Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘football’

Football should be played on grass, period.

Posted by sanityinjection on March 18, 2010

When artificial turf playing fields were first introduced they were hailed as a great breakthrough. They allowed sports such as football to be played indoors, or on fields that held up better in snow or rain, and promised to save money on field maintenance as well.

However, in the 80s and early 90s, it was alleged that these AstroTurf fields led to more injuries to players because of the hard surface and players’ shoes catching in the turf and sticking rather than ripping up a divot. The 90s saw a movement among NFL teams away from turf and back to natural grass.

Then a new generation of artificial turf was developed, combining a springy rubber surface with strands of artificial grass designed to behave more like a natural field. This “FieldTurf” also has been touted as being environmentally friendly because it can be made from recycled tires. Since 2000, it has been adopted for many football fields from high school up to the pros, including 9 NFL stadiums, especially for indoor facilities where grass was not a viable option. Again, the artifical surface promised to save money on maintenance.

But now the injury argument has resurfaced. After studying six years of NFL games,  an NFL panel has concluded that a particularly serious type of injury – to the anterior curcial ligament or ACL – is 88 percent more likely on FieldTurf than on grass. Also, serious ankle sprains were 32 percent more likely on FieldTurf.

Defenders of FieldTurf point out that there could be a number of contributing factors such as what type of shoes are being worn on the turf.  But if you ask the players themselves, their opinion is clear: Their 4 favorite NFL fields to play on are all grass – despite the widely shared view that a turf field facilitates extra yardage for offensive skill players.

Also, one of the main reasons for the development of artificial turf is disappearing. With modern stadiums that feature retractable roofs, it has become possible to maintain grass fields in an indoor facility, as Arizona and Dallas have demonstrated.

Of course, stadiums with FieldTurf are not suddenly going to rip it out and replace it with grass, at significant expense. But I believe that for a new stadium, or one that needs to replace its current surface, the arguments for grass are compelling. The sport began on grass and was played exclusively on grass for decades. Modern technology is better put to use making grass fields better and easier to maintain than trying to invent substitutes for what nature does best – growing grass.

Posted in Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

For God’s sake, Brett Favre, go away!

Posted by sanityinjection on August 18, 2009

There’s a song titled, “How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?”  American football fans must be tempted to wonder if that song was written about legendary NFL quarterback, Brett Favre, who appears poised to unretire for the billionth time and play for the Minnesota Vikings.

Favre, the long-time successful and Super Bowl champion QB of the Green Bay Packers, first disgraced this blog over a year ago, when I called him a “football terrorist” for his terminal case of indecision as to whether he was going to retire. For those of you who prefer the short version of events, Favre jerked his team, the Packers, around, repeatedly changing his mind. After publicly retiring, he then asked to be released so he could play for another team – reputedly the Vikings. Rather than have to play against Favre twice a year, they suggested he return to Green Bay as the backup QB. Eventually the stalemate was resolved when Favre was traded to the New York Jets and was their starting QB last season.

After the trade, I wrote:

“Favre will make the Jets better this year – they might even make the playoffs – but he adds nothing in the long term. So again, the big winner here is the Green Bay Packers. Now they just have to hope that their young QB, Aaron Rodgers, performs well enough that the fans are not constantly second-guessing their decision.”

My comments proved to be prophetic. With Favre, the Jets improved from 4-12 to 9-7, but his play tailed off in the last half of the season as the physical stress took its toll on his aging body. The Jets did not make the playoffs. The Packers didn’t either, but Favre’s replacement, Aaron Rodgers, had a solid season. When it was over, it was clear even to Favre that he didn’t have enough left in the tank to be a starter anymore. So he retired again.

As the offseason moved on, though, Favre obtained his release from the Jets and the Minneosta Vikings tried hard to convince Favre to play for them. After putting them through the same ringer he did with Green Bay, Minnesota finally told him to fish or cut bait. He told them he was going to stay retired – and yet now various sources are reporting his signing with the Vikings is imminent. How lovely for the two quarterbacks actually in Vikings training camp working hard to earn the #1 spot. How lovely for Favre’s wife and children to never know from one minute to the next whether Daddy will be an absentee for four months again this year.

Ultimately, the words to describe Favre’s behavior are “childish” and “selfish”. Once beloved around the league, he has destroyed his legacy and made himself into a buffoon. It’s questionable whether he can last a full season with the Vikings. Favre genuinely loves to play football, but there comes a time when you have to assess yourself realistically and realize that you can’t play at that level anymore.  For Favre, that time has clearly passed.

Ironically, the best thing that could happen to Favre would be to fail the team physical and be spared what lies ahead of him – widespread antipathy and further obvious degradation of his football skills. In Green Bay, where mothers used to name their children after him, Favre will be deservedly booed when he shows up in a Vikings uniform. Much like those who will root against the Philadelphia Eagles for signing convicted animal torturer Michael Vick, millions of football fans will wish failure upon the Minnesota Vikings for aiding and abetting this man-child’s enormous ego. And I will be one of them.

Posted in Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Should Michael Vick be allowed to return to the NFL?

Posted by sanityinjection on February 19, 2009

Now that the NFL offseason has begun, speculation has commenced regarding the future of former NFL quarterback Michael Vick. Even those who are not avid football fans may recall Vick’s staggering fall from star quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons to incarceration at Leavenworth federal prison after conviction on felony dogfighting charges. Vick’s prison sentence will be ending this summer, raising the question of whether he could be reinstated after his release to play football in the 2009 season. Vick was suspended indefinitely without pay after pleading guilty to the charges. In order for him to return, the NFL’s commissioner, Roger Goodell would have to lift that suspension, and then a team would have to acquire the rights to Vick through a trade with the Falcons, with whom he remains under contract, but who have clearly stated will not play him again.

I’ve seen a few columns on this question, of which this one is probably the most thorough. Essentially, there are three different factors to consider, which I would label as the football factor, the public relations/marketing factor, and the moral/ethical factor.

First, the football factor. Can Vick play well enough to be an asset to an NFL team? I think there is broad agreement that the answer to this question is yes. Before his abrupt departure from the sport, Vick was known as one of the finer pure athletes in the NFL. That athletic ability is unlikely to be too diminished once he is able to resume a proper training regimen. Vick’s quarterback skills have been questioned, but depending on his price Vick could make a scary backup for a number of teams even if no one wanted to give him a starting job. However, there is no lack of other quarterback prospects out there, with promising youths coming out of the college ranks on a regular basis. What is questionable is whether Vick’s football talents exceed the others by enough to outweigh the non-football factors that come with him.

Such as the public relations factor. Vick’s crime was one that is particularly repugnant to many. Animal welfare groups such as the Humane Society and PETA have suggested they might protest any team that signed Vick. And more mainstream folk might feel a reluctance to cheer for Vick or (just as importantly) buy Vick jerseys or shoes. With more NFL players getting arrested for various reasons, the league and its teams have an interest in presenting themselves as organizations which pride themselves on the character of their players, coaches, and staff. Vick would be an obvious embarrassment in that regard. However, there have been several players convicted of misdemeanors who returned to the NFL. Vick’s crime is also more complicated because it involved gambling on the dogfights, and the NFL has in the past taken a hard line against players found to have participated in illegal gambling.

Finally, there is the moral/ethical factor. Does Vick deserve a second chance? Some columnists have pointed out correctly that Vick will have served his sentence and paid for his crime. Why, they ask, should he be punished further by denying him the right to earn his living? After all, Vick left college before earning his degree; football has been his only career.

I would argue that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, and not a right. Even the lowest-paid NFL players make six-figure salaries, while many college players fail to make the cut and never receive the opportunities Vick has had. When a convicted felon is released from prison, he cannot necessarily expect to resume the career he had before his conviction, and may have to learn a new career. Vick should be no exception. If that means peddling cell phones at the mall, as a Denver running back did last year before being re-signed by his team, so be it.

If I were an NFL general manager, I think I would have a hard time justifying the decision to employ Michael Vick over another quarterback with no off-field issues. But the question remains whether commissioner Goodell should reinstate Vick and allow the teams to make that decision for themselves. With other players, Goodell has generally been willing to grant second chances provided the player is sincere about reforming himself, as I have no doubt Vick would be. But as a lawyer and someone deeply aware of the league’s financial and image concerns, Goodell may not be so inclined to be charitable. I think Goodell will probably agree to talk with Vick, but would be completely justified in refusing to reinstate him. Drawing that line could have a positive effect as a sharp warning to other players who have had run-ins with the law that they risk losing the opportunity of a lifetime if they keep it up.

Posted in Sports | Tagged: , , , | 12 Comments »

Christians in action: An object lesson

Posted by sanityinjection on February 5, 2009

There is a significant segment of American society which views organized Christianity with fear, distrust, and downright hostility. Especially the variety that is commonly espoused in a conservative Southern state like Texas. To this segment of Americans, Christians are uptight, intolerant, and rigid people who want to take away the freedoms of others. While this view is admittedly not totally without foundation in the actions of some Christians today and in the past, it is largely inaccurate and unfair.

Of course, there are a lot of people who claim to be Christians but really don’t act like it, contributing to confusion. To help reduce that confusion, I offer the following highly unusual story of true Christians in action, which took place at a high school football game in Texas:

http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?section=magazine&id=3789373

I must admit, as a non-Christian myself, my first reaction was one of incredulity. Weren’t these folks taking it a bit far? After all, the “athletes” of Gainesville State were not merely underprivileged youths, but “kids with convictions for drugs, assault and robbery”.  One Gainesville player named Gerald complains that people are frequently “lookin’ at us like we’re criminals.”  It might not be a bad idea for someone to remind Gerald that he and his teammates *are* criminals. Minimizing one’s criminal past is not generally considered to be a productive step in rehabilitation.

That, however, is not the responsibility of the folks at  Grapevine Faith. Rather, being a bunch of the aforementioned scurrilous Christians, they looked to their Bibles and saw that Jesus spent much of his time ministering to society’s outcasts, specifically including criminals. Their faith teaches that every human life has value, and at the behest of their football coach, decided to make a prominent demonstration of that belief.

The issue is not whether Grapevine’s actions will ultimately have any significant impact on the Gainesville kids’ lives. Rather, what’s important is what their behavior says about the Grapevine folks. They went way beyond any reasonable expectation of their normal duties as hosts, because they felt it was what their faith called upon them to do. At a time when many so-called Christians are accused of hypocrisy (and often with justification), these people proved themselves to be the opposite. Whether we believe, agree, or approve, or not, there is no question in my mind that the true spirit of Christianity flourished for one night in Texas in November of 2008.

So the next time you hear or read someone trashing Christianity and Christians, think about the Grapevine Faith folks and ask yourself if you would have done what they did.

Posted in Religion, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

NFL Coaches: Who should be fired, who should stay

Posted by sanityinjection on December 23, 2008

It’s been a while since my last sports post, so with the final week of the NFL regular season approaching, I will get an early jump on the postseason coaching carousel. Here are my thoughts regarding some of the coaches that will be on the hotseat – who should stay and who should go:

Wade Phillips, Dallas Cowboys: I have never been a fan of Phillips, but this is only his second season as head coach of the Cowboys. Last year he took them to the playoffs with a 13-3 record. This year, a playoff berth is still up in the air, but a winning season is guaranteed. There are a lot of questions about the Cowboys, but working with owner Jerry Jones is not easy, and Phillips’ decision to take over the play calling on defense has proven to be a good one. Phillips should be given the chance to show what he can do with a maturing Tony Romo if he can stay healthy next year.

Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles: Let me put this as bluntly as possible: Andy Reid is not a good head coach. When you look at the talent that has come through Philadelphia over the past ten years, it’s hard to fathom how the Eagles have only been to one Super Bowl (and lost.) Unless of course, you observe Reid’s terrible game management, bizarre decision making, and inability to control volatile players like Terrell Owens. Since 2004, Reid has had only one winning season, and this year the Eagles will likely miss the playoffs. Past success can only count for so much: Reid has failed to improve his team even as the talent level has improved. It’s time for a change in Philadelphia.

Jim Zorn, Washington Redskins: The Redskins’ late season collapse seems worse because of their unexpectedly strong start under new head coach Jim Zorn. However, long time fans will recall that the Redskins never seem to be able to put together a full season under any coach in the last decade. The Redskins can still notch a winning season if they win this weekend, and that is as much as one should expect from a first-year coach. Zorn should stay.

Jim Haslett, St. Louis Rams: Haslett is in an unusual situation. He took over as coach during the 2008 season, but so early on that he has had plenty of time to put his stamp on the team. Unfortunately, the results have been disappointing. This team has been getting worse and worse over the last few years despite some key talents. I like Haslett, but I don’t think he is the right person to turn this team around. Expect a new face in 2009.

Mike Singletary, San Francisco 49ers: Singletary is the mirror image of Haslett. Since Singletary took over the 49ers, they have gone 4-4 after a 2-5 start under previous coach Mike Nolan. It’s obvious that the players respect Singletary where they did not respect Nolan. Singletary should retain the helm of this team and see what they can do in 2009.

Rod Marinelli, Detroit Lions: This is an easy one. Although departed GM Matt Millen bears the Lion’s share of the blame for the horrendousness of this franchise, 0-15 is still 0-15. Worst of all, the only person who doesn’t seem to see that Marinelli has failed is Marinelli. It will require a new coach, a new GM, and probably a federal bailout to turn this team around. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Brad Childress, Minnesota Vikings: This is the one I struggle most with. On the plus side, the Vikings have improved each year under Childress and will make the playoffs if they win this weekend. On the minus side, Childress is a weak and indecisive coach who has presided over a talented but underachieving team. I do not have confidence in him, but I can’t in good conscience argue that he should be fired if the Vikings do make the playoffs. However, if they lose to the inconsistent Bears and miss the playoffs, then let someone else play with owner Zygi Wilf’s toys in 2009.

Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars: Considered one of the league’s better coaches, but Del Rio has presided over a collapse this season. It’s important to remember that every year Del Rio’s team has had to play in the same division as one of the conference’s two top teams (Indianapolis, and this year Tennessee.) This year’s Jaguars would probably be 8-8 if they played in the NFC West. Del Rio stays, but cannot afford a repeat performance next year.

Romeo Crennel, Cleveland Browns: This is hard for me because I like Crennel a lot and have little sympathy for the long-suffering but classless Cleveland fans. Last year it looked like things were turning around for Crennel and the Browns with their first winning season in, well, forever. But that raised expectations for this year, and Crennel’s team has failed to deliver, slumping back into the mediocrity Browns fans are used to. Crennel himself has acknowledged that injuries are not an excuse. Sadly, it seems 2007 was a fluke and not a sign of things to come. After four years, it’s time to say goodbye to Crennel and let someone else take over the young talent on this team.

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals: Lewis was Cincinnati’s hero in 2005 when the Bengals won their first division title since the Sam Wyche/Boomer Esiason days. However, since then the team has done nothing but get worse each year. Ownership clearly deserves some of the blame, and injuries have been a factor. But there’s also been a moral vacuum in Cincinnati, with Lewis all too willing to put criminals and thugs such as Chris Henry on the field. That kind of thing kills your team from the inside. Even Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson, once the voice of this team, now wants out. The Bengals need new leadership, though I suspect owner Mike Brown will fail to pull the trigger on Lewis because he is too cheap to pay more money for a new coach. And that right there tells you everything you need to know about the Bengals.

Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers: Though the Chargers can still make the playoffs with a win this week, they do so at 8-8, a far cry from the last four years of winning seasons. As almost any San Diego fan will tell you, the Chargers never should have hired Turner to replace Marty Schottenheimer. Turner is a good offensive coordinator and possibly the best of all time at developing young quarterbacks, but he is not and never has been a  good head coach. However, Chargers management has staked too much of their credibility on Turner to let him go now.  I expect he will stay, but it’s only delaying the inevitable. Turner has allowed the Chargers to go from being a team that other clubs feared to one that nobody fears. Better to cut the losses now and let the rebuilding begin, perhaps under defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.

Herm Edwards, Kansas City Chiefs: This is an easy one. Each year under Edwards has been worse than the last. This is Edwards’ second stint as a head coach after abandoning the New York Jets. There shouldn’t be a third.

Tom Cable, Oakland Raiders: The Raiders have been awful since Jon Gruden left, and they’re still awful. Owner Al Davis is a big part of that. Yet there are sparks of real talent in Oakland. Davis has never been one to retain interim coaches such as Cable, preferring to make a big noisy splash hiring. But Davis also has a hard time finding coaches who can work with him (hence the recently departed Lane Kiffin.) If his relationship with Cable is good, he should give him a chance. Take a look at the Raiders’ schedule this year, and you will wonder how any coach could have put together a winning record. At least Cable seems to be able to motivate his players. Besides, isn’t it good for the NFL to have a coach whose nickname is “The Cable Guy”? 🙂

Eric Mangini, New York Jets: The Jets can still make the playoffs, but in New York the calls for Mangini’s ouster have already begun. Consider this: The Jets under Mangini and previous coach Herm Edwards have finished as follows since 2004: 10-6, 4-12, 10-6, 4-12. Care to take a guess what their record will be with a win this weekend? Granted, the Jets were expected to do well this year with an influx of talent, but I think it would be premature to dismiss Mangini (though I am not a fan of his.) If the Jets regress again next year, then a change will be in order.

Dick Jauron, Buffalo Bills: I didn’t believe in Jauron when he was with the Bears, and I don’t believe in him now that he’s with the Bills. Jauron is headed for his third straight 7-9 season, and that can’t be good enough for this once proud franchise. He has poisoned the Bills’ revival in its cradle, particularly with his ridiculous indecisiveness over the last two seasons at the QB position. Jauron should be given the boot 5 seconds after the season ends. I hear Bill Cowher is available.

Posted in Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Brett Favre, football terrorist

Posted by sanityinjection on July 15, 2008

OK, I admit “terrorist” is a little extreme, but Favre is in effect torturing the fans and the front office of the Green Bay Packers.

For those of you who don’t follow football closely, lemme ‘splain. Brett Favre is the aging, legendary quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. He has won a SuperBowl. He is going to the Hall of Fame someday. Parents in Wisconsin name their children after him. You get the idea. Anyway, because of his long career and advanced age, every year during the offseason the media hounds Favre to decide if he is going to retire or play one more season. And every year he decides to keep playing.

That is, until now. After last season, Brett Favre finally decided to retire in March of this year. There was a press conference, he cried, and the media aired hours of programming immortalizing his accomplishments for the ages. The Packers wished him well and began moving forward with the assumption that their new QB would be Aaron Rodgers, a young player who has been sitting patiently on the bench behind Favre waiting for his turn.

So far so good. Until just recently, when Favre apparently changed his mind. He asked the Green Bay Packers to release him from his contract. This would allow him to sign with and play for another team. Instantly, all of Wisconsin forgot about the war, the election and the price of oil and focused on this much more important crisis. The Packers’ response? They said no, Brett, you can either stay retired, or you can come back and play with the Green Bay Packers – as Aaron Rodgers’ backup!

Stalemate. Now the fans are grumbling. Many of them want Favre back as their starting QB. Others think he should hang it up gracefully and stay retired. None of them want to see Favre playing for another team, especially if it means taking the field against the Packers.

The Packers are in a bind. Obviously Favre is not going to agree to be anybody’s backup. But his multi-million dollar salary still counts against the salary cap if he’s not retired – even if he doesn’t play. Nor can they unceremoniously dump poor Aaron Rodgers back to the number two spot again to make way for Favre. Rodgers is blameless in this as he has been nothing but respectful and patient.

If Favre refuses to stay retired, the best the Packers can do is trade him to a team they won’t have to play this year. Miami might be a good fit as they have a bucket of nothing at the QB position. Green Bay would not get much in trade value for Favre at this point, but it would be better than releasing him and getting nothing while he signs with another team. Still, Favre can veto the trade by simply refusing to show up and play.

Unfortunately, the villain of this piece is Favre himself. While I have no doubt his change of heart is genuine – he loves the game of football – his decision to unretire is messing things up for everyone else. Worse, the controversy is tarnishing what had been, up until now, a remarkably shiny image and reputation. Favre needs to grow up and be a man, and that means making a decision and sticking to it, rather than expecting the entire football world to jump through hoops while he flip-flops.

Posted in Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »