You'd think certain people within certain sporting competitions would understand. You'd think they'd understand the precarious position they sit in as representatives of their sport, as place holders for all that has gone before them and as carriers of the torch which will be passed on to the next crop of rookies. But now, more than ever, we have situations that are cropping up left, right and centre of players and officials letting their sport down.
The NFL and NRL are already coming out of the gates behind everyone else. They are brutal sports, so brutal that the mere health of the players comes in to question nearly every week. With the concussion issue not easing its foot off the gas any time soon, both sports automatically face a challenge with their image. Not to mention the fact that the financial growth (greed) and determination to continue to expand and the issue of player safety are two paths that will run parallel to each other for as long as we continue to be dumb - middle ground between the two isn't easily found.
On top of that, in the NFL you have possibly the worst run of drama I can remember. Ray Rice, a seemingly lovely chap did what he did, Adrian Peterson another seemingly lovely chap didn't exactly do anything overly crazy but still, it's another unwanted drama. You also have Jonathan Dwyer of the Arizona Cardinals being accused of domestic violence ... oh and not to mention the ongoing issues of players playing despite serious concussion concerns.
I can settle for drug issues and even DUI type of charges - everyone makes mistakes like that and they deal with the consequences and move forward. But the nature of the latest string of issues is serious. So serious that the NFL's big money sponsorship deals are hanging by a thread.
Aaah, but you know what's the crazy part? The fact that on top of all that, you have Roger Goodell and the general way in which the NFL has handled all this shit. It's border line disgusting and for me, it's worse than the crimes (and non crimes) that have been committed. Strong leadership and decisive action, it's hard to say that this would stop these issues, but it would go along way to keeping these young men with lots of money and the world wrapped around their pinky ring, in line.
Sure, Adam Silver's decision to give Donald Sterling the flick was a pretty easy one, but it was the right one. Goodell hasn't exactly followed Silva's example, has he?
Where does the NRL fit in to this? Well it's a similar pathway, there's been a fair amount of issues this year and in the past few years and when piled on top of each other, they start to add up. They add up to an image, which in the ever competitive world of sporting markets can lead to a slip in rankings, a loss of money and a loss in young players. The NRL looks to have found some sort of middle ground with its decision on Todd Carney, who had long gone past 3 strikes. The big decision for me will be around Russell Packer - Dave Smith looks to be building an image of no nonsense and seems to understand the importance of the NRL's image but I believe in second chances and if Packer's learned his lessons, all power to him.
Smith seems a bit too polished though. Thought: is Dave Smith going too far in the opposite direction to Goodell? There are two ends of the spectrum that are both labelled 'dumb' and Goodell's at one end while Smith's at the other as he tries to build the NRL as a wholesomely lovely sporting competition that a church could sponsor. Either way, there's an image problem.
In both leagues, there are a lot of players and these issues involve a small percentage. That's the argument that is and will be presented to you consistently. But we're talking about the highest level of these sports, the highest level where we talk millions of dollars, where a second here or there makes a difference. The margin for error is tiny.
The margin for error is tiny, but guys deserve a second chance. I'm confusing myself, but for me my positions centres around the fact that we're seeing the same mistakes over and over again. What happened to these educational systems that we're meant to instill a better culture in young players? I don't really want to question the intelligence of players, but I will because I'm also going to question the intelligence of officials. The players are making the same mistakes and the officials are struggling to be sensible, let alone control them.
These sports will never be soft, well at least I hope not. They make money because they're combative, but something has to change culturally. Or else people will just continue to talk about an off field issue instead of an awesome piece of athleticism or skill.