Going Roggin Appearance, KNBC-TV Los Angeles 9-16-14

In this episode of Going Roggin, A Martinez and I debate the hottest sports topics of the week, refereed by legendary L.A. sports anchor Fred Roggin.

In light of the scandals sweeping the NFL, we each proclaim our “sleaziest person in sports.”  We also discuss the expectations and playoff chances of the Dodgers and Angels, plus the prospect of professional sports leagues taking a cut of legalized sports betting.  

Last but not least, it’s everyone’s favorite segment, “Rapid Fire.”

Going Roggin airs on KNBC Ch.4 in the L.A. area every Saturday (3pm PST) and Monday morning (12am PST).  You can catch the live stream of the Sunday night/Monday morning edition of the show by clicking here.  As always, thanks for watching! 

                        Ray Rice and the Park Ave Piranhas

What a mess.  What an utter disaster.  What if the governing body and its headmaster are so deeply entrenched in filth that they can no longer be trusted to thoroughly clean it up?  

This is the curious case of the NFL and its handling (or lack thereof) of the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal.  Yes, this reached “scandal” or “-gate” proportions.  

ESPN host Keith Olbermann delivered a stirring monologue (click the above video to watch) just hours after TMZ Sports released surveillance video footage showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice engaged in a physical altercation with this then-fiancé Janay Palmer in which he punches Palmer in the face, knocking her out cold. 

The hot water NFL commissioner Roger Goodell found himself in after only suspending Rice for two games upon his arrest (and TMZ Sports’ first release of video footage, a clip that did not include the punch) can now be considered lukewarm.  That water has quickly turned to s*** and it just hit the fan, boiling over into the league office on Park Avenue.  

Facing a tsunami wave of backlash with the release of the new video, the Ravens cut Rice and the NFL suspended him “indefinitely.” 

In his monologue, Olbermann suggests Goodell (amongst several other executives) resign in light of failing to appropriately punish Rice, all the while knowing what was on that video tape (after all, Rice admitted to punching Palmer, rendering her unconscious).  

Both the Ravens and the NFL said Monday was the first time they had seen the video of the punch itself.  Now the questions become, “what did they know” and “when did they know it.”  

According to a small handful of reporters, sources had seen the piece of video containing the knockout punch long before Monday.  

Despite being “anonymous,” it’s hard not to give the sources the benefit of the doubt here, especially given the NFL’s horrendous track record of poor decisions, lies and cover-ups.  

The NFL has been delivering knockout blows to its own players for decades by way of systematically denying a link between concussions (suffered while playing football) and long-term brain injuries.  The book and documentary film “League of Denial” details a massive cover-up, exposing the NFL’s mafia-like practices which included strong-arming, negligence and fraudulent behavior. 

The NFL allegedly allows some of its owners to get away with violating federal and state labor laws

Goodell himself continues to support a team name that many people find to be racist and extremely offensive.  

It’s a culture of lawlessness.  The Wild Wild West.  A realm in which the NFL does what it wants, when it wants.  

What happens when the police chief needs policing?  Who is in place to discipline Roger Goodell and his administration for their egregious behavior?  The court of public opinion might be the only body strong enough to force accountability and change.  

At best, league officials did not want to watch the damning casino surveillance video that was accessible to the police, prosecutor’s office, Rice’s attorneys (presumably) and TMZ.  At worst, Goodell and friends watched the video, suspended Rice for only two games, and allowed the Ravens to put on one of the most manipulative charades we’ll ever see from a professional sports team.

Both scenarios call for accountability at the top of the food chain.  At minimum, Goodell should provide a truthful explanation (and evidence to support it) of the investigation and subsequent suspension.  Goodell should also suspend himself from his post as commissioner in order to take some time to recognize his mistakes and figure out how to improve his job performance moving forward.  Another option is for Goodell to resign.

Olbermann suggests that “we” (the public, media, etc.) boycott all-things Ravens until team executives and the commissioner (Goodell) have been dismissed.  

With some current and former players staging a mutiny via social media in addition to the public outrage, Monday might be the day that forces a regime change in the all-mighty and powerful NFL. 

Let’s also hope that Janay Palmer is safe and sound after yet another traumatic day.  

Related Links:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline website 

Ray Rice Will Never Play in NFL Again, but Accountability Shouldn’t Stop There (Mike Freeman, Bleacher Report) 

The Real Reason Why Ray Rice Should Have Been Suspended Indefinitely (Jane McManus, ESPN) 

Treat Off-Camera Abusers Same as Ray Rice (Christine Brennan, USA Today Sports) 

10 Worst Scandals in NFL History (Tyson Langland, Bleacher Report)

Just like us fans, Roger Goodell is likely praying for the start of the NFL season to hurry up and get here.  Not because the NFL commissioner loves the game, which surely, he does.  Instead, the football season serves as a major distraction to keep the NFL’s players from getting into trouble, aka, getting pinched by the cops.

28 active NFL players have been arrested (as of July 20) since Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 5) according to ArrestNation.com, along with four guys receiving citations and one being formally charged.  In full disclosure, Lions DT Nick Fairley accounts for two of the 28 arrests in that time period.  Nice job big man.  Way to be consistent. 

Before we get into what this means (if anything) for football, and whether or not this is an athlete-arrest epidemic, let us take a look at a few of my favorite crimes some of these guys allegedly committed:

Arrests
- Assault
- Disorderly Conduct
- Driving under the influence
- Suspicion of third-degree assault with substantial bodily harm
- Fugitive warrant (so hard core…perhaps my favorite of the bunch)
- Possession of marijuana
- Third-degree criminal sexual conduct
- Failure to carry insurance (yes… car insurance.  Seriously)

Citations
- Speeding
- Possession of marijuana
- Misdemeanor assault

Despite my wisecracks, there is some pretty serious stuff listed above.  Many of the arrests were for DUI or similar infractions.  This is not good, no matter which way you slice it. 

But is this out of the norm?  Not as of late.  30 NFL players were arrested during the same time frame in 2011, according to the San Diego Union Tribune’s database of NFL arrests (https://www.utsandiego.com/nfl/arrests-database/).

In contrast, there were 17 arrests From Aug. 1 2011 to Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 6, 2012), according to the Union Tribune arrest database.

After five to six month of a completely regimented lifestyle provided by an NFL season, some guys seem to travel too far to the other side of the freedom spectrum.   

Too much spare time coupled with pro sports money can prove to be one bad combination for some folks.   

Folks like young Dez Bryant, one of the six player-arrests to be made public within the last six days from 7/15-7/20.   

Bryant might indeed be the next coming of Michael Irvin in Dallas, but for all the wrong reasons.  The troubled Cowboys receiver was pinched after his mother called the police accusing Bryant of slapping her face, pulling her hair and ripping her clothing during the alleged assault. 

Bryant’s arrest comes after a string of negative incidences, none of which involved an arrest.  Going into his third NFL season, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy has been inconsistent on the field while also showing flashes of brilliance.  Various accounts of Bryant’s troubled upbringing have been published over the past few years, and Jerry Jones and the Cowboys are certainly aware. 

Just like teams force players to take physical exams before each season starts, why not bring in a psychotherapist to sit down with each guy for an hour or two for a mental health evaluation?  Chris Henry could have used one.  So could PacMan Jones.  How about Michael Vick?

Some arrests may be considered equal by the law, but that is not the case in the court of public opinion.  When your typical fans hear about Adrian Peterson’s arrest at a Houston nightclub, he is likely to get some slack considering his clean record and good-guy image.  Bryant, on the other hand, hasn’t been afforded the same treatment for obvious reasons.

As annoying and cliche as it is, “perception is reality,” and the NFL does indeed have some problems in the perception department.

Lockout.  Head injuries.  Bankruptcy.  Suicide.  Dementia.  Shootings.  DUIs.  Foot fetishes.

Okay, well, a foot fetish is no biggie, but the rest of the NFL’s issues are substantial.  The league tries a traditional method of prevention with the Rookie Symposium where current and former players, along with other speakers, warn the NFL’s newest members of the myriad of distractions and deal breakers they could potentially face during their careers.  While the symposium is a start, it’s not enough.

Commissioner Goodell has yet to publicly address the string of player arrests this offseason, and I’m not sure that he needs to.  Will people stop watching football because guys are getting popped for DUIs and assault?  Probably not, at least not to any measurable degree. 

In looking at the big business picture, perhaps the league doesn’t view these discretions as a detriment.  Why not?  Take a gander at this info nugget from an article on The PostGame from Oct. 2011:

"The numbers don’t lie. One in every 45 National Football League players (2.2 percent) is arrested. The national arrest rate is 1 in 23 (4.2 percent), according to the FBI in 2010.  What does this mean?  Technically, NFL players get in 47.6 percent less trouble than your average Joe."

But that doesn’t make it right.  Goodell has been criticized for his authoritative rule and heavy hand.  I have, for the most part, agreed with Goodell’s disciplinary actions but the league needs to find a better way of preventing its core of rich and talented young men from making one mistake too many. 

                       

The Goodell Hammer came down hard on the New Orleans Saints and head coach Sean Payton Wednesday in the wake of a bounty scandal causing a major commotion in the NFL. 

In punishing the coach-sponsored program in which Saints defensive players were paid varying cash rewards for injuring opposing players during games, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reinforced his reputation as a stern disciplinarian who isn’t afraid to make an example of his subjects. 

Payton received a wealth of Goodell’s wrath, incurring a year-long suspension, making him the first head coach in NFL history to ever be suspended.  Former Saints and current Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was suspended indefinitely, Saints GM Mickey Loomis will be suspended for the first eight regular-season games without pay, Saints assistant coach Joe Vitt will sit out the first six games of the regular season and the team itself will be fined $500,000 along with forfeiting second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013. 

While the punishment is indeed historic given its severity, I actually think it could have been significantly worse for the Saints.  Given Goodell’s track record of harshly disciplining players who make mistakes off the field (see: Pacman Jones, Chris Henry, Michael Vick, etc.), I expected the commissioner to perhaps do the unthinkable in attempts to quash an illegal practice that is, unfortunately, not unique to the Saints. 

I feared Goodell would vacate the team’s wins from 2009-2011, which would include the Saints incredible Super Bowl run.  Sure, “vacating wins” and taking something out of the record books doesn’t erase it from our memories, but the stench of corruption and shame alone is enough to want to forget something that once evoked such sweetness and pleasure. 

Sadly, a bounty program such as this is nothing new in the world of sports, but two things set the Saints apart from others who have engaged in such behavior: 

1)  The details of their pay-for-performance system were made painfully public
2)  They got caught during a transition period for the league in terms of heightened awareness of the medical dangers of football and the attempt at increasing safety measures in games.

Does the following sound conducive to making the game safer and trying to win lawsuits against former players suing the league?

"The NFL said the scheme involved 22 to 27 defensive players; targeted opponents included quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers, Cam Newton, Brett Favre and Kurt Warner," according to an ESPN.com article. " ‘Knockouts’ were worth $1,500 and ‘cart-offs’ $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs.  According to the league, Saints defensive captain Jonathan Vilma offered $10,000 to any player who knocked then-Vikings QB Favre out of the 2010 NFC championship game."

Yikes.

Football is a violent sport and players are trained from an early age to embrace the brutality of the game, but with what we now know about the dangers of concussions, including the newly-discovered link between head trauma and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), somebody needs to step in and save these guys from themselves.

I appreciate the fact that Roger Goodell has the stones to do what’s best for the future of these young men, regardless of what the players, coaches, owners or fans think.  The league isn’t perfect, and yes, there are other ways in which ownership hurts players but at least this is a step in the right direction in one area of the game.  For that, I say ‘good job’ Goodell. 

                

Several Pepper On Sports readers wrote me after my original article about a car accident in Portland, OR. involving suspended Lions defensive tackle Ndomukong Suh early Saturday morning ( http://pepperonsports.tumblr.com/post/13694240878/ridin-dirty-suspended-lions-dt-suh-crashes-car-in ).  These readers expressed that something didn’t seem right about the story, and that at best, Suh had to be driving at fairly high speeds to lose control of his car while simply trying to drive around a stopped vehicle on a city street. 

As it turns out, the readers were on to something.  According to the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Suh’s two female passenger had left the accident scene by the time police arrived and once they were interviewed by police Sunday, both women claimed Suh was driving recklessly, there was no taxi cab impeding Suh’s progress and that both women said they were injured in the accident.

Uh-oh. 

Here are a few of the PPB’s findings, reported by KOIN-TV:

“‘He was driving too fast and reckless all the time. There was never a taxi. He was just going too fast and he could have killed someone at Dante’s,’ one of the women stated in the police report. Dante’s is a night club located at 350 West Burnside near the location of the crash. The same woman told police she suffered a laceration to her forehead that required five stitches, a black eye, a ‘busted lip’ and a torn shoulder muscle.  The women allege they left the scene before police arrived to avoid the large crowd of people who had gathered outside Dante’s to take photos of Suh. They told police they called for a ride in order to get medical treatment.”


Additionally, KGW-TV reports that there were three passengers in the car, not two, as was originally reported, and that one passenger told Suh she needed medical attention after the crash but he refused to help, and she instead called her husband who picked her up.  A passenger told KGW, “When the light turned green, he floored it.  I just remember going so fast and it was violent, and just getting thrown around like rag dolls.” 

It seems as though Suh will be let off the hook, regardless of this new information.  Why?  Well, the PPB says the criteria for investigating a car accident has not changed in light of the witness’ accounts.  The police won’t investigate a crash unless it involves “intoxicated drivers, traumatic injuries, or vulnerable road users.”

Hopefully somebody will investigate the situation.  Why was Suh driving so fast on a city street? What was he thinking?  Was this a case of stupidity and carelessness, or is it a symptom of something more serious, like a mental health issue?  I would think someone (cue the reporters and beat writers hovering around Suh’s locker on his first day back at work) will ask him these questions in attempts to hold him accountable and see where his head is at these days.

If the PPB doesn’t reconsider looking into the matter any further, Suh should thank his lucky stars. Although with this information becoming public, Roger Goodell will no doubt keep the incident in his back pocket, adding it to the growing list of Suh’s misdeeds.

Suh will sit out Sunday’s home game against the Vikings as he wraps up a two-game suspension for stomping the Packers’ Evan Dietrich-Smith in the Lions Thanksgiving game. 

I’m still hoping head coach Jim Schwartz and the Lions organization will suspend Suh for an additional game to send a message on behalf of the team (not the league)  that his reckless and illegal on-field behavior won’t be tolerated.  I won’t hold my breath though.  

Under normal circumstances, who outside of Colorado or Minnesota would want to watch Sunday’s Broncos vs. Vikings game?  Who would want to see a two-win team without its star running back and a rookie QB take on a middle-of-the-road team that has let go of Jay Cutler, Tony Scheffler, Peyton Hillis, Brandon Marshall and Brandon Llyod in the last few years?

According to my twitter feed, EVERYONE was watching the Broncos/Vikings game on Sunday, myself included.

Just like he has over the last several weeks, the Broncos controversial quarterback entertained, thus watching the Tim Tebow Show today made NFL Sunday Ticket worth the money. 

To briefly recap, Tebow and the Broncos dug themselves another first half hole yet managed to claw their way out of it in the second half resulting in a 35-32 victory over the Vikings via a game-winning field goal. 

Here are a few essential facts when examining the Tim Tebow Experiment:

-The Broncos are 6-1 this season with Tebow as their starting QB.  Denver was 1-4 with Kyle Orton starting under center.

-Tebow led fourth quarter comebacks in five of his ten career starts.

-The Broncos have won five straight games and are now tied with the Oakland Raiders atop the AFC West with a 7-5 record, also tying Denver with the Cincinnati Bengals for the AFC wild-card.  The Broncos own the tiebreakers against both teams.

As Tebow himself might say, this is a blessing.  People love Tebow because of his winning ways as a Florida Gator while others hate him because they say he can’t throw.  Many adore him because he wears his religion on his sleeve (and jersey and everywhere else) while others resent him for the exact same reason. 

This is the best kind of “controversy” any professional sports league could ask for.  It’s not about players being arrested for DUI or assault, or being suspended, or coaches driving naked through the Wendy’s drive-thru.  It’s not about the referees blowing calls, or the lack of instant replay wrongly deciding a game. 

It’s about a high profile college player who is now a “non-traditional” quarterback in the NFL.  It’s about a player who millions of fans can flock to while simultaneously compelling the non-believers to watch him, in hopes seeing their criticisms justified.  Love him or hate him, football fans can’t take their eyes off Tim Tebow. 

"I’m enjoying this guy play football, win games, and i’m watching him improve," said former head coach and current analyst Steve Mariucci on the NFL Network’s program NFL GameDay Highlights.  “The things we criticized him for early, that he cant throw foam the pocket, he’s doing that more often now in games, from the pocket.  Mike McCoy is doing a great job as his offensive coordinator calling plays and bringing him along as a professional quarterback.  I’m having a ball watching him.”

That comment is coming from  guy who is admittedly in love with Brett Favre, the ultimate quarterback’s quarterback, a future hall of famer.  The truth is that Mooch is right.  Check out this table I saw on ESPN.com which tracks Tebow’s progress through the air during Denver’s five-game winning streak:

Of course, every Broncos victory was a total team effort with the defense bailing Tebow and the offense out plenty of times.  But the fact that Tebow has only one interception in seven starts this season is remarkable, especially considering the hoopla over his passing ability, or lack thereof. 

"The dude lit us up. I guess we didn’t let him run, so that’s a plus," said Vikings defensive end Jared Allen after the game.  "I would have bet my paycheck he would not have beat us passing the ball. Hats off to him. … Kudos, I guess."  Good thing players betting on games is illegal. :)

The telecast showed Allen and Tebow chatting on the field in the final minute of the game as an injured player was being tended to.  The exchange seemed friendly and lighthearted.  I wonder if Allen gave Tebow props right then and there.  After completing 10 of 15 passes for 202 yards and a career-high passer rating of 149.3, it is time to give credit where credit is due.

Deion Sanders did just that on NFL GameDay Highlights.  “We need to stop measuring him in normal terms, because he’s a winner.  Lets just measure him in that aspect… John Elway has a real problem on his hands,” Sanders said. 

Baby steps Elway, baby steps.  Based on his improvements each week, it would be unfair to write off Tebow as the future of your franchise just yet.  Yes, John Fox has incorporated a college-like spread offense with options up the wazoo, but Tebow’s arm and accuracy are still managing to get better within that system.  Who knew?

Could I do without Tebow’s obligatory Jesus shout out after every win?  Yes.  Would more than ten complete passes make a game more enjoyable to watch in it’s entirety?  Certainly.  But the uncertainty surrounding an underdog and all around genuine guy makes Tim Tebow the most intriguing storyline of the year and Broncos games must-watch for casual and die-hard fans alike. 


For a good game recap from the Denver Post, click here:  http://www.denverpost.com/broncos/ci_19469264

As a football fan, it would be hard not to appreciate the talent and tenacity of Ndamukong Suh.  While the the Detroit Lions defensive tackle plays the game with skill and heart, his apparent disregard of the game’s rules has called his intentions and character into question.  New York Jets guard Matt Slauson has seen enough of his former college teammate to form an educated opinion, and sadly, the portrait he paints of Suh isn’t pretty. 

I have defended Suh, wanting so desperately to love him as a player, but his sad Thanksgiving day display was the last straw for me.  Suh, in his second NFL season was ejected from the game in the third quarter after slamming Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith’s head into the ground before stomping him with his right foot. 

I tweeted that Suh has become out of control, thus indefensible and that he might want to consider therapy to get his emotions and anger in check.  I took some criticism from the twitter world for that one, but I explained to the doubters that while yes, football is a physical sport, the violence falls within the structure of the game.  It is not a free-for-all, nor a boxing ring or octagon. 

Apparently Slauson agrees with me, telling the New York Post that he wonders if Suh needs medical help.  “Somebody needs to get him under control, because he’s trying to hurt people,” Slauson told the Post.  “It’s one thing to be an incredibly physical player and a tenacious player, but it’s another thing to set out to end that guy’s career.”

Not including the Thanksgiving game incident, Suh has already been fined more than $42k for his unsportsmanlike play in his young NFL career and also met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss his style of play.

According to the Post’s exclusive interview, Slauson said, “I have no idea what the league can do, because apparently what they’re doing now isn’t working.  I don’t know what’s going on with him, but something isn’t right. I mean, they’ve fined him out the butt, but he still doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong. I don’t know what they’re going to have to do, but something has to be done.”

Something must be done.  I expect the NFL to fine and suspend Suh, but clearly he hasn’t shown much respect for the league’s rules and penalties.  I think the only way he’ll get the message is if the Lions organization and head coach Jim Schwartz hand Suh an additional suspension.  The problem is, the team hasn’t exactly condemned Suh’s behavior, at least not publicly, so I’m not sure they truly want him to change his behavior.

Slauson told the Post that while Suh was respected by his college teammates at Nebraska for his play on the field, he was not well-liked on a personal level.  

Hopefully this latest incident will serve as the last straw for the Lions’ before Suh really hurts someone.  Sadly, I won’t hold my breath. 

For more of Slauson’s comments, which there are plenty of, I highly recommend reading the Post’s article here:  http://www.nypost.com/p/sports/jets/jets_slauson_suh_is_out_of_control_hZS50vtS1Ti4VvUGhd44pN#ixzz1elWAY8fX