September 1, 2000

The NFL Can Go to Hell

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This Sunday marks the opening of the National Football League’s regular season.

And I don’t care.

The NFL today is about as interesting as an Econometrics lecture at 8:40 a.m.

Don’t believe me? The Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia match on Monday night got better TV ratings than Dennis Miller has for Monday Night Football.

Let me sum up the up-coming season for you: The Rams will score a lot of points, the Bucs won’t allow any points, Eddie George of the Titans will run all over everyone, Peyton Manning of Colts will become the next quarterback hero, and the Redskins will beat everyone.

But my problem with the NFL isn’t how predictable it has become, but how money-oriented the players and owners are, and most of all, the tearing away of beloved players from fans.

I understand that at the professional level the game is a business, but there is something to be said for remembering it is still a game. And I understand that the pressure to win is great, but is it strong enough to force a franchise player to switch jerseys late in his career?

Consider the case of Joe Montana, the Golden Boy who lead San Francisco from a joke to a dynasty. Late in his career he was traded to Kansas City for two hot dogs and a Pepsi product to be named later. The fans of the 49ers were rightfully outraged, and Montana ended his career with a team in no way associated with his glory, or his dearest fans.

Or consider a more recent move, the Redskins acquisition of Bruce Smith. Smith is one of the greatest defensive linemen to play the game. He helped lead the Bills to four straight Super Bowls, but never came away with a ring. Now he will likely finish his career with the Redskins, the team which destroyed his title hopes in 1992, as little more than a mentor/assistant coach who will play every other snap. Do Buffalo fans deserve to have their hero removed from their team, and moved to the squad which brutally ended the Bills’ hopes for the Lombardi Trophy?

Which brings me to my biggest gripe about the upcoming season – the Redskins. With all due respect to a former Sun Sports Editor and a current Editor and Chief, Washington is now the epitome of what I hate about the NFL.

The Redskins’ new owner, Daniel Synder, has managed to go out and buy enough superstars to remove almost all-doubt about who will win the Super Bowl this year. I don’t resent Synder putting together a team which will win, but I resent his putting together a team which can only win for a year or two. By the end of the 2002 season, those members of the Redskins who aren’t in geriatric homes will go to other teams in a fire-sale so Synder can slide in under the salary cap.

But instead of me just bitching and moaning in this column, I will make two suggestions which could make the NFL more enjoyable to me as well as the average football fan.

1) No more contracts which are over-loaded at the back end – This means that when a player signs for $40 million for four years, you can’t pay him $35 million in the last two years, to make cap room the first two years. If players were paid their average salary every year, you would have no more ridiculous proven-star overloads like they do in D.C. this year.

2) Obvious Hall of Famers can’t be traded to close out there career – Unless they want to be. If Smith wanted to go to the Redskins to get one last shot at a title I can’t really argue, but the Montana trade was unconscionable. It was bad for the fans, and what’s bad for the fans is bad for the game, both on the financial and “moral” level.

I don’t claim that these suggestions would make for a perfect league, but it would be a start.

And until the NFL starts to change, I’ll keep Sundays open for golf.

Archived article by J.V. Anderton