AB Ain’t Done Just Yet
In the wake of Antonio Brown being released by the New England Patriots, major voices in the sports media landscape have come forth and implied that the sun has set on AB’s NFL career altogether. Former NFL insiders, Rex Ryan and Dan Orlovsky have alluded to his release from the usually indifferent Patriots, as something of a kiss of death for the enigmatic wideout. The always fun, Stephen A. Smith, cited even if a team was willing to extend the proverbial olive branch, Brown would just smack it away because of his own vendetta against the league at this point. Basically, a lot of people really do believe that we have watched the last game of AB in the NFL.
But truth be told, I’m not quite convinced that this media spectacle is over, and more importantly, I don’t think that this NFL-hiatus will be incredibly long lived. I’m okay with AB living out his “Almost Famous” moment at college. I’m sure frat boys at CMU will be more than delighted to share answers with their eldest classmate, in exchange for the chance to tell people that they’re friends. And who knows maybe come Spring time, Brown will be the heir to He Hate Me’s XFL throne?
One thing is for sure though, because of his daily twitter feuds with Eric Weddle and Baker Mayfield, AB still very much has his attention fixated on the NFL. He’s still a top tier talent, as evidenced by his big stat line in his only game for New England; and whether it be in the coming weeks, or next summer, somebody is going to roll the dice on Antonio Brown again…and he won’t say no.
Baseball’s 4 x 100
It seems like only yesteryear that the sports world was a buzz, as for the first time in the 115 year history of Major League Baseball, three teams in the American League reached the 100-win milestone in the same season…and that’s because it was. It was literally a year ago that the Red Sox, Astros, and Yankees all amassed 100-win campaigns while playing in the same league (most impressively, the Yanks and Sox doing it in the exact same division). So it’s understandable that when 365 days later we’re celebrating a new milestone with four teams winning 100 games, the Astros & Yanks now being joined by the Dodgers & Twins, some questions have to be raised.
At the root of the phenomenon, something has to be different in the way the game is played. It’s kind of unrealistic to assume that all is the same when in consecutive seasons we’re seeing historic win totals at the top of the league. You can point to a spoil of riches for baseball’s elite squads and say that it’s no doubt the hoarding of talent that’s upsetting competitive balance in the league and I’d be inclined to agree with you…if it wasn’t for the fact that it has always existed. The Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers aren’t new to the pay-to-win mantra by any means whatsoever. They’ve been dishing out big money contracts to other teams’ superstars for longer than most of us have been alive. And homegrown dynasties like the Astros and Twins have been long documented in the majors. They don’t necessarily have the budget to keep pace with the spending of the others, but they’ve built an impressive young core through the minor leagues that they can win with for nearly a decade, until one of those payroll giants steal them away.
So if the top of the league has always been there, then we have to look at the difference in the rest of baseball to identify what has changed. And when we look to the bottom of the standings we see a much less appealing historical figure. A record 14 teams, nearly half of the league, could not amass at least 80 wins on the year. And more atrociously, baseball saw three 100 game losers for the first time this century. Teams going above and beyond to win is not a new idea, but tanking absolutely is. This idea that by crippling your team in the short term, you’re assembling a bevy of premier prospects and top tier draft assets, you can turn into a homegrown title contender down the line. It isn’t a great thing for the game when you have more teams actively trying to lose games than win them in a given year. The NBA and NFL have already been afflicted by this mindset and have employed counter measures to try and dissuade teams from following down this road. It’s high time that baseball stops championing the success of a select few, and instead addresses the failures of the rest of the league with the same level of importance.
The Burfict Effect
Sundays have been a long standing day of excitement and happiness in the world of professional sports. As contentious and flawed as the NFL might be, damn it do they know how to capture our imaginations and attention span on a day otherwise reserved for tidying up the house after a weekend-bender or relaxation in preparation for returning to that job you hate on Monday morning. There’s something about seeing the worlds premier athletes running full tilt into one another with a surprising blend of ferocity and finesse. Poll a million football fans and I guarantee you that they all get a sick kick out of monster hits just as much as they do when their team breaks the plane of the end zone. It’s an awful thing to root for considering that we’re now all too aware of the consequences, but we do it anyways. Except when Vontaze Burfict does it…
For those of you unfamiliar with the game or perhaps the names of its non-superstar talent, Vontaze Burfict is someone who has become an all too frequent, and incredibly uncomfortable topic of conversation. You can literally go on YouTube right now and watch a highlight reel comprised of his illegal hits. It appears as though he approaches each potential tackle as an opportunity to permanently maim and dismember his opposition. Through eight NFL seasons so far, Burfict has amassed a grand total of $4 million in fines for his aggressive hits. For reference, that’s about 13% of his career earnings to date, that he has had to pay back to the NFL for helmet-to-helmet blows, Kurt Angle-esque ankle locks and other detrimental conduct.
Clearly money hasn’t been the appropriate incentive for Burfict, as on Sunday afternoon, the football world watched him commit another heinous act on the field. This time, lowering the crown of his helmet and aiming for the temple of an already downed Indianapolis Colts Tight End. Luckily, the Colts’ player will be fine. For their part, the in-game officials took immediate action in ejecting Burfict from the game. To which he responded, by laughing and smiling on his way out of the building. The Oakland Raiders, Burfict’s new team (spent his first seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals), suspended him indefinitely this morning, which was followed up immediately by the league stepping in to ban him for the season. They’re tentatively claiming that this suspension will serve as something of a final deterrent, with another instance resulting in permanent explosion from the NFL. But sadly I think it’s far too late for a “last chance”. Burfict has proven time and again that no slap on the wrist that the league issues is enough of a deterrent, and he will undoubtedly strike again once permitted back on the field. To quote Michael Strahan on the matter: “He has no respect for other players, his team, or himself.”
If that isn’t an indictment worthy of permanent removal from football, then I don’t know what is at this point. The NFL needs to put their foot down with Vontaze Burfict, and any other players who might be so motivated to tarnish the game.