Goodbye NFL

Goodbye NFL

I just left the following comment after reading Daniella Bova’s excellent post, “You’re not a Real Fan!”:

Funny how the NFL is selective in its support of “free speech,” even though this really isn’t a free speech issue, which pertains to the freedom of individuals to criticize their government without fear of punishment. The NFL is a private organization (although why they have a nonprofit status is a mystery to me), and as such they have a right to enforce a code of behavior when their players are at work.

Where was the NFL’s support for Tim Tebow, who was mocked relentlessly for kneeling in prayer? Why did the league forbid players to honor September 11’s victims on their cleats or prevent the Dallas Cowboys from honoring their slain police? Why was it okay for Colin Kaepernick to wear socks depicting cops as pigs?

The NFL’s blather about not wanting to make a “political” statement is patently absurd when they’ve been doing exactly that all along by what they allow and disallow. I’m disgusted by the Pittsburgh Steelers for shaming a true American hero, Al Villanueva, for standing in pride for the anthem.

As someone who was raised on football, whose family had season tickets to the Eagles before I was born, and whose fondest memories revolve around sports events and family parties, I am DONE with the NFL. I never thought I’d say that, but this country means more to me than a game.

Let’s also remember that these overpaid millionaires and their overpaid commissioner voted not to assist the players who came before them, the ones who built the league and never made a fraction of what these men earn today. These guys are suffering from all kinds of bodily injuries, yet these selfish jerks refuse to help — even though they owe them everything.

Just as with the election, the NFL has underestimated the passion and anger of everyday Americans, to their own detriment. Good riddance to them and God bless America.

Here’s a link to a 2013 article in the Washington Post highlighting the plight of former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Reggie Williams and the ongoing issue of retired players’ medical bills and problems, excerpted here:

The NFL’s disability board, jointly administered by management and the players’ union, has a denial rate of almost 60 percent. When players file for workers’ compensation for the on-the-job harm they suffered, they often find their claims opposed by their former teams. The league is currently in legal and legislative fights with at least 3,000 former players, who, like Williams, have attempted to seek reparation for their injuries by filing claims in worker-friendly states. When these claims and all other avenues for medical care are exhausted, the cost of their poor health can often fall on the taxpayer.

“First and foremost, the NFL is in the hurt business,” said Mel Owens, a former NFL player who is now a California attorney and represents Williams. “In workers’ comp they will end up paying for the players’ brains, hearts and livers, as well as orthopedic injuries, and it’s expensive. But they don’t want to pay at all.”

The NFL contends it offers benefits — many extending beyond an athlete’s employment — that are more generous than those offered in most professions. Workers’ compensation is just one of those, afforded to players by the collective bargaining agreement with NFL owners. When it opposes claims, the NFL says it is seeking to limit what would otherwise be “nearly unlimited exposure” for years-old injuries.

Pardon me, but when the NFL Commissioner makes in excess of $40 million per year and players today sign multi-million dollar contracts, the least they can do is help the ones who blazed the trail.

With respect to whatever it is they are protesting, since they have an abundance of wealth (thanks to hardworking Americans of all races who subsidize their salaries and stadiums) and an influential platform, why not start a foundation? Volunteer in their communities?

Better yet, take some time for reflection on the destructive policies in the inner cities that purposely create the poverty and crime they supposedly decry. Why not reach out to, say, the city of Chicago, rampant with black-on-black crime and do something to turn it around? These pampered show-boaters have risen above their own circumstances; instead of acting like a bunch of spoiled ingrates, they ought to be mentoring others to follow in their example of overcoming humble beginnings.

Perhaps they could also reflect upon the fact that there is no other country in which they could experience such upward mobility and reap obscene financial rewards for their athleticism, made possible by fans who can only dream of making that much money in a lifetime.

While they’re at it, they may want to get the actual facts about cases like Ferguson, since the ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ narrative has been exposed as a lie.

It would also be nice if they would recognize that the white people they tar and feather as “racists” have been colorblind in their emotional and financial support. As noted above, my family had season tickets before I was born. I grew up watching players like Harold Carmichael, Wilbert Montgomery, Mike Quick, Gary Cobb, and Randall Cunningham — along with Tom Dempsey, Ron Jaworski, Vince Papale, and Stan Walters.

These men and their teammates were not only fine athletes devoted to the game, they were also gentlemen who appreciated their fans and loved their country, much like Tommy McDonald before them. To the best of my knowledge, none of them beat their wives or girlfriends, nor did they whine about how “oppressed” they were. In my family, none of us cared who was black, white, Asian or whatever…they were part of our team, the Philadelphia Eagles, and we supported them. Any criticism was limited to their performance on the field. Period.

My patience with the NFL was wearing thin last year, but thanks to the antics of this past weekend, including the Pittsburgh Steelers shaming of a true American hero, Al Villanueva, I’m done. And to the players who knelt for the National Anthem in England, yet stood for God Save the Queen, please get a clue about British colonialism in Africa and American Exceptionalism. Your little stunt only proved the extent of your ignorance.

I’m a busy entrepreneur growing a business; I can find more valuable uses for my time on Sundays than watching you disrespect the United States military, its citizens, and our flag. I’m also a proud and grateful American who’s had enough of your nonsense.

Goodbye and good riddance, NFL.

 

 

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Tommy and Me by Ray Didinger Evokes Nostalgia for a Bygone Era in Professional Sports

Tommy and Me by Ray Didinger Evokes Nostalgia for a Bygone Era in Professional Sports

When my brother Mark announced his plan to take us to see Tommy and Me by Ray Didinger, I had no idea what to expect. Although a lifelong Eagles fan, my earliest memories of the team begin in the 1970’s with players like Tom Dempsey, Harold Carmichael, and Roman Gabriel…when the Dallas Cowboys ruled and loyal fans suffered through consecutive losing seasons until Dick Vermeil came along and turned the Eagles into winners, beginning with the 1978-79 season. The one characterized by the Miracle at the Meadowlands, culminating in a 9-7 record. Winners!

I had heard about older players and the 1960 championship from my parents and brothers, but it didn’t mean much to me until I attended Didinger’s one-act play, featuring just four excellent actors. Performed at Theatre Exile, it tells the uplifting and heart-warming story of a Philly boy (Didinger) who loved his Philadelphia Eagles, and in particular, his idol Tommy McDonald. Their personal relationship begins one summer day in Hershey, during the Didinger family’s annual Eagles training camp vacation, when after patiently waiting outside the locker room for an autograph, young Ray meets his favorite Eagle. Tommy McDonald graciously engages the boy in conversation and asks him to hold his helmet as they walk together toward the field. It’s the start of a lifelong connection, though McDonald won’t realize it until decades later.

We follow Ray through his career as a Philly sportswriter and commentator, which reunites him with McDonald in the 1980’s and culminates in McDonald at last being inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 1998. At the end of the performance, I learned something new about my own family when my dad raised his hand during the Q & A to tell the story of how he took care of McDonald when he was a resident doctor at Misericordia Hospital in West Philly.

More than anything, Tommy and Me made me nostalgic for the days when professional athletes were connected to their fans and played mostly for the love of the game. What a refreshing tribute to a bygone era in professional sports. Many thanks to the cast, writers, and crew for the fun, interactive conversation with the audience at the end of the performance. I’m so thankful I was still “up north” to see it.

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