April 01, 2021
It comes with some hesitation that I step on Bill Maher's toes but it's a necessity because we need a new rule.
And the guideline that needs urgency is a simple one: a layman can no longer talk about "following the science."
In a divided country, politicians weaponize that thought with a red or blue tint depending on the state they call home. Ordinary citizens yield it as some kind of social-media virtue test, and the NFL commissioner himself has added it to his lexicon when it comes to both the obvious (COVID-19) and now the less so with the league's official move to an expanded 17-game schedule.
The NFL owners rubber-stamped the expansion to a 17-game regular-season schedule beginning this fall on Tuesday and it was quickly followed by spin rather than truth.
The extra game will be an inter-conference game based on the previous year’s divisional standings and the division schedule rotation from two years earlier. In 2021 that means the Eagles’ added contest will be against their storied preseason rival, the New York Jets.
“The change is clearly going to provide us with more meaningful games that would not have been scheduled,” said Roger Goodell, a nod to affairs other than the Jets-Eagles matchup obviously. "For example, fans will get to see matchups this season like Green Bay and Kansas City, Dallas and New England, and Seattle and Pittsburgh.
"A lot of great matchups that they wouldn’t ordinarily see.”
The players, of course, don't really want 17 games but it was baked into the new CBA with a so-called media kicker which increases the players' share of gross revenue to 48 percent, not exactly a drop in the bucket when the new television deals came in at well over 100 billion. That's a billion with a "B" mind you, not a hundred million or even hundreds of millions.
If you're asking 'why not tell the truth?' it's because a delicate balance must be maintained here from the league's perspective, one in which the NFL can claim it cares about player safety. Legally that has to be done due to pending and potential future litigation, especially when it comes to repetitive brain trauma which is the one issue that the activists have hung their own hypocritical hats on.
So Goodell was trotted out to say what every know-nothing leader summons when trying to obfuscate the truth.
“Looking at our data, the highest rate of injury is actually in a preseason game or even in practices,” Goodell said during a conference call with reporters. “So what we’re actually doing here is following the data, following the science.”
The dishonesty is astounding but it's also not a one-way street.
Goodell is simply doing the job he always does as the lightning rod for the owners making the decisions and running interference so the blame and ridicule are targeted away from those owners' private interests.
In many ways though, the legion of charlatans unleashed to attack Goodell and the league is even more dishonest in trying to argue that 16 games are some kind of weird acceptable stasis but 17 is a bridge too far.
If anything that's even more disingenuous than the reams of Goodell data that say 20 games is 20 games and regular-season games present a palette that is less susceptible to injuries.
The truth that no one wants to tell you is that professional football isn't good for anyone from a health and safety standpoint and if those who criticize the league over player safety truly cared about the safety of those players there is only one advocacy worth championing and that's to stop playing football.
There is no amount of legislation that can make a violent game safe so the arguments are about assigning blame for the tragedies.
There are two cottage industries at work here: the obvious one generating billions and the lesser one of pesky litigation against the corporate giant designed to score a more modest payday.
There is an old saying inside the Beltway of Washington D.C. that you're either in on the con or being conned.
If the NFL is the shark of the sports world relentlessly hunting television revenue, the safety lobby is the pilot fish gobbling up what the Great White misses.
You don't need to follow the science of greed, it's long been settled.
John McMullen is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media, the host of “Extending the Play” on AM1490 in South Jersey, and also contributes Eagles and NFL coverage for SI.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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