The NFL’s Wake-Up Calls

The timing of Michael Sam’s announcement and—five days later—the release of the Ted Wells report made one thing crystal clear: It’s time to professionalize pro football. Plus, America’s new non-hero and more as NFL eyes shift to Indy

Before we all get totally depressed about the NFL’s South Beach Locker Room Reality Show, something good to start your week: T.J. Oshie.

Did you notice what Oshie did Saturday, seconds after he scored his fourth goal of the shootout against Russia—in the eighth round of the shootout, against some of the best scorers on the planet—to give the United States a 3-2 victory in a game that wasn’t for a medal but had the intensity of the seventh game of the Stanley Cup? He slid the puck through Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky’s legs for the winner, whirled, raised his arms in jubilation, and then immediately pointed to his own goalie, Jonathan Quick. NBC could show that 17 more times, and I’d watch it 17 times.

“What was that about?’’ I asked Oshie on Sunday.

“Well,’’ Oshie said from Russia, “it was a two-man team there. I have to put the puck in the net, and he has to stop it from going in the net. Not only that, but he’s the guy who’s taking every shot, against some of the best players in the world, and he’s been doing it all game long, with the game on the line all the time. But I pointed to him because it was a team effort, and he did his job as well or better than any of us. We were all proud of him.”

How do you not root for Oshie and his mates? Especially on a weekend like this one, after reading the 144 pages from hell that was the Ted Wells report? Much more with Oshie, and on the hockey game, later in the column. In a me-first world, and after a disturbing couple of sports days, we can all use some good news.

* * *

What the NFL needs to do now.

It’s time for Roger Goodell to earn his $44 million—if that absurd sum is possible for anyone running any sports venture to earn. It’s time for him to professionalize professional football.

“Commissioner,” highly respected Philadelphia wide receiver Jason Avant told Goodell in a recent meeting, “we need you to set standards. We need you to make it black and white. We need standards, and if we don’t meet them, we shouldn’t be here.”

The impetus for culture change in the NFL now falls to commissioner Roger Goodell, who had his $44 million salary revealed on the same day the Ted Well report was released. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The impetus for culture change in the NFL now starts with commissioner Roger Goodell, who had his $44 million salary revealed on the same day the Ted Wells report was released. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In the past 60 days, Goodell, I’m told, has met with more than 30 players, asking them how to make the locker room a more tolerant, more professional place. Players like Avant have told Goodell what he needs to hear. (Avant confirmed to me Sunday night that he asked Goodell to set standards for the players in the league, so publicly they’re not all painted with the Incognito brush.) Vice president of player engagement Troy Vincent and the czar of human resources for the NFL, Robert Gulliver, have also been involved in the meetings. They knew bad things were coming in the Ted Wells report, and the bad things came … worse than many people in the league thought. In the end, Richie Incognito and his perverse and persistent bullying and sister-raping jokes and goonishness gone mad will do a favor for the league. All the gone-too-far frat boys in locker rooms around the league can thank Incognito now, because when the NFL adopts a locker-room and meeting-room behavior policy, it’s going to be for adults. Will veterans be able to make rookies sing their college fight songs? Yes. Will vets be able to run kangaroo courts and fine peers $100 for especially stinky farts? Yes. Beyond that, vets won’t be allowed to humiliate young players the way it happened in Miami.

A shame! The corporatization of the NFL!

I say good. And good riddance to the bad-cop stuff—or whatever disgusting crap—Incognito and John Jerry and Mike Pouncey were advocating in the past couple of years.

And while they’re at it, the NFL is going to put in a seminar for players and coaches and staff on sexual-orientation training. Call it the Michael Sam Seminar. It’s coming, and it should. Homosexuality is not going away, and there’s no reason why any gay player in any NFL locker room should be subject to one-tenth of what Jonathan Martin had to endure over the past two years.

Wells Fallout

What did we learn? It was more than just Richie Incognito harassing Jonathan Martin, punishment will be widespread and locker-room culture will never be the same, Jenny Vrentas writes. FULL STORY


The Martin-Incognito case isn’t an indictment of the NFL locker room as a whole, Greg Bedard writes, but a case study in what can happen when it’s left to operate without restraints or mature leadership. FULL STORY

The Sam declaration and the Ted Wells report came within six days of each other, and the reverberations will be felt for years. Multiple NFL committees will meet March 3 and 4 to discuss league business, and certainly a new behavior policy will discussed. When the 32 owners and coaches and their front office staff convene for the annual spring meetings in Orlando March 24-28, more discussions will be had.

Vincent shared with me Sunday his ideas for professionalism in the NFL workplace. Players should have a code of conduct perhaps not identical to but certainly in the same league with other members of a football organization—scouts, marketers, administrative help, executives, coaches. “I think you’ll see workplace training conducted for the football side,’’ Vincent said. “The kind of respect-at-work training that happens on the second floor, in the business offices, needs to happen on the first floor, with the players.” Vincent said he hopes the league can establish a working group of coaches, players, club officials and league executives—men and women—to discuss issues and solutions. Vincent wants teams to begin workshop training for players and other club employees. Those workshops should included sexual orientation, diversity, domestic violence and professionalism in the workplace, among other things.

Speaking of Sam: On Friday, former NFL player Wade Davis—who came out after retiring—held a workshop of sorts for some NFL employees, including Goodell, in New York. He talked about the importance of a team atmosphere to deal with Sam and any other future gay player, because in some cases the team will be the best support group the player has.

“This is the 21st century athlete we’re dealing with now,” Vincent said. “It has been a progression over the past few years. And now we’re at a moment in time where we have to do something as a league, and we will.”

Get ready for several weeks (months?) of internal and external debate around the NFL over how to professionalize the players’ workplace. You’re going to hear a lot of that, and you should, after Sam announced he is gay and the scathing Ted Wells report told the world what a soulless place an NFL locker room can be. “Can” being the operative word, because I do not believe there are many, if any, other locker rooms or portions of locker rooms that go so over the top as the Incognito-led Miami offensive-line group went.

Quick takes on what I thought was a thorough job by Wells and the nine attorneys from his Manhattan law firm, with only one major flaw:

• Roger Goodell has to suspend Incognito, and give more than a slap on the wrist to partners-in-intimidation John Jerry and Mike Pouncey. Wells reported that Incognito was called before Goodell in August 2012 to discuss three untoward off-field incidents Incognito had been involved in. “Although Commissioner Goodell ultimately decided not to impose any additional discipline on Incognito at that time,” the report said, “it was made clear to Incognito, both in person and in follow-up correspondence, that his recent history of alleged misconduct reflected a troubling pattern. Incognito was told to ensure that his future behavior met the standards of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, at the risk of immediate disciplinary action.” So, you’d say, isn’t half a season of keeping Incognito out of play—he missed the second half of the 2013 season, suspended by the Dolphins before the club knew everything that was in Wells’ report—enough? No. Incognito was docked only two of 17 paychecks in 2013. To me, that’s not nearly sufficient for the mayhem this story caused the Dolphins, and the sport.

If I have to choose between snitching and being driven stark mad, I’ll take snitching any day. Martin needed to be an adult and tell Philbin.

 Miami will have to fire offensive line coach Jim Turner, who the report says was complicit in the atmosphere of bullying. How can owner Steve Ross say he’s serious about a respectful work environment and keep employing a coach who went along with Incognito’s incessant bullying of two of his linemen, going so far as to give a male blow-up doll to one player whom the others chided as being gay? And who pressured Jonathan Martin, when he’d left the team, with a string of text messages to publicly exonerate his “friend,” Incognito?

• Martin should have talked to Joe Philbin. Martinmight be a fish out of water in the NFL and certainly deserves empathy for having to deal with 18 months of mental beatdowns from veterans like Incognito. But he should have told his head coach what was going on. If I have to choose between snitching and being driven stark mad, I’ll take snitching any day. Martin needed to be an adult and tell Philbin. In the report, Wells wrote: “Martin believed that going to his coaches or other authority figures meant risking ostracism or even retaliation from his fellow linemen. At the same time, we strongly believe that if Martin had reported the harassment to a coach or front office executive (or even his agent), the team might have been able to address his issues before it was too late. There is no question that the better course of action would have been for Martin to report the abuse.” Absolutely.

• For Philbin not to know anything definitive about the crisis with Martin, he had to be either tone deaf or not paying enough attention to his team. Head coaches have their locker-room sources. Some I’ve known, like Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson, spent lots of time with players, making sure their fingers were on the pulse of their teams. I thought the Wells report went too easy on Philbin, saying he was unaware of the plight of Martin, an unidentified player and an assistant trainer, all of whom were being harassed. “We find that Head Coach Joe Philbin was not aware of the mistreatment of Martin, Player A or the Assistant Trainer. After interviewing Coach Philbin at length, we were impressed with his commitment to promoting integrity and accountability throughout the Dolphins organization—a point echoed by many players,” the report said. How can Philbin have been in that building 15 hours a day, at least, and not known anything? And how can Wells accept that this was a fine job by Philbin, and he was some sort of Boy Scout troop leader promoting wonderful citizenship? I do understand he asked Turner about what was going on with his players, and Turner told him everything was fine. But what caused Philbin to ask Turner? Obviously his antennae were up. Philbin, whom I find to be a good man, still should know better, and this had better be a very good lesson for him, or his time in the head coach’s chair is going to be short.

For the NFL, Sam and this report are two firecrackers designed to wake up anyone who can’t see that the league needs to have its collective head examined. It’s time, and Goodell can’t let this moment get away.

The crowd around Manti Te'o at last year's combine will be similar in size to the one Michael Sam sees in Indy this week. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
The crowd around Manti Te’o at last year’s combine hints at what awaits Michael Sam in Indianapolis this week. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

About those “distractions.”

A year ago, the American sports media trooped to Indianapolis for the annual NFL Scouting Combine, and the story was the distraction that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o would be for the team that drafted him, in the wake of the girlfriend hoax. The Detroit News wrote, “Draft prospect Te’o is a distraction the Lions cannot afford.’’ Said draft guru Gil Brandt: “I think some teams will say [Te’o] isn’t worth the problem.” Houston defensive lineman Antonio Smith said his teammates would chide and laugh at Te’o, and he’d better have a very thick skin.

At the combine, I’ve never seen the kind of media crowd around a player that I saw around Te’o. The sight of that horde led to more thinking that if a team takes Te’o, the circus comes to town. And maybe it pushed him down quite a bit from where he thought he’d be picked—somewhere in the bottom half of the first round. (Though his just-average speed and his getting steamrolled by Alabama in Notre Dame’s bowl game probably pushed him into the second round, really.) In the end, the Chargers drafted Te’o with the sixth pick of the second round. Think back now: What do you remember about his rookie year, on or off the field? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He was unimpactful on the field, particularly against the run, playing 56 percent of the defensive snaps. He kept his mouth shut off the field. He’s a vanilla interview anyway, and eventually the questions about the phony girlfriend went away.

So much for the headache that drafting Te’o would bring.

Now, Sam is likely to be just as big of a story at the combine. And, unlike Te’o, Sam probably will be more of a lingering story, wherever he is drafted. But I think Sam will be a mega-story only for several days, when you might see Anderson Cooper with a CNN crew on the sidelines early in training camp. Especially after the aforementioned league-mandated “enlightenment” in the preseason, with some education about treating all teammates with respect.

That’s why I think if you’re a scout or GM, and you think Sam fits your team, you shouldn’t overthink it. If Sam can play, his teammates will accept him—maybe with a hiccup or two from a very religious teammate who disapproves of homosexuality or an unenlightened teammate who thinks it’s cool to make gay jokes. And it could be that some of those on the team will simply steer clear of Sam. No one knows. But there won’t be much of a problem, I don’t think, if Sam is contributing as a player.

* * *

America needs more Oshies.

T.J. Oshie (Al Bello/Getty Images)
T.J. Oshie. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

The 3-2 victory by the United States hockey team over Russia on Saturday really wasn’t a significant event, if you consider that it meant nothing in the medal standings. But you couldn’t watch the game and listen to the explosions by the fans (particularly the Russians, who outnumbered the Americans so clearly) and not feel there was something riding on this. Even the players, diving to make stops, taking shots off their bodies and their hands, clearly knew something was at stake.

But that’s what great about hockey: Even in a game that’s being played for future seeding only, the players care so much. And in the first match between the countries since the USA’s Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid, it was T.J. Oshie, as unheralded a player as any who suited up in the game, who made all the difference.

Sunday, when I got to ask Oshie about it, he was still stunned about it all. “The president tweeted about you,” I said. “America went pretty nuts. The New York Post and the New York Daily News both had you on the back pages this morning, with screaming headlines. Yesterday morning, no one knew you. Now, this.”

Said Oshie: “I know. It’s very odd. I was talking to my fiancée last night on the phone and I said, ‘This just felt like a round-robin game in the tournament, just another shootout.’ But I see how big it was now. It’s awesome. Just awesome. In my mind, I thought, I know we’re not in the medal round yet, so it’s early to get really excited.”

You’ve probably seen some or all of Oshie’s goals in the shootout. In the NHL, a player gets to shoot once in the shootout, and then others on the team get to shoot if the shootout is still tied after three players from each side alternately take a shot on goal. But in Olympic play, after the first three shots are taken by a side, the coach can keep putting the same shooter out there. That’s what Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma did with Oshie. It was 1-1 after the first three rounds. Then Ilya Kovalchuk missed for the Russians, and Oshie shot it over the goal. Onto round five. Pavel Datsyuk beat Quick, and Oshie shot it through the goalie’s legs. Onto round six. Kovalchuk scored, and Oshie pinged it in off the crossbar. Round seven: Datsyuk missed, Oshie backhanded it off the goalie.

Round eight.

I asked Oshie if he’d been the kind of kid who grew up—in Washington state and Minnesota—shooting the puck into a net, imagining it was for the Stanley Cup or Olympic gold. “Yeah, I was that type of kid,” he said. “I did it a lot, playing in the backyard, playing wherever, 9 or 10 o’clock at night, just before you leave the ice, you’re alone, and you think, ‘This one’s for the Stanley Cup,’ or ‘This one’s for the gold medal.’ I thought about it a lot. But I was thinking about like it was a breakaway. Shootouts weren’t part of the game then.”

The NHL adopted shootouts in 2005.

“But that definitely started as a kid,” he said. “Every kid, when I was growing up at the end of practice, would go to the blue line or red line, one after another, go to score, even defensemen who know they’ll never shoot.”

Oshie's game-winner slipped through the legs of Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovski. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Oshie’s game-winner slipped through the legs of Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Oshie skated in deliberately, as always. “If you skate in fast, you’ve only got a chance to make one or two moves—that’s it,” he said. He swept in toward the right, the back left, then right in on goal, and he saw a little hole between the legs, and he aimed for it, and bang … right in.

Then the scrum around him, and the interviews and more interviews, and then he got taken to the NBC set. “I was nervous about that,” Oshie said. “I was actually shaking to meet Dan Patrick, Cris Collinsworth, Al Michaels.”

And then the quote America loved, about how he felt about being an American hero, in a group interview with some American writers and TV people. Oshie said to them, “The real American heroes are wearing camo. That’s not me.”

He told me: “The way the question was asked … people were asking all kinds of questions, about what I was thinking, and how big it was, and how I was blowing up on Twitter, and then, ‘How does it feel to be an American hero?’ I could never think of that. I mean, I would hope everyone would think the men and women who protect our country, those are the heroes. A hockey player, that’s not a hero. I wanted to make that correction.”

Then he talked to some of his family members. Some had tears. He went back to his room, hungry. His celebratory dinner: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The last time he looked at his phone, it was about 12:30 in the morning, maybe four hours since the game was over.

“Thanks,” I said when we were about to get off the phone. “Hope you bring home the gold.”

“Thank you sir,” said the 27-year-old hockey player, not hero, from Warroad, Minn. “We will sure try.”

Quotes of the Week

I

“I was a kid who made some goofball decisions. That’s been part of my journey. Maybe it’s part of the whole Johnny Football deal that I’m trying to get away from. I’m trying to show people I’ve grown up, and I’ve learned from my experiences. I feel like you’re a stupid person if you continue to make the same wrong decisions. I don’t want to hear, ‘Oh, anybody in his situation would have been doing the same thing.’ I’m 100 percent responsible for my actions.”

—Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback who wants to be the first pick in the draft to the Houston Texans, in an interview he clearly hopes will be image-altering with John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

II

“Bob McNair and Bill O’Brien. Those are the two guys I really want to meet.”

—Manziel, to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. McNair owns the Texans. O’Brien coaches them. This was in response to a question about whom the famous Manziel really wants to meet.

III

“So many paid their rubles to see the home team win. Not this game. Not tonight.”

—NBC hockey announcer Doc Emrick on Saturday, when the U.S. hockey team beat Russia, 3-2, in Sochi.

IV

“In light of the Incognito/Martin story, people would have you believe that you have to be some raving lunatic to play in the NFL, wound so tightly that the slightest spark will insight an insatiable inferno. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I’m 48 years old now and about the least confrontational person you’ll ever meet. My fists have never found purchase on the flesh of another man’s face. I’ve never been in a fight. Yet I succeeded for many years in the trenches of the NFL, in which there are several confrontations on every play. It can be done—through focus, effort and discipline, not through unbridled rage and hair-trigger emotional outbursts. I’m left with this conclusion about the Dolphins organization from the coaching staff on down: They were either complicit, incompetent or, worse, both.”

—Former NFL guard Mark Schlereth, in an excellent column written for ESPN.com about how, from his experience, he feels what happened in Miami is more of an outlier than common. 

Stats of the Week

I

Combined compensation for commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Network czar Steve Bornstein in fiscal year 2013: $70,244,000.

Combined compensation for Super Bowl quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson in 2013: $25,526,217.

II

Florida State closer Jameis Winston’s first outing of the baseball season Saturday in Tallahassee, in a 4-1 victory over Niagara University:

  IP H R ER BB SO Pitches
Winston, S1 2 0 0 0 0 1 20

Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me

So now that LA-loving Steve Bornstein is leaving NFL Network this year, isn’t it time for NFL Network and NFL.com to leave the city that has no team and might never have one, Los Angeles, and come east?

I am still trying to figure out why NFL Network and NFL.com are based in Culver City, Calif., and not in either Mount Laurel, N.J. (home of NFL Films) or Manhattan (home of the league office).

I don’t buy the it’s-good-for-business-to-have-a-West Coast-presence thing. You mean it’s good for business to be 3,000 miles away from the capital of the capitalism world, New York? Let’s say the whole operation was moved to One Sabol Way in Mount Laurel (yes, that’s the address of the huge office park that contains NFL Films). On a Monday after a big weekend, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles or Giants receiver Victor Cruz could be in studio to dissect big wins on the set, and they could cycle through NFL.com to be grilled by one or two of the writers on site. Let’s say the Ravens are the hottest team in football, with the best defense. On Tuesday, the entire Haloti Ngata-led defensive front comes in to do the car wash on TV and the website.

This would be possible because of the proximity of the players to Mount Laurel, as opposed to the proximity of Culver City to the rest of the NFL. Take a look.

Culver City to:
San Diego 129 miles
Santa Clara, Calif. (S.F.) 345 miles
Oakland 371 miles
Tempe, Ariz. (Cardinals) 393 miles
Denver 1,028 miles
Seattle 1,137 miles

Mount Laurel to:
Philadelphia 17 miles
New York City 83 miles
East Rutherford, N.J. (Giants) 83 miles
Florham Park, N.J. (Jets) 88 miles
Baltimore 119 miles
Asburn, Va. (Wash.) 179 miles
Foxboro, Mass. (N.E.) 282 miles
Pittsburgh 321 miles

So: seven teams and the league office are within 330 miles of Mount Laurel. One team is within 330 miles of Culver City.

I just don’t get it. Never have.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

Worst part about going someplace warm for three days and flying back into New York in February: When you return, you fly low over inlets and small fingers of water that are either frozen or ice-capped, and you get off the plane and walk back into the freezer and think there is no way spring is coming. Ever.

Tweets of the Week

I

“According to Dolphins OL ‘fine book,’ being subpoenaed by the FBI carries same $ penalty as a failure to bring candy & is equal to 10 farts”

@brian_mcintyre, the NFL reporter.

II

“Greg Cosell: Sammy Watkins best WR prospect since A.J. Green, Julio Jones.”

@caplannfl, NFL analyst Adam Caplan, on the universally respected Cosell’s opinion of the Clemson wide receiver.

III

“Dempster is a real character. Wore a t-shirt around the clubhouse with a picture of Shakespeare. ‘This **** writes itself’ it said.”

@peteabe, Boston Globe Red Sox beat man Pete Abraham, on pitcher Ryan Dempster, who announced Sunday he was walking away from a contract that would pay him $13 million in 2014 for physical and family reasons.

IV

“Without a space program that discovers, tracks & deflects killer asteroids, our extinction is assured by one. Have a nice day”

@neiltyson, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think after getting ripped to shreds on Twitter Friday, and ultimately deleting his Twitter account, maybe Richie Incognito knows how he made Jonathan Martin feel.

2. I think I really hope one team—the Saints or Ravens—challenges the idiotic tight end franchise-tag designation, a $4.8 million difference between the tight end and wide receiver positions. My feeling on this is simple: If Jimmy Graham and Dennis Pitta are drafted as tight ends and used as tight ends and voted to the Pro Bowl as tight ends, then their team’s salary caps should not be punished by having them shown as wide receivers. Being placed in the slot or split wide on multiple occasions per game should not change their designation.

3. I think, if I had to guess, the quarterback Cleveland GM Ray Farmer was referring to when he told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer he knows which QB he’d take if the draft was today is one of two: Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles. Manziel, obviously, with a very high pick, and maybe Bortles lower if Farmer feels he could safely trade down and still get the Central Florida kid.

4. I think many of you have rightfully asked me, and others who work in NFL locker rooms, how surprised we are about what was in the Wells report, and might think it’s disingenuous for me to say, “I’m surprised.” I am—because, and you need to understand this, the Incognitos and Pounceys aren’t going to show us the truly real world when the doors are open and we walk into the locker room. If they’re not going to show coaches the sometimes vile stuff they do, why would you think they’d be open to be truly real around the media? Now, I know lots of untoward stuff goes on, because it always has, and there’s an Animal House element to every locker room. But I just don’t believe what happened in Miami is common to every NFL locker room.

The 31-year-old Suggs is re-doing his contract with the intent of retiring as a Raven. (David Banks/Getty Images)
The 31-year-old Suggs is redoing his contract with the intent of retiring as a Raven. (David Banks/Getty Images)

5. I think Dan LeBatard of the Miami Herald had a great take on why the Dolphins unconditionally supported Incognito and not Martin: “We can all moralize about this now from the outside, choosing sides, but this wasn’t about morality and immorality to the people on the inside. It was about strength and weakness. The players in that locker room think Martin is a soft, whining quitter who caused all this because he wasn’t tough enough for their survival-of-the-fittest workplace.’’

6. I think with the news that Terrell Suggs will commit to a deal to remain a Raven for the rest of his career, we now know who will take the mantle long-term as the heir to Ray Lewis as the Baltimore defensive leader. It should be Suggs. He’s got the respect of his locker room and his coaches to continue the tradition Lewis and Ed Reed made so strong.

7. I think retired standout safety and suspended NFL Network analyst Darren Sharper better have a very good lawyer. A Los Angeles court filing contends he is a suspect in seven alleged rapes in five different cities, and he is alleged to have used drug-laced alcohol to incapacitate the women. 

8. I think, with franchise tags able to be used beginning today, I would be stunned if defensive end Greg Hardy isn’t tagged by the Panthers—who have the moderate sum of about $8 million in cap space and will have to shed some contract in order to tag him. But Hardy, 25, is the kind of player teams develop and keep, not develop and let walk.

9. I think the University of Missouri must be a great place these days. A great journalism school, obviously, from the alums who work all over our business … but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the loyalty to Michael Sam. An AP dispatch out of Columbia over the weekend quoted the student body president, Mason Schara, thusly: “The majority of us knew [Sam was gay] and we just didn’t think anything of it because that’s just who we are here.” And a large group of students, hearing there would be a protest Sunday on campus opposing Sam’s declaration, linked arms in solidarity as a protest to the protest. Surely, that respect for Sam has to say something to the NFL teams that will consider whether to draft him in May.

Talk Back

Have a question or comment for Peter? Email him at talkback@themmqb.com and it might be included in Tuesday’s mailbag.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. A fond farewell tour is my hope for Derek Jeter. And that, to him, would mean a 162-game regular season and playing well enough to lead the Yankees deep into the playoffs. As I’ve written, I believe he’s the best all-around baseball player and leader I’ve seen play a complete career. I know his stats don’t say it, and he wasn’t the equal of Ozzie Smith or Omar Vizquel in the field to be sure, but it’s amazing to me how he not only played at such a high level, but led at the highest level as well—and never the hint of a scandal, playing on the team with the highest profile in American professional sports.

b. Johnny Weir is good on TV. I like his analysis, because he’s emotional but also analytical—in plain English—about a sport I know so little about, figure skating.

c. I loved that Russia-USA hockey game, by the way. Hockey is the only game in which guys can leave their pro teams, travel across the globe, and six days later, with precious little practice, play the kind of game at full speed and with abandon that we’ll be talking about for a long time.

d. Hey Pierre McGuire: Great call on the heretofore unknown T.J. Oshie being one of the U.S. shooters in the shootout as everyone debated who would get the call for the Americans.

e. Can someone please explain how Maxwell, the Geico pig with cloven hooves, can get his smartphone to work by pressing the screen with hard cloven hooves instead of with fingers?

f. See the things you think of sitting home and watching the Olympics night after night?

g. Really liked the Al Michaels interview with 1980 Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak.

h. “God is saying, ‘Enough skating, Evgeni,’ ” said Evgeni Plushenko, the 31-year-old Russian master of a figure skater. He retired when his back wouldn’t allow him to skate the men’s short program, and he deserves tremendous respect. He’s probably the most recognizable men’s figure skater of the generation.

i. Coffeenerdness: I’ve crossed over to the darker side now. Four shots of espresso in a medium drink at Starbucks now. Someone has to stop me before it’s too late.

j. Beernerdness: Lucky for me, Whole Foods in New York is stocking Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale (Comstock, Mich.), and dating back to the time I was treated to Bell’s Oberon Ale, I’ve got a thing for these Bell’s beers. The Two Hearted Ale, an IPA apparently brewed and bottled just two weeks prior to me tasting it, is sufficiently bitter and extremely tasty. I’ll be back for more.

k. I saw The Monuments Men, and though it had its share of clichéd dialog and scenes, I liked the story a lot. Cate Blanchett’s really good in it.

l. And I read a book: Sycamore Row, by John Grisham. Read it in three days, as is my Grisham custom. It’s not the time of year for a beach book, but let’s call it a Snow Day book. If you’re home on a snow day, you’ll devour this one. As usual with Grisham, all the pieces fit, superbly.

The Adieu Haiku

The combine’s this week.
Hearty welcome, Michael Sam.
Welcome to mayhem.

mmqb-end-slug-square

501 comments
RICKJAMESwasCOOL!
RICKJAMESwasCOOL!

Do I become a superhero if I announce I only date large women? 

Better yet I only have sex with large women.......Now I am immortal!

RICKJAMESwasCOOL!
RICKJAMESwasCOOL!

Leave the NFL alone.  Go after the foreign corporations like this.  We love our football!!

________________________________PRESS RELEASE USA______________________________Updated: 2/18/2014CIVIL LAW SUIT- Huge Mega Billion Dollar Foreign Company SONY to American Employee & Staff  “ Continue to Work Without a Bathroom in Your Store or Lose Your Job!” Wilmington DE/Camden NJ Federal Court – Mega billion dollar company Sony, is frantically trying to get dismissed a civil lawsuit Davis versus Sony where the claim made by a former employee, that he was wrongfully terminated.  Some of the charges include the former Sony and his staff being coerced to work months without a working bathroom that was flooded out, the result of collapsed ceiling.In addition the black employees were barraged and subjected to racial slurs, including the N-word and other racial overtones by their Sony superiors.The plaintiffs are seeking $250,000 in damages.The employee was terminated several days after.  Numerous complaints made to the company that customers were complaining that there was no bathroom in the store for use.  Employees had to take lengthy walks to the small general public excessively used common mall bathroom.  He noted to Sony he was going to file a civil complaint and was then terminated a few days later Press Release USA- Keeping America informed! @radiometrixnews: e-mails below! End

NELSON1
NELSON1

So if you are drafted as a TE you will always be considered a TE?  70% of the plays he was in he was a WR.  How does that mean or account for less than what he was drafted as?  So if you draft a WR and then play him at qb 70 percent of the time he's still considered a WR?  


If you apply for a job as a video coordinator in the NBA, but you are on the bench drawing up 70% of the plays during a game and doing the job of a head coach should you still be considered a video coordinator?  


I don't understand Peter's logic that because he was drafted as a certain position player that counts for more than what the guy is actually doing in a game?  It's classic management taking advantage of their employees, getting them to do more than their title suggests so they can still pay him less.  Peter you are an idiot.

Bearclaw
Bearclaw

So sick of liberal journalists like King whining and pandering to every faction. Listen Peter (and everyone else who agrees with him) verbally insulting and teasing people is NOT bullying, you pantywaists. Bullying involves physical abuse and/or intimidation, which does not include calling someone a name. It is people like King that try to co-opt and redefine terms that are wussifying America...and it has to stop.

BY
BY

Richard Sherman I'd like to introduce you to TJ Oshie

clrovers
clrovers

The "heretofore unknown T.J. Oshi", a former 1st round draft pick, is tied as the leading scorer for the St. Louis Blues, who in turn are currently tied for the second best record in the NHL. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the NHL knows who TJ Oshi. Rather than an astute observation, I think you're showing a very limited knowledge of another sport.



Buck2185
Buck2185

Peter, we do not need the 44 million a year business owner to set standards in his business. If he did, we wouldn't have murderers, bullies or loud mouthed punks hopped up on Adderral doing post game interviews. Without them, what would our children look up to???

thomasoverley
thomasoverley

How many of us are already sick of both of these stories, yawwwwn

jhc8974
jhc8974

Isn't there enough east coast bias in sports already?  It's in football, baseball, hockey, and basketball.  ESPN is headquartered in CT.  I know that there's also an ESPN office in LA but that's for the west coast people when all the easterners have gone to bed.  In my experience (and I've been around the world), the people further west of the Mississippi seem to have more interest in all the teams for their chosen sport because they have the opportunity to see all the highlights and catch all the games.  Easterners seem to only care about the teams in their divisions until it comes playoff time.


What's wrong with having a show on the west coast?  Let's look at Mike and Mike in the morning.  Their show starts at 4 am Mountain time which is 3 am Pacific.  If I want to listen to Mike and Mike live, I have to wake up extra early or try to catch snippets of their show on the radio on the way to work.


Is it completely necessary to have a player be physically present for an interview during the week when they should be at their team facility preparing for the next game?  The internet works just fine to have the interviews that NFL Network wants to have with players.

RobertSmith
RobertSmith

Incognito has already served an 8-game suspension, more than most of the NFL's felons ever serve.  Get a sense of proportion.  Deal with the murderers and wife batterers first.

Frotoon
Frotoon

Your haikus suck King. Learn what the basic elements are before embarrassing yourself.

FakeHero
FakeHero

Although I admire your talent Mr. King... you have it wrong on this subject matter. Trust Me... you are not getting 100% honesty from your usually reliable sources.


American Football is the last (because of the corruption in Boxing) true Gladiator Sport. 


For most young men in American (and increasingly other) cultures, it is a Rite Of Passages in to adulthood.


You have been lied to Mr. King. They are ALL Lying, for fear of losing their jobs, or being ostracized for speaking the obvvious truth. A heterosexual feels uncomfortable in the showers or locker room with homosexual present just as a woman would feel uncomfortable with a man walking around and watching them when they were in the showers or locker room.


A homosexual's lifestyle is a personal (and I am sure many wish private) choice; No one should be forced to work in an environment that makes them feel exploited or uncomfortable. This needs to apply to both heterosexuals and homosexuals the like.


AND IF I READ ANYONE COMPARING THE PLIGHT OF HOMOSEXUALS  TO THAT OF PEOPLE OF COLOR OVERCOMING SLAVERY AND RACISM TO A CERTAIN EXTENT I AM GOING TO SCREAM... PEOPLE OF COLOR NEVER HAD THE OPTION OF SIMPLY KEEPING THEIR PRIVATE LIVES PRIVATE AND BEING TREATED EQUALLY... and they never will

zonkeriah
zonkeriah

@RICKJAMESwasCOOL!  I don't know...are there any states saying you can't marry a large woman? Are there any states passing laws saying businesses are allowed to keep you from buying products or using services because you date large women? Are there people out there verbally and physically attacking you because you date large women? 

BillRobinson
BillRobinson

@Bearclaw

Ah, yes. Anonymous forums certainly encourage thought posts.

BY
BY

@clrovers  Most of the US has a very limited knowledge of hockey.....

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

@thomasoverley Its the medias duty to push as much gay stuff on the public as possible.  Thats how laws get passed.  Once you normalize things, people become ok with it. 

FakeHero
FakeHero

@psychsports  THE PLIGHT OF HOMOSEXUALS  SHOULD NEVER BE COMPARED TO THAT OF PEOPLE OF COLOR OVERCOMING SLAVERY AND RACISM TO A CERTAIN EXTENT.... As a person of color I know all to well that these two plights are different universes 

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@RobertSmith It's a good point.  It's as if this situation is worthy of a death sentence. The behavior was terrible, that being said, I agree, some perspective would be nice.

RICKJAMESwasCOOL!
RICKJAMESwasCOOL!

@FakeHero Sir indeed you are a real American hero.  I have to pass by a gym near my house because it's for ladies only.

Yet we want an openly gay in the shower?  Why can't I go in the ladies shows?  Why can't I join the this gym.

ryanaammess
ryanaammess

@FakeHero  Keep your fat wife in the barn then. Nobody wants to see that. KEEP YOUR PRIVATE LIFE PRIVATE. 

JimSmith4
JimSmith4

@FakeHero  


That might be one of the most ignorant posts that I have ever read on an SI board.  You really don't get it.  You and your ilk are pathetic.

drudown
drudown

@FakeHero  


What irony. You sound like such a b$&*h in saying so.

ChadCollins9
ChadCollins9

Blacks are born black, gays are not born gay.  Science has proven this 3999999 times over and over

Rocky777
Rocky777

@FakeHero @psychsports  Good point FakeHero.  While one's skin color is morally neutral or, doesn't belong in a category that considers morality, sexual behavior of course does.  Comparing racism to homosexuality is a category error.  But while tolerance should also apply to us who deem some sexual behaviors as immoral--including homosexual acts--no one should be mistreated for how they feel they are oriented.  

Tom52
Tom52

@ryanaammess @FakeHeroIt would appear that he already does. you don't know anything about who he is so his private life is being kept private. all you can do is call names proving your lack of intellect.

Tom52
Tom52

@JimSmith4 @FakeHerotypical intolerant post from one who lacks intellect. Nothing thoughtful about your post whatsoever. What is there to get in your world. You refuse to explain your ignorance.

FakeHero
FakeHero

@JimSmith4 @FakeHero  as a Real Pro Athlete, I can assure you I "get it". 


"pathetic" is a statement that you are not qualified to make of a person you know nothing about.


Although you clearly do not like the message shared, this does not take away from the truthfulness of it.... 

FakeHero
FakeHero

@BillRobinson @Ilovemesomeme @FakeHero @ryanaammess  Sir. Because of the obvious emotional association to the subject matter, I shall share only these statements; The plight of people of color, in terms of murder (40,000,000 slaves never even survived the brutal journey to America). Dehumanization, and institutionalized racism separates the two dramatically. Although you have a person of half-color sleeping in the White House, I challenge anyone to summit evidence as to how he has used his powers to crush any of the institutionalized racism that still prevails today (Trayvon Martin). To compare the plight of LGBT to the plight of people of color is to compare a drive by shooting to the holocaust  As shared earlier, (although both or deplorable), the scope and magnitude of pure pain and suffering place them in different universes.

 I am not a "Bigot", or even homophobic. I have a gay 1st cousin, whom I love like a brother, but as he is gay, I would feel uncomfortable to shower in-front of him, as I would feel uncomfortable showering in-front of my sister.. I am a heterosexual pro athlete whom is only speaking the unspeakable truth. Personally I do not care about ANY adults sexual preference, just so long as it is consenting, and does not involve a child. That is the most perplexing thing that has always dumbfounded me; Why does any group of people feel a need to announce their sexual preference? I mean 90-95% of all men most likely watch a little porn for example, this is a form of sexual preference, yet they do not feel a need to publicly announce, My name is Sam Martin and I love Swedishbikinivolleyball.com (fake site)... because as we all found out with Bill Clinton.... No one really cares, but what they did care about was he was a good president 
Has there been gays in the NFL?  Of course there has. Will there continue to be in all sports at every level?  Of course there will be. All that I am saying is that American Football is OUR Sport. WE invented it. I would hate for it to not continue to be so, and if you force your sexuality upon the last true Gladiators on this planet, the sport could lose. The NFL locker room and  showers are not where the LGBT should fight their cause

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@BillRobinson @Ilovemesomeme@FakeHero@ryanaammess So you didn't say that a gay man make "shake his head" at the discomfort of a straight man?  As for fake hero, I think his point was valid and easy to understand.  Black people can't "hide" the color of their skin.  Gays are very capable of "hiding" their sexual preference. 


Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@BillRobinson @Ilovemesomeme@FakeHero@ryanaammess I don't know why anyone would turn their nose up at the discomfort of someone else.  For someone who has been preaching empathy you seem to be very picky as to whom deserves it, and who doesn't.  Why is a straight man who feels uncomfortable around gay people any less worthy of your empathy, or deserving of a "shake of the head" as you say?  It's difficult to understand because the message is so wildly inconsistent.  Just as it is with the Martin/Incognito situation. 

BillRobinson
BillRobinson

@Ilovemesomeme @FakeHero @ryanaammess  


@llovemesomeme - We have exchanged numerous posts on this subject, and this is the clearest statement from you that I have seen. There is no question that some men feel uncomfortable being naked in front of other men in general. Or that some men feel particular discomfort if they know another man is gay.in the locker room or shower. If you participate in a sport or use men’s athletic clubs, you know that in all probability you have showered or changed in front of a gay man.

As you acknowledge, there is no practical solution for this discomfort because barring gays from locker rooms or participating in men's sports is not an option. Nor is attempting to build separate facilities for gays and straights an alternative.

As you suggest, honest discussion might be of some help in addressing the feelings of discomfort you mention.

From a gay man’s perspective, he is likely to shake his head at the discomfort you mention, because he is likely to feel that it pales into insignificance compared to the abuse he has experienced in his life from a large segment of our population. This abuse includes physical, mental, and religious abuse from many people and groups. He has also experienced inequality that affects him financially, legally, and socially. Perhaps one of the greatest problems has been the lack of acceptance for marriage equality that provides him perhaps the greatest opportunity for a complete life of acceptance and social equality.

Your comments on @FakeHero’s Point B are welcome and show sensitivity to gay concerns and perspectives.

@FakeHero 


It is hard for me to understand how, as a black man, you cannot see the very obvious parallels between the fight for racial equality and equality based on sexual orientation. In addition to the physical and mental abuse gay people have suffered that is a direct parallel to that experienced by blacks – such as physical abuse including assault, torture, and murder and mental abuse based on supposed inferiority and legal inequality on something as fundamental as marriage – there is a very special abuse a gay person has experienced that is unique.

With all the horrors black people have experienced here in the United States, I am unaware of blacks experiencing the isolation and hurt that comes from being turned on by members of your own family, including beatings and being thrown out of the house at a time when you are especially vulnerable – your teenage years. Nor am I aware of blacks experiencing being rejected by their own church as being an abomination in the eyes of God and being required to either try to change something that is not a choice and not changeable or at the least to be celibate and be denied of their sexuality. Those are extraordinary burdens that are not part of the black experience.

@llovemesomeme

On your last point, I think persecution is not an apt choice of words for admitting they are feeling uncomfortable. The stronger attacks they are receiving are for comments that really are expressions of bigotry and attempts to deny the equal rights and respect all people are entitled to.



usameos6
usameos6

@Ilovemesomeme @ryanaammess  I've been in the Broncos locker room along with the one at the University of Oregon and if anything - there was a distinct lack of naked people walking around.  I think that the majority of people that make these comments are still thinking back to their high school locker rooms - not to today's state of the art facilities with private showers, huge dressing areas, reporters of both sexes, etc. etc. etc.

Tom52
Tom52

@ryanaammess @Ilovemesomemebut that isn't what fake hero said. You and the other moron ryanaammass put words into his mouth and completely missed his very valid point.

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@FakeHero @Ilovemesomeme@ryanaammess


In regards to A, I don't think anyone is forced to work in an environment where they feel uncomfortable.  They can choose not to work in that environment.  That being said, I understand what you're getting at.  There needs to be honest, forthright discussion about the fears and feelings of the straight players who feel uncomfortable having gays in the locker room and if there is something that can be done to make everyone feel a bit better, than it should certainly be looked at.  But I think it comes down to this, there will be gay men in the locker room, and gay men should be allowed to be there.  I'm not sure there's a whole lot you can do other than have honest dialogue about it. 


In regards to B, I agree to a certain extent.  Persecution of any group of people based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else is wrong, and I'm sure difficult to deal with if you're on the receiving end.  I don't like to compare degrees when it comes to something like this because ultimately it doesn't matter if one is worse than the other, because it's all bad.  I understand your point about gays being able to keep it private if they choose to do so, but why would anyone want to keep something like that private?  I don't think people should have to hide who they are just to fit in.  I actually thought what Sam did was smart and commendable because he's ensuring that whomever picks him has already had internal discussion presumably with the staff and team leaders and feel comfortable with bringing him into their locker room.  That's got to make him feel very good about showing up to work, without having to worry about people "finding out" about who he is. 


Lastly, as for the media, I agree.  I don't understand why people are persecuted for admitting that it makes them uncomfortable, and I don't believe that makes you a bad person or bigot. 

FakeHero
FakeHero

@Ilovemesomeme @ryanaammess  


thank you for your mostly accurate interpretation of my original post My Key points were


A) No one should be forced to work in an environment that makes them feel exploited or uncomfortable. This needs to apply to both heterosexuals and homosexuals the like. 


***But the current media culture burns any heterosexual person at the stakes for even having the audacity to admit that being forced to be exposed nude in a locker room  or shower to a homosexual makes them feel uncomfortable.


B) THE PLIGHT OF HOMOSEXUALS  SHOULD NEVER BE COMPARED TO THAT OF PEOPLE OF COLOR OVERCOMING SLAVERY AND RACISM TO A CERTAIN EXTENT.... As a person of color I know all to well that these two plights are different universes 

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@ryanaammess @Ilovemesomeme I took his comment more as a statement of fact that there are probably many straight players who feel uncomfortable with a gay man in the locker room.  I personally don't feel that's a real big deal.  I would think it would be pretty clear to everyone that having a gay man in the locker room would be just as uncomfortable as having a woman in the locker room.  Gay men find men attractive, just as women do.  I know personally I would feel a bit awkward walking around naked in front of women, gay men, or even straight men for that matter.  Not sure why that makes folks so angry.  As I said in my previous post, if we're to move past stuff like this, we need to be able to have honest discussion about it.  When people are being labeled as bigots for making statements like his, it makes it impossible to have an honest discussion.  If you read his post he doesn't even say he himself feels it should be private.  He said "I'm sure many wish it was private" and I'm sure that's an accurate statement. 


It's easy to bash people for admitting they're uncomfortable being naked around gay men.  I think if we're being honest most of us feel uncomfortable being naked around most people.  Not sure why such a benign comment is causing such an uproar.

ryanaammess
ryanaammess

@Ilovemesomeme  His point was this kid should have kept his mouth shut and hide who he is. The kid probably wants to lead as normal a life as an nfl can lead. Most people in relationships are in public together, he seems to think Sam should have to stay inside because the world cant handle a gay kid in the nfl.  My point is he doesnt want to see gays in public or have them lead any sort of public life but theres alot of people who arent interested in his fat wife so he should keep her inside as to not upset the public.

Ilovemesomeme
Ilovemesomeme

@FakeHero @Daniel21   "A heterosexual feels uncomfortable in the showers or locker room with homosexual present just as a woman would feel uncomfortable with a man walking around and watching them when they were in the showers or locker room."


I 100% agree with this statement.........I'm not sure why anyone would disagree.  Just as hetero women are attracted to men, homosexual men are attracted to men.  That's just a fact.  And to pretend that having someone attracted to men, whether it be a woman, or a homosexual man, in the shower with men, or viewing men naked, wouldn't be uncomfortable for most, if not all, men in that locker room, is silliness. 


Now, I'm not saying homosexual men shouldn't be allowed in the NFL, they absolutely should be, but to bash this poster for stating the obvious just shows that some people have too much to prove.  The fact that some people admit to feeling uncomfortable doesn't make them bad people, or anti-gay, it makes them honest human beings.   And if we're going to move past issues like this as a society then we need to allow those who are uncomfortable to voice their concerns without acting as if they're bigots.  Grow up Daniel. 

Newsletter