Monday, August 19, 2019

What NFL Fans Should Be Debating

By Anthony Brancato

College basketball did not implement a shot clock until the 1985-86 season — and even then after countless complaints from people in all walks of life: conflating college basketball with the NBA, which has had a shot clock since 1954, Jerry Girard, WPIX-TV's wisecracking sports anchor, rhetorically asked: "What would you rather watch — the Four Corners or Magic and The Doctor?" (The Four Corners referring to the formation that college teams used to run out the clock to protect a lead lead late in the game, and Magic and The Doctor, to Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Julius Erving, respectively).

As for what NFL fans should be debating 35 years later: besides structural topics like overtime and the 18-game schedule, a good current event to talk about is who deserves more money: Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott? With Wentz already "in the clubhouse" so to speak, having signed a four-year, $32-million-a-year extension on June 6, Prescott believes that he is entitled to more money than Wentz, having just turned down a $30-million-a-year deal — and the stats, at least, would appear to bear him out: Prescott has 14 game-winning drives and eight fourth-quarter comebacks and is 33-18 as a starter, while Wentz has just four game-winning drives and four fourth-quarter comebacks (leading to accusations that he is a "front-runner") and is 23-17 as a starter.

Career passer rating, completion percentage, yards per attempt, yards per completion? Advantage Prescott on all counts — 96.0 to 92.5, 66.0% to 63.7%, 7.4 to 7.0, and 11.2 to 11.0. And then there is the durability factor: Prescott is 51 out of 51 in starting games, while Wentz is 40 out of 53 — including postseason, in which Wentz has never appeared.

Sounds like a pretty convincing case. But certain people would rather have us discuss other things entirely.

On Wednesday, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is going to be regarded as anything but patriotic by about half our population for doing it, brokered a deal between NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and rapper Jay-Z, who nicknamed himself after two elevated subway lines that originate in the Jamaica section of New York City's borough of Queens, then run through Brooklyn into the heart of downtown Manhattan's Wall Street, running a "skip-stop" service — known colloquially as the "J/Z Skip-Stop" — inbound (to Manhattan) during the morning rush hours and outbound during the evening rush hours (this strange service pattern arising from the fact that the line has only three tracks), under which Jay-Z, founder of corporate entertainment giant Roc Nation, will work together with Goodell and the owners under the "Inspire Change" banner to promote "social justice" — and as an added bonus, Roc Nation will get to select who performs at halftime at the Super Bowl.

Not only does the whole concept of "social justice" enrage white Americans in general and older, richer white Americans in particular, who buy most of the season tickets and cable packages including the lucrative NFL Sunday Ticket, but rap music itself also does — which begs the question: what would satisfy them as the featured halftime entertainment at the Super Bowl? Toby Keith? Maybe even Lawrence Welk if he was still alive? And the idea that rap music is part of some latter-day counterculture is ridiculous: Ice-T has played an NYPD detective on "Law & Order" for nearly 20 years!

Nonetheless, if the kneeling during the national anthem resumes, outright violence at NFL games cannot be ruled out given how high the national tensions have become — and even one significant outbreak thereof would damage the NFL's reputation irreparably. So why risk it? And history offers a timely lesson: after the United States won the Spanish-American War in 1898, many mostly young liberals objected to the annexation of territory from Spain, especially the Philippines — prompting them to create a banner consisting of a respectfully-displayed American flag, accompanied by the slogan "The Flag of a Republic Forever — of an Empire Never!"

Now imagine if these NFL players had chosen that model instead of the "Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh" 1960s model they actually opted for, and created the same banner, except reading "The Flag of Republic Forever — of a Police State Never!"? They get their point across, and no one accuses them of sedition.

Plus, there are plenty of presumably white players who do not support these protests. In addition to the obvious possibility of a cheap shot by a white defensive player against a black running back or quarterback, what if a white offensive lineman (many of whom are in fact white) deliberately misses a block, causing a black teammate to suffer a serious injury, as in the 2000 film "Remember the Titans"? And before even having played a regular-season game in the NFL, defensive end Nick Bosa has already made statements through the usual channels that are sure to offend not only the vast majority of his African-American teammates, but essentially his entire fan base in the hyper-progressive San Francisco Bay Area.

So if fans want something to argue over, let them stick to who deserves to be paid more (or even simply who is better), instead of something that is liable to lead to another ticket and ratings boycott by the league's best customers, which would cripple the NFL at a time when it is on the verge of really taking off at the start of the second century of its existence.

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