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Quick Inside Slant: Season Wrap-Up

Impressions of the 2014 NFL Season as perceived by a Creative Writing graduate student, part-time amateur stand-up comedian and collegiate intramural flag football legend.

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By: Dustin Fisher

We forgive Dustin's sporadic columns lately, he's been busy training the future No. 1 pick in the Toddler Football League

We forgive Dustin’s sporadic columns lately, he’s been busy training the future No. 1 pick in the Toddler Football League

As I sit here in the Labor and Delivery Recovery Room, holding my 18-hour-old infant son and watching my exhausted wife get a few well-deserved minutes of sleep, I started thinking about Brandon Marshall, who just had twins early last week. Did he rub his wife’s back during her contractions? Did he get a wet washcloth for his wife’s forehead when it got too hot in the delivery room? Was he nervous and scared, just praying for healthy children and wishing for his wife that this part would all be over soon? I’m guessing he was. He is a person, after all.

I thought of the huge community of football players today, and how a large percentage of them are probably fathers themselves. And husbands. And sons. Not all of them have stories like Greg Olsen and Devon Still, but many of them are dedicated parents who leave the football field and do things other than run routes and look at game film. They are real people with heartbeats and fears, much more than the wicker men the media help us build and burn down. People who don’t deserve applause for getting injured.

Thank you, Cam Newton, for calling out your fan base for clapping Johnny Manziel off the field two weeks ago. Whatever his faults, they aren’t worth us common folk cheering for an injury to take away his livelihood. I know it’s not everybody, but it’s some of us. We need to remember the difference between the actual person and the media’s representation of that person. Steve Smith Sr., when questioned about the upcoming Wild Card game between the Ravens and the Steelers, talked about the “professional dislike” between the two teams, which I thought was an excellent way to distinguish the difference between real hatred and team rivalries. Hopefully that mentality trickles down to the fan base for these teams and others, who occasionally get in violent fights with other people based on the logo on their hat.

2014 Season in Review

Before the 2014 regular season comes a close and we have a whole new bunch of things to complain about, here are the five things I will remember most about this season.

5. The NFL drafted its first openly gay player. Which was great. And then Michael Sam never saw the field. And the story just went away. That sucks. I was very hopeful that the NFL wasn’t as homophobic as the rest of the world thought they were. But it’s hard to defend the fact that he hasn’t seen the field yet, after brief stints on the Rams and the Cowboys. I’m hopeful he finds a way onto somebody’s roster sometime next year. Or maybe this bullying, gay-bashing culture is too impenetrable to break through. Hopefully there’s a Jeff Fisher-type person who coaches a team that happens to need defensive linemen in 2015.

4. The AFC North completely dominated the NFC South. Maybe this is just me, but I can’t ever remember a division having such a memorable dominance over another division. The AFC North ended the season at 12-3-1 against the NFC South, with all but the 7-9 Browns making the playoffs, whereas the NFC South didn’t have a team over .500. If this continues into next season, I’m looking forward to the Eagles playing the NFC South and avoiding the AFC North.

3. The NFL is comprised of humans, humans with faults just like us. I’m not sure why we’re so surprised when our favorite athletes turn out to be wife beaters or child abusers. For some reason, the greater public seems to think the NFL has a domestic violence problem. To quote Bill Burr on the subject, “Compared to who? Plumbers?” It’s likely this stuff has always gone on, but it was easier to throw dirt on top of it before. Now that everybody has a lightweight, high resolution video camera in their back pocket, sometimes there’s just not enough dirt. And now, all these misdoings are out there for everybody to see. And sure, the percentage of domestic violence cases per NFL player may be much higher than that of plumbers, I’d also wager that when plumbers do this sort of thing, it doesn’t lead off the national news for months, not to mention that people in the spotlight are often targets. Which is to say that people are more likely to report the violence they are experiencing. But whatever the case, I’m more surprised that people are surprised than I am surprised that this is what’s going on.

2. And yet, when an NFL player decides to do bad stuff, the NFL still feels its best course of action is to cover it up. With the recent reports on head injuries causing a severe decrease in a new generation’s participation in the sport, the NFL has a public relations crisis on their hands. With that coming to light in the offseason, they probably just didn’t want something else that the public could point to that might damage the shield, so to speak. So it seems to me that rather hit these guys on the nose and say “BAD RAY, BAD BAD RAY!” they tried to figure out how to best get the situation out of the media. Everything they do is likely based not on finding truth or achieving justice, but avoiding bad publicity. And what fans the flames of this story is how ridiculous their lack of a domestic violence policy stands in contrast to their tough new drug policy, which they were so proud of (until they had to backpedal and change that too). They seem to be going in completely different directions with these two issues then the rest of America. But more than anything, it showed that the NFL just is horrible at dealing with issues they don’t’ see coming.

1. Flags, flags, flags. Yes, the lid came off of the box about players being human, and the NFL did whatever it could to backpedal their way out of responsibility for anything, but none of that surprised me. What surprised me, however, is how they actually stuck to the new enforcement on their rules. In the offseason, the NFL decided to emphasize certain existing rules that they hadn’t been as of recent, and created new rules to make the game safer and more fun. Allegedly. Some of these rules were for the benefit of reducing head injuries – such as hands to the face, hitting a quarterback in the head and hitting a defenseless receiver. Some were for the benefit of making it easier to score, which will make fantasy football more fun and the game more exciting – such as illegal contact and defensive holding. Making both of these moves in the same year made for some excruciating football viewing. In one particular game, on four of every five incompletions, a receiver would throw his arms up in the air and look at the ref for some salvation. I thought I was watching soccer. I used to be able to tell why a flag was thrown on almost any given play. Now I have no idea. There were times when it worked for my rooting interest and times when it worked against my rooting interest and I hated every call. There were so many more 3rd and 26 plays salvaged by an accidental hands to the face by a lineman or a nonsense illegal contact call on the other side of the field. It is annoying. And all the interviews with Mike Carey, Mike Pereira, or the powers that be in the NFL said that the players would learn and thus, adjust. Well they didn’t. At least not to my satisfaction, and I’m a pretty reasonable person. It sickened me and affected the product on the field. There was a roughing the passer called on the 49ers against Russell Wilson for a perfect hit. After they play, Ed Hochuli even said something like “he drove his head into the chest of the quarterback,” which is exactly what they tell you you’re supposed to do so you don’t hit his head or his knees. If the NFL just bullied up for one season to try to get people used to these adjustments, well I look forward to next season. If not, and this is the new NFL, it sucks. And through all the off-the-field issues with racist team names and boys behaving badly, people would always watch. But if they damage the product on the field, the shield may start to crack.

Dustin Fisher is a writer, comedian, storyteller, and stay-at-home dad. Follow along with his dad blog at http://daddyneedsanap.com/ or buy his first book, Daddy Issues.

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Dustin Fisher is an amateur standup comedian, storyteller, freelance writer, and stay-at-home dad, all of which are just better ways of saying “unemployed.” He worked in the area of collegiate recreation for the previous 14 years at UMBC, Miami University and the University of Baltimore. There, he became somewhat of a folk legend on the flag football field and actually got paid to play fantasy football. Dustin is currently in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore seeking a Masters degree in Creative Writing. He has made contributions to various publications including The Good Men Project and the Baltimore Fishbowl. For more about Dustin, check out his stay-at-home dad website, Daddy Needs a Nap. Dustin lives with his wife and daughter in New Carrollton, MD in a house surrounded by too many trees to get the Dish Network.

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Comments
One Response to “Quick Inside Slant: Season Wrap-Up”
  1. Larry says:

    I think you have the right attitude about seeing the players as people. They are young men who happen to be very talented in the way of football. Work while consuming for them is not everything nor should it be.