We only have a couple days left before the calendar turns to 2018 and the 2017 NFL regular season mercifully comes to an end. Nobody is happier to put 2017 behind them than commissioner Roger Goodell and the folks at the NFL. The league was in the news for all the wrong reasons in 2017.
Blackballing by the owners of Colin Kaepernick, domestic violence issues, not allowing players to protest or speak out about injustices within their community. What made matters worse, is the play on the field wasn’t good enough to tamp down some of the noise around the aforementioned issues.
Call it what you want, but the way the league’s owners handled Colin Kaepernick was atrocious. Injuries to starting quarterbacks occurred at very high rates this season and the terrible play and players at that position warranted Kap at least get a call, right? You don’t think Kap was a better option in Green Bay than Brett Hundley? Or Tom Savage in Houston, Blake Bortles in Jacksonville, or Jay Cutler in Miami? How could the owners, who value winning so highly, say this wasn’t collusion?
The common refrain you’ll hear is that Kap’s on field play isn’t worth the level of distraction he brings with him. You know, the fact that he wants social and economic equality for all. That’s the distraction they are referring to. Meanwhile you have owners of team’s in public feuds with the commissioner, another owner forced to sell his team because of sexual harassment and using racial slurs. Hello Jerry Richardson. Many players’ accused of domestic violence. Those sure sound a lot like distractions…
Speaking of domestic violence. The league and its franchises have botched this issue every single time. The Ezekiel Elliott hung over the league and its marquee franchises collective heads all season. The suspension was handed down, put on hold, reinstated and put on hold again. Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones, because he was displeased with the suspension, then engaged in a public feud with Roger Goodell and held up his compensation agreement. A grown man essentially throwing a hissy fit in the sandbox.
The league’s franchises also engaged in a protracted battle with its players over protesting racial and criminal injustice. It would seem reasonable that a member of society would want things like racial equality and equality within the criminal justice system. But apparently not. The owners of the franchises have decided that the racist portion of their fan bases and their anger about protests during the national anthem was far more important than issues that matter most to their employees.
The owners actually threw lighter fluid on a few sparks in the forest. Yes, there were a segment of fans that were angry about the protests. But, did it cause them to drop the NFL in record numbers resulting in huge declines in ratings? No. The small decline in numbers is likely due to the on field play that hasn’t been good. By and large the numbers remain high because of the high stakes nature of the game and gambling interests. So glad the owners spent all their time focusing on the “national anthem protests.” Now all those complaining fans can focus on what actually matters. They can escape to sports.
Too bad the play on the field has been horrendous. Injuries to marquee players at a very high rate forcing backups and less than qualified backups on the field. The sport is inherently dangerous and injuries are part and parcel. But this is continuing down a road that has a poor ending. In a 16-week season there were only a handful of well played games, and when we get a good game it’s often marred by inconsistent officiating, bogged down by replay and the inability to decipher one of the most fundamental plays of the game.
What exactly is a catch in the NFL? We’ve seen the New England Patriots benefit from a no catch call in a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Buffalo Bills had a touchdown catch overturned in a pivotal game.
“In order to have a completed pass, a receiver must survive going to the ground,” referee Tony Corrente said. “In this case, he had control of the football but he was going to the ground. As he hit the ground, the ball began to roll and rotate and the ball hit the ground and that’s the end of it at that point. … He lost complete control of the football. That was the ruling out of replay.”
But the ball broke the plane. It should have been a touchdown end of play right there. What does survive the ground even mean? The player extended so the ball could break the plane. Nobody knows what a catch is and it may end up gifting the Patriots another Super Bowl.
Jarod Hector is a New York City born-and-raised sports and pop culture enthusiast. A multimedia journalist & host who enjoys nuanced discussions of the intersection between sports, culture, and society. He believes My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the greatest album of the past 20 years and says if you root for billionaire owners over millionaire athletes you're part of the problem. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @jshector.
(Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)