Follow the money


Follow the money

By Frankie O

The big story this week was the unprecedented penalties handed down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the New Orleans bounty scandal. Wow. That got everybodys attention. I think most of the folks I talked to thought the penalty was a bit much, but thanked god it wasnt their team, especially since we all know that this is not an isolated incident. I have no doubt that Goodell had to act in this way since it became public. At that point the Saints did this to themselves. I find it interesting that it was noted that this investigation had been going on for years. The troubling part is that this did not deter Gregg Williams and the Saints from curtailing the practice. Again, I believe it was because these incentives were so much part of the tough-guy culture and existed for so long that those involved did not see the harm, pardon the pun. Much like Martha Stewart, the lying when confronted only increased the penalty. And also like a gun-toting-in-the-sweatpants-at-a-nightclub wide receiver and a delusional, hair-dyed, Howdy-Doody look-alike ex-governor, examples must be made of. Theres nothing like a very public flogging to keep the masses in check.

Now as I said here last week, I think some of this is over-blown in the fact that this is portrayed as players repeatedly taking wild-eyed head-shots and tackling at knee level only. The game moves too fast for that. Wouldnt an obsessed media notice? Are the Saints penalty numbers far above the rest of the league? But core aggression, achieved by almost any means, is always going at the heart of a game of violence. Stuff is going to happen. The players understand the world of mayhem in which they exist. Bounty or not, a hit that knocks someone out is going to get notice: From players. From coaches. From fans. And, lets not forget, be shown repeatedly, around the clock on ESPN and the NFL NETWORK! If it bleeds it leads!

Now call me cynical, but Im wondering in what different ways the NFL could benefit from this. During the past year, concussion issues in sports have been discussed more than any time ever. Goodell has been out front on this, touting a concern for player safety. But is he exactly the right guy to be doing this? After all, hes in charge of a business that is built on violence and high-speed collisions. Can a cattle farmer be an animal rights activist? Also since hes in charge, he must be aware of the 39 lawsuits from over 850 former players over concussions. I would think those lawsuits stand a chance against a league that used to sell biggest hits videos on their own website. Wouldnt a good preemptive strike against damages be to show that your on and off-field business model had changed? (Or is it an admission of guilt?)

Culture change doesnt come easy, and I commend Goodell for at least trying to move the bar to a more palatable place. But, with the money that is involved Im finding it hard to believe that all of his motives are altruistic. Then again, if he really is the savior, he can purify the sport by dealing with the real elephant in the room: The fact that the NFL is the most popular sport in this country because its the easiest to gamble on.

Im thinking if there was going to be a how-not-to book written on how to negotiate a player contract, it should be done by Matt Fortes agent. Lost in the woods is always my first thought when I hear the latest update of his contract saga. Forte is not in a position of strength, usually the determining factor in a negotiation, but he and his team dont seem to understand this. I know that this must be very frustrating for him, but what can he do? What he shouldnt do is send out woe is me tweets lamenting the fact that the Bears signed another running back. Honestly?Theres no crying in football! Michael Bush is a beast of a back and a great compliment to Forte. What Forte should do is stay quiet, and double-down that he wont get hurt and play on his 1-year deal. After this season Im sure the Bears wont want to use the tag again, then he can do what he wants. If they do use it again, he will have made about 20 mildo in 2 seasons, so quit the whining or sign a new deal. Or better yet, get some better advice. Im available!!

The thing about John Elway as a player was that he always seemed to get better the more dire the situation. Ever heard of The Drive? Need I say more? Well it seems he save a little of the Elway magic for his job as President of the Broncos. As Ive written here before, part of Tim Tebows allure for me was watching Elways reaction to it. One of the best quarterbacks ever watching this hack. First the team was pressured to put him in. Then he wins a bunch of games to get them into the playoffs. The Elway reactions, facially and verbally, were priceless. He should teach that vacant smile to beauty contestants to use as they are asked questions about topics they have no clue about, like say about anything you would read in a paper. Then after the shocking playoff win against the Steelers, Tebow was the QB of the future, right? Wrong, worst mechanics-ever breath! John Elway is a freaking genius! How could he get rid of his polar quarterbacking opposite, in a city head-over-heels in love with him and not hear one word about it? Sign Peyton Manning, thats how! Even if Manning is done, who cares? Tebow is someone elses problem. (Of course Ill have more on that, but that topic is an entire blog in itself, my little foot soldiers!) He gone! And in the world of Elway, thats all that matters. Plus, youre selling your fan base that you are trying to win now with a future Hall-of-Famer. And he got a fourth-round draft pick! I cant get over what a brilliant move it was on Elways part. Has he ever thought of politics? Better yet, does he want to run my Eagles?

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.

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