NFL Greed; Dennis Allen/Greg Knapp; Marcus Alllen/Mark Davis; A's Feel Good Story; Pac-12 TV
by Glenn Dickey
Sep 26, 2012

26 SEPTEMBER

THE NFL should change its name to the National Financial League because, more than ever, it’s become obvious that money, not football, is the chief concern of the owners and their pet commissioner, Roger Goodell.

The stalled negotiations with regular officials have caused the NFL to play games with replacement officials who are woefully unprepared for the job. The most glaring example is the most recent, the Monday night game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. On a “Hail Mary” pass on the last play of the game, Seahawks receiver Golden Tate shoved a Packers’ defensive back, a clear case of offensive pass interference. It was not called. Then, as replays showed, the Packers’ defensive back outwrestled Tate for the ball, so the call should have been an interception. Instead, it was ruled a touchdown, giving the Seahawks the win.

Even worse, in reviewing these events, the league upheld the call! There was the usual official murky explanation, but it all boils down to this: We can’t admit we’ve made a terrible mistake with these officials.

Even Steve Young, who loves the game and is very even-handed in his comments, blasted the NfL for this egregious behavior. And, it’s all in the name of greed.

As I understand the dispute, the major point is that the NFL wants to change the agreement it made on pension plans in 2006, substituting 401Ks for regular pensions. There is a possible compromise: Retain the pensions for those officials in place in 2006 and go forward with the 401K plan for those just coming into the game. But the owners are in no mood for compromise. They feel they beat the players in their last negotiations – they’re right on that – and now, they want to beat the officials, too.

Meanwhile, their professed concern about the players’ health is being exposed as fraudulent. Defensive players have become more aggressive, knowing the replacement officials don’t understand the calls they’re supposed to make, or are too timid to make them.

I saw an example of that on Sunday, at the Raiders-Steelers game. Going for the ball in the end zone, Darrius Heyward-Bey was leveled on a helmet-to-helmet collision, which should have been an automatic penalty. It was not called. DHB lay unconscious for 10 minutes before being taken off the field to a hospital. Thankfully, he has apparently not suffered any lasting damage, but it’s only a matter of time before an offensive player is seriously injured by this overaggressive defensive play.

With the league already facing lawsuits because of concussions suffered by players in earlier times, you’d think that Goodell and the owners would be concerned by this, but they can’t see clearly with all those dollar signs in their eyes.

The talk about player safety also rings hollow when the NFL is running a season-long schedule with games on Thursday nights.

It is difficult enough for players to recover from the physical beating they take when they have a week in between games. When they have only four games, it’s impossible.

These games are hardly football at its best from a mental and emotional standpoint because teams have a short week to prepare. There was an argument to be made for Thursday games on Thanksgiving because of the tradition. But every week?

There is obviously only one reason for these games: Owners get more television money.

Blatant greed is never a pretty thing, but it’s on display every week now in the National Financial League.

THE RAIDERS exciting win over the Pittsburgh Steelers should quiet their media critics, who had unreasonable expectations for this team.

I’ve been writing consistently that the new Raiders, under general manager Reggie McKenzie, were building the foundation for future success and that it was unreasonable to expect immediate success. But their win over the Steelers was not only promising in itself but showed the signs of things I’ve been looking for, defensive players staying in position and not free lancing, the offensive line getting familiar with the zone blocking scheme and, most of all, only three penalties!

Dennis Allen is a huge contrast to his predecessor, Hue Jackson, and his demeanor so far seems to indicate he’ll be a head coach in the NFL for many years. Jackson was an imaginative offensive coordinator but he self-destructed as a head coach. And, when he blamed the players for the late season collapse that kept them out of the playoffs, he not only sealed his doom as the Raiders head coach but probably also meant he’ll never get another shot at the job. No matter how a coach might feel privately, he should never blame the players.

Hopefully, the criticism of offensive coordinator Greg Knapp will also be stilled. Knapp has a good resume, including his work in Houston last season, and the early criticism of him – after only two games! – was silly. The offense certainly operated at a high level on Sunday.

Quarterback Carson Palmer was especially impressive, changing plays when he recognized a defense, most notably on Darren McFadden’s 64-yard touchdown run. Injuries to receivers have hampered the Raiders’ passing offense but Palmer made it go on Sunday, hitting key passes throughout the game. Amazingly, the Raiders scored on all five of their second half possessions, a total turnaround from recent years.

It was also a nice touch to have Marcus Allen lighting the torch at the start of the game. Al Davis had ordered Allen benched in Los Angeles because Marcus had committed the ultimate crime: He had taken the spotlight from Davis. (The same thing happened to Jon Gruden. When his face started showing up on billboards, I wrote that his time with the Raiders was limited. Sure enough, as soon as he got the opportunity, Davis got rid of him.)

Fortunately, Mark Davis has none of the grudges carried by his father. He has been close to Allen, and so has Carol Davis, Al’s widow. Mark arranged for Allen to come back on Sunday and the fans loved it.

This is truly a new Raiders regime, and a welcome change. They’re encouraging fans to root hard for the team but not to insult people sitting by them. That practice had been an ongoing problem because many fans were driven away by the outrageous behavior of those around them. And, of course, Al Davis never spoke out against that behavior and, by his silence, encouraged it.

AMONG THOSE who are totally shocked by the A’s success this year: Whoever set up their schedule for September. Nobody would have thought of making a playoff contender play the kind of schedule the A’s have had this month, on the road most of the time against teams like the Yankees and Rangers, with hardly a day off.

Compounding the problem for the A’s has been the loss of top pitchers. Bartolo Colon was another Latino caught by baseball’s drug program. Brandon McCarthy was sidelined after he was hit by a batted ball. Fortunately, he’s OK and plans to return next season. Brett Anderson has been sidelined by an oblique injury. Anderson and McCarthy are ace-type pitchers and Colon was a veteran influence on a young team. Those are significant losses.

To make it even worse, the A’s have been playing two strong hitting teams, the Yankees and Rangers, in parks where it’s very easy to hit home runs. In New York, the A’s had to play extra-inning games, which exhausts a pitching staff.

Nonetheless, the A’s are hanging in there, a remarkably resilient bunch and a great story. Going into tonight’s games, they were just half a game behind the Orioles in the wild card race and two games ahead of the Angels in the race for the second wild card. I doubt they can hang on but they’ve been a great feel-good story this year.

Meanwhile, The Chronicle’s Susan Slusser quoted an anonymous source in New York saying owners were looking more favorably on a possible move of the A’s to San Jose.

Forget it.

As I wrote last week, there are only two ways that could happen: 1) They’d challenge the Giants territorial rights, triggering a lawsuit by the Giants, which might also result in MLB losing its exclusion from anti-trust law. Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the decision for the Supreme Ccurt in 1922, that baseball was not inter-state commerce. Commissioner Bud Selig would not allow anything that would result in a challenge to that ruling, which would not be allowed to stand today; 2) There would have to be an agreement reached with the Giants for a buyout of their rights, but even if the Giants agreed (highly unlikely), it might be in the range of $100 million. Who would pay that? Certainly not the A’s, and if Selig thinks other baseball owners would pay a share of that, he’d quickly be told differently. Selig has remained in office because owners are pleased that he has discovered new revenue streams. They don’t want to be paying another team. Greed is not limited to NFL owners.

AND, TALKING about baseball’s drug policy, does it have any function other than thinning out the Latino group in MLB? Other writers have noted that the percentage of Latinos getting caught is much higher than their numbers in the game. Apparently, they have less understanding of what’s banned, quite possibly because they don’t have a firm grasp of English.

What we do know about the policy is that it can’t test for human growth hormone, which is the drug of choice for American athletes who understand the policy and still want to be able to take something which will build muscle and allow them to play longer. This drug is detectable only through a blood test, which the players union has successfully fought.

The drug which has been successfully detected is the artificial testosterone, which only stays in the system for a few hours and is mostly used to keep players’ energy level up.

In other words, it replaces the popular “greenies”, otherwise known as amphetemines, which players have used since I’ve been covering major league baseball games.

Frankly, I don’t understand why “greenies” are banned. The reality is that, when they’re on the road, major league players don’t go to bed immediately after night games. Especially if they have to play a day game the next day, they need something to keep their energy level up.

Would somebody please explain to me why this is bad?

Unfortunately, this is symbolic of baseball’s drug policy, which only treats the problem superficially, not even close to getting at the core problem. Even those writers who have been very moralistic on this issue, are realizing that baseball’s drug policy is for show, not to get actual results. Like our country’s much ballyhooed “war on drugs,” it’s an abysmal failure.

I’VE BEEN critical of Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott for this new network that isn’t available on many cable systems, including mine, but I have to thank him for not letting me see Cal-USC last Saturday. Even the highlights/lowlights I saw on newscasts were painful to watch.

Scott did finally admit he overestimated the appeal of college games in the Bay Area. Well, yeah. In Florida, where Scott had worked most recently, college football is huge. The Bay Area, though, is slightly more sophisticated. College football, even Cal, is not as important as the 49ers or Giants, and there are only a few fans who are so passionate about their teams that they would switch cable systems just to see their games. If Scott wants his network on more systems, he’s going to have to set a realistic price.

What do YOU think? Let me know!

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