Notes from the Commish- Week 2

So my annual Parental Interruption of the Sunday Football Ritual happened early this year. And it was less devastating than normal. Rather than having to shepherd my parents around the Twin Cities (and continually attempting to convince them it’s NOT a den of iniquity) I only had to drive them to the airport. They’re visiting my older brother, Kevin, in the Bay Area and just needed me to escort them through the heathen masses until they were safely on their flight. I was able to get to Carol’s place by the middle of the afternoon. This was just in time to see Mike already incredibly trashed and bitter toward his team (he’s in mid-season form). Meantime, Carol kept staring at her laptop and surreptitiously giving me the finger (yes, we were playing each other this week.) And Lars was trying to get a decent explanation as to why he couldn’t bring a live chicken to grill at next week’s gathering. (A decent explanation that means something to Lars, not to your average sane person.)

Seriously, why would I EVER want to miss this?

All right, let’s see what we found…

AWARDS FROM THE COMMISH

FANTASY OWNER OF THE WEEK: Jack

Based on a brief Facebook conversation I had with Jack earlier this week, I know he was dithering about his lineup. On the one hand, it was looking more and more like Sam Bradford was going to sit out the Vikes game against Pittsburgh. That was enough to make him leery about starting Stefon Diggs. On the other hand, Jack’s the biggest Vikings homer in six counties. He considered pulling Michael Crabtree and keeping Diggs in the lineup. Eventually, he gave into his better fantasy instincts, sitting Diggs in favor of Emmanuel Sanders and leaving Crabtree in the lineup. It was the equivalent of going to Vegas and throwing sevens until security beats your ass and throws you out of the casino. The combined efforts of Sanders, Crabtree and Todd Gurley (another guy Jack was considering benching) made him the week’s high-scorer. I know we shouldn’t necessarily celebrate common sense, but these days, it’s like discovering Einstein’s Theory of Relativity on the crapper.

TREND OF THE WEEK: Everything you know is wrong

Or as it’s more commonly known: week 2 of the NFL season. It happens every fall and NEVER fails to amuse me. The fans and pundits are quick to draw conclusions after week 1 and then watch all of those conclusions collapse like they were built by my idiot uncle Gordie. To whit:

  • The Green Bay Packers will roll to the NFC title and capture the Super Bowl in the stadium of their hated rivals, the Minnesota Vikings. (Well, that may still happen, but after the way they were manhandled in Atlanta, it’s hardly a foregone conclusion. Given that they’ve lost three straight in Atlanta, the Pack better hope they get home field advantage in the playoffs.)
  • The only team that could challenge them are the Dallas Cowboys. (Not based on that performance in Denver, they’re not. The Cowboys got punched in the teeth in all facets of the game.)
  • Tom Brady is done, finished, stick a fork in him. The dynasty is dead. (Brady came back with a 30-39, 447 yd, 3 TD performance against the Saints. Yes, the questions about Brady are legit; he’s 40 and looked very un-Brady-like in week 1. But he ain’t dead yet.)
  • The Giants’ offense is terrible without Odell Beckham Jr. (This was completely unfair. The Giants’ offense is terrible WITH Odell Beckham Jr. Granted, OBJ was at half-speed this week, but the decision to elevate former offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to the head coach’s job is starting to look short-sighted. His offense is predictable and Eli Manning’s play has been substandard. Somewhere, Tom Coughlin is mustering the closest thing he’s got to a good chuckle.)
  • T.J. might be a force to be reckoned with in our fantasy league this year. (I think we did the same thing last year. I give T.J. props in week 1, talking about what he might accomplish this season. And then he gets his ass kicked in week 2, making me wonder why I bothered to believe in the first place. You got me again, T.J. You got me again.)

INSTANT KARMA AWARD: Carol

Every season, I get a lot of mileage (and frustration, gray hair, hemorrhoids, what have you) out of the way Carol ALWAYS seems to win because the Fantasy Gods keep her one step ahead of her opponent. If Carol gets 32 points, you can bank on her opponent getting 30. If the opponent gets 70, Carol will somehow get 75. It never fails.

This week, Carol’s total of 56 points was enough to beat all but two of the teams in the league. Unfortunately for her, she was playing one of those two teams. The fact it was me defeating Carol might have added some oomph to it. Possibly. I can neither confirm nor deny. Mainly because Carol knows where I live.

 

ASSCLOWN OF THE WEEK: Ezekiel Elliott

Elliott, who loves to do that obnoxious “keep feeding me” gesture whenever he gains as much as four yards, apparently regurgitates when asked to do any real work. In Denver this past week, Elliott was just a few yards away from Broncos DB Chris Harris when Harris intercepted a pass from Cowboys QB Dak Prescott. Elliott pulled a “hey, is that my cell phone going off?” and didn’t move one muscle to pursue Harris. It was a STUNNING lack of effort that only Cowboys’ Owner/GM/Enabler-in-Chief Jerry Jones could defend. (And he did. Way to back up your coach there, partner.) While I vigorously defended both Elliott and Jones in last week’s Notes (and will continue to do so because of the NFL’s INCREDIBLY flawed disciplinary process) this might give you an idea why I had to hold my nose to do so.

INSIGHT INTO HOW THE NFL OPERATES:  Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell

As the saying goes, two things you never want to see made: laws and sausages. This week, I think we could add A Day in the Life of the NFL to that mix. Reports have spread that Jerry Jones is holding up the finalizing of a new contract for Commissioner Roger Goodell. While there are no shortage of good reasons not to extend Goodell’s contract (you may have noticed my willingness to enumerate a few) Jones’ objections seem to boil down to: “I’m not paying this guy to screw me over!” Adding to the fun are reports that Jones isn’t even a member of the Compensation Committee that’s in charge of negotiating the contract. Jerry just shows up and acts like a member of the committee. And apparently, the owners are okay with it. What other organization works like this? Try that next time you’re at work. Just stroll into a meeting you weren’t invited to and tell everyone what to do. If somebody objects, just say, “F**k you, Johnson! Go clean out your desk!” And yet, the NFL lets Jones get away with it. Meantime, Jones is doing the right thing for completely the wrong reasons. Truly screwing up in reverse.

Suddenly, the whole decline-and-fall of the NFL is starting to make sense.

And finally, in honor of Jon Stewart (we still need you, brother) I give you…

YOUR MOMENT OF ZEN: The Curious Case of Jemele Hill

As I’ll be exploring in a future column, it’s very tough to disagree with your friends, or at least people whose opinions you are in complete sympathy with. This becomes doubly difficult when you’re forced to defend people you consider loathsome in the extreme. But here we are.

See, one of the things that tends to get me in trouble (one among many, I grant you, but still…) is a love of fair play that borders on the obsessive. I’m guessing it’s the product of being a middle kid and growing up with the conviction that my parents were screwing  me over in favor of my two brothers. (The fact they totally and completely were only adds to this conviction.) All I ask is that if a rule, law or policy is established, that it is applied consistently and equally to all. That doesn’t seem a lot to ask and yet it seems as rare a leprechaun sighting. I’m frequently left feeling like this…

Jemele Hill, co-host of ESPN’s Sports Center and a long-time columnist for the network’s website, referred to Donald Trump on Twitter as a white supremacist. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders Kennedy Onassis Colby Carrington Perrine Bush, always quick to support Republican doctrine of getting government off our backs, called for Hill to be fired. ESPN took decisive action, saying that Hill’s remarks did not reflect ESPN’s views and then hitting happy hour to grab some of them boneless wings. And that was pretty much the whole controversy right there.

I need to first make clear that I am in complete sympathy with Jemele Hill. I can only go so far in being able to put myself in her shoes, but it’s not hard to imagine an African-American in this country looking at the invective Trump used during the campaign, his willingness to hire advisors with white supremacist ties, his cowardly remarks regarding the racist rally in Charlottesville and his Wealthy Whites First policies in general and draw the conclusion that if Trump isn’t a white supremacist, he’s the next closest thing. So by no means am I going to take umbrage with what Jemele Hill said.

But there’s a clear fault line in ESPN’s handling of social media controversies and the Jemele Hill kerfuffle exposed it. Here’s two examples of what I’m talking about:

  • In 2014, Bill Simmons called Roger Goodell a “liar” on his B.S. Report podcast. ESPN responded by suspending Simmons for three weeks. The controversy torpedoed Simmons’ relationship with ESPN and eventually led to his departure from the network.
  • In 2015, Curt Schilling issued a series of Tweets comparing Muslim jihadists to Nazis. Schilling was suspended for the remainder of the season. In 2016, he was fired after sharing Facebook posts that were anti-transgender.

I know some will not want to draw comparisons between the Hill situation and these examples. The Simmons issue was really of no consequence. Schilling seemed to be going out of his way to be loathsome. But both Schilling and Simmons made it clear that they were expressing personal opinions that were not designed to reflect ESPN corporate policy. Just like Jemele Hill. So why were both Schilling and Simmons suspended and Hill was not?

It’s a good question.

Now, a thing I need to make abundantly clear: MY personal opinion is that Jemele Hill should not have been suspended or fired for her Tweet. She was expressing an opinion–expressing a frustration, really–and was clearly not doing so in her capacity as an employee of ESPN. In that sense, I don’t believe Simmons or Schilling should have been suspended, either. What they did was really no different than what Hill did. But once ESPN established the precedent of suspending someone for expressing a personal opinion in that kind of forum, they should have followed through with it and suspended Jemele Hill as well. Granted, it sucks to empower the people currently occupying the White House by giving them what they want. But fair is fair and consistent is consistent. A rule or policy has to apply EVERYONE, not just the people we disagree with.

After all, isn’t that kind of why this country’s in the state it’s in right now?

LEAGUE STANDINGS

TARGARYEN DIVISION

The Rat Pack (Me)                         1-1

The Dropkick Murphys (Stoner) 1-1

Brian’s Song (Carol)                      1-1

Chuck (Chuck)                                1-1

The Defenders (Mike)                   0-2

STARK DIVISION

Lethal Injection (Jack)                  2-0

Rodgers Blows (Robbie)               1-1

The Electric Mayhem (Hal)          1-1

The Jock Sniffers (T.J.)                   1-1

The People in the Band (Lars)     0-2

 

 

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