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Just another thought-filled Monday…

Happy Monday all!  Random thoughts from the weekend:

Politics:

  • It appears that President Obama may have gotten a 5-7 point bounce out of his convention.  According to several polls (great graphic here), Obama’s bounce has sustained, even despite a weaker than expected jobs report on Friday.  We won’t know the full bounce for a few more days, because most of these polls include some percentage of interviews conducted before key convention moments.  So, there is still the potential for a larger bounce, perhaps as many as 10 points.
  • For months we’ve been hearing that this election is a “base election.”  In other words, given that most people have already made up their mind, turnout will be the key to winning.  That’s why you saw the Democrats hit social issues so hard in Charlotte – they are trying to fire up their base and get key constituents out to the polls.  And therein lies the advantage for the President.   The New York Times calculated that, if everyone who is registered to vote shows up at the polls, Obama has a 90%+ chance of winning based on party registration etc…This blog has a great breakdown of how that figure was identified and what it all means.  If you are interested in party registration over time, check this out.
  • The debates are going to be more important this year, than I can ever remember them being.   Between now and election day, Romney and Obama will debate 3 times and Biden will square off against Ryan once.  In an election where both sides are willing to say anything (true or not) and the challengers have steadfastly refused to provide specifics about their economic plan, it will be super interesting to see how much the moderators or candidates push for information and call people on their lies.  Who can say the things that will motivate and excite their base, while not turning off the few undecideds or the ones who could still be swayed?  That, ultimately, will decide this election.

Sports:

Football is back and I could not be more excited!  All you need to know is that, at the Red Sox game on Saturday night (another loss), the fans started chanting “Go Pats” in the 7th Inning.  And I was among them!  After a great first weekend, here are my winners and losers:

Winners:

  • New York Jets

I don’t think you can understand how painful it was for me to type that.  Look, their top two QBs (Sanchez and Tebow) didn’t score a single TD in the preseason (see below).  And they were facing the Buffalo Bills, who sport a revamped, and very expensive defense) in Week 1.  Many, including me, were convinced it would be an embarrassing display by Ryan’s boys, but were we ever wrong.  How they managed to put up 48 points is beyond me.  This was more shocking than Brady Anderson’s random 50 homers in 1996.  Which reminds me, someone check the Jets’ offensive coordinator for steroids!

  • Peyton Manning

In the you’ve gotta see it to believe it category, I give you Peyton Manning.  After not playing in a game for 600+ days, Manning returned to the field and, against a pretty good defense, led his team to a comeback win.  Seeing him in Bronco orange was defintely strange, but the result was not.  He’s still got it, folks, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the AFC.

  • Replacement Officials

Look, they weren’t perfect, but they survived and this ragtag bunch of retirees, teachers and insurance salesmen got some difficult calls right.  Although they did their best by giving Seattle an extra timeout at the end of the Seahawks-Cardinals game, they didn’t change the outcome of any game and that, my friends, is a win.  Of course, regardless of how long this strike lasts, they also made history by counting in their numbers the first woman to ever officiate a NFL game.  Congratulations to Shannon Eastin and I hope you blaze the trail for more gender equality in the sport.  Way to go!

Losers

  • Preseason footbal

It means nothing, as the Jets showed, and 4 games is way too many.  It looks like the NFL may, finally be making the change.  Week 1 showed just how meaningless those games really are.

  • Rookie QBs

It’s a tough jump from college to the pros, no question about it.  All the rookie QBs starting this weekend, with the exception of RGIII looked way over matched and out-of-place.  Weeden, Luck, Wilson and Tannehill all may be great NFL players but, on week 1, they looked very mortal.

  • New Orleans Saints

After quite the offseason, I thought the Saints would come out firing on all cylinders.  Us against the World would be their motto and, especially playing at home, they would steamroll over any opponent unlucky enough to be on the other side.  That didn’t happen.  They looked flat for the first half of the game and, to me, didn’t seem like there was any motivation or desire to beat the odds.  They tried to recover in the 2nd half, but it was too little too late.  Let’s see which team shows up next week.

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I’m disgusted

I love football.  Despite the comments I may have made after the last super bowl, it is my favorite sport to watch and I’m already looking forward to the new season beginning.  As proof of how obsessed I am, I will admit to watching hours of live NFL Combine coverage on the NFL Network.  I subscribe to Red Zone, watch as many games as I can, and read tons of articles about the league and players.  However, the league I love is at a crossroads.  We are about to learn the character of the NFL and how serious they are about making the game safe, competitive and fair. 

As you probably know, Gregg Williams (current Defensive Coordinator for the Rams) is in New York today to meet with NFL investigators who are looking into pay-for-performance funds he administered while a coach with the Saints, Redskins, Bills and Titans.  These funds are strictly against NFL rules, because they violate the salary cap but, what makes it worse, is that players could, allegedly, earn money by injuring their opponents.  Not beating them, not outplaying them, but injuring them.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, take a look at this ESPN article which sums it up. 

As despicable as this is, I do feel a bit bad for Williams and the other folks who were a part of these “bounty” funds.  I have no doubt that many, if not most, NFL teams have something like this.  And, truth be told, this is coming out at the worst possible time given the renewed focus from the league on keeping players safe.  The NFL HAS to make an example of the Saints and the players/coaches who were involved and send the message that this type of behavior can not be tolerated.  And, if other teams are found to have had similar programs, I hope they are punished in the same way.  When push comes to shove, this isn’t just about sending a message to current NFL players.  This is about the league making a stand and telling kids all over the world who dream of playing on Sunday afternoons that fair play is crucial and cheaters don’t win.  The NFL has the chance to show that anyone who engages in this sort-of conduct – player, coach or owner – will be held accountable.

That is why, in my opinion, anything less than a full season suspension for Gregg Williams, would be a travesty.  Commish, Roger Goodell, has become very good at punishing players for flagrant hits and other offenses and now he can make the point that those in suits can be just as culpable.  If not for the fact that, apparently, Williams has been very cooperative with the investigation, I would have suggested a lifetime ban.  That said, the facts as we know them (he’s done this with at least 3 teams over the course of 7 years) certainly do encourage lifetime ban to be in the conversation.

As for the others involved, I do believe that fines and suspensions, along with loss of draft picks, is appropriate.  Without knowing all the details of who knew/did what, it’s hard to know for sure what is deserved.  But you can bet the whole NFL community – fans, players, alumni, prospects, advertisers, coaches, employees etc… – will be watching closely to see if all the rhetoric about safety is for real or if it was all just a well-done and convincing PR stunt.  Is that fair?  Probably not.  But then again, neither paying players to injure their opponents.  That’s not just against the rules, it is borderline criminal.