spectacular fashion. It has been, as they say in Chicago, a very tough century, with no World Championship since 1908.

Will that change? And if it does will Chicago and the World survive the euphoria and/or will hell freeze over?

On Sport and Society this is Dick Crepeau reminding you that you don't have to be a good sport to be a bad loser.

Copyright 2016 by Richard C. Crepeau