The Scariest Three Words in Sports Debate… What if N.F.L. Stood for No Football League?

August 9, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

Imagine you live in Phoenix. You just read a news release that a fan favorite from the Boston Red Sox was being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. Are you concerned?

Or imagine that you live in Kansas City, and you just found out that the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has announced he is relocating the team to Los Angeles. Does that affect you at all?

The answer to those questions is No. While the people in Boston or Tampa Bay may perceive the above headlines as being bad or even scary news, folks everywhere else simply perceive them as news.

Now, imagine it’s a bright Sunday morning in September. You can be anywhere in this great nation of ours – Spokane, Oklahoma City, or Tallahassee. Maybe you are returning home from church. Maybe you are just waking up from a long night of partying. No matter what led you to this point in time, you only have one thing on your mind right now. You are looking forward to plopping down on the sofa, filling up a plate or bowl full of junk food, and turning on the TV to enjoy a relaxing afternoon, as NFL games should be getting set to kick off any minute.

But instead of being bombarded by the cackling madness of Howie, Terry, and the rest of the NFL pre-game show when you flip on Fox, you are greeted instead by a conversation between Hawkeye, Radar, Hot Lips, and Klinger in a military hospital tent from a M*A*S*H rerun.

“That’s okay,” you figure. “The NFC game must be blacked out locally, so I’ll just flip over to CBS and catch the AFC game of the week.” Once you flip to CBS you are met with Sam, Woody, Cliff, Norm, and the rest of the Cheers gang all sitting around the bar on another Boston afternoon circa 1987.

Where’s the football?!

And it is precisely at that point that you remember having heard the worst three words that could possibly uttered in sports, and your heart breaks all over again.

NFL. Player. Lockout.

Out of all the possible three-word combinations that could be used, from “You’ve been traded” to “Career ending injury,” only an NFL player lockout carries implications grand enough to affect the entire sports world in America.

For many years running, the NFL has been far and away the most popular sport in the United States. The thriving popularity and success of Fantasy Football serves as testament, as fantasy football alone has grown into a $1B industry. The simple fact is that people LOVE the NFL.

Ticket prices are rising, the economy is slumping, and attendance figures are still rising every season. The Dallas Cowboys just built a $1B stadium, where suite owners have to cough up as much as $90 just to by a pizza, and still people flock to the NFL.

The NFL has become the single most entertaining sport in America. It provides us with drama, excitement, with just a dash of danger for flavor. It evokes the most passion in us, and even though the season is played out over only 17 Sundays each year, it manages to consume nearly 12 months of conversation.

But with the impending expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the prospective lack of any hope for a new CBA on the immediate horizon, there is a painful, all-too-real possibility that we could not have an NFL season next year.

Just think about that for a moment.

Scary.

Last night, I (and millions of my football loving brethren) enjoyed watching the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Dallas Cowboys in the inaugural pre-season game for the 2010 season. I am also getting ready for not one, but TWO, fantasy football drafts. Imagine if that wasn’t going to happen.

I can take Brett Favre’s retirement, and I will be just fine if another Major League baseball slugger is found to have used Performance Enhancing Drugs.

PLEASE don’t take away my football!

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The Scariest Three Words in Sports Debate… The Doctor Is In

August 9, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Bleacher Fan.

As a sports fan, I’ve come to recognize trends in athletics and what certain innuendos mean. There are three little words in sports lingo that just scare the jeepers out of me. I usually know it’s not a good thing when these three words are brought into any conversation, relayed on any news reports, or uttered from the mouths of coaches, managers and players. Those three words are Doctor James Andrews.”

Dr. Andrews is an orthopedic surgeon who practices in Birmingham, Alabama at the Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthropaedic Center (call and you might actually be able to schedule an appointment, as only about 25 percent of his surgeries are done on athletes.). He’s one of the most recognizable “name” doctors in the known world. But to many professional athletes, he’s their personal doctor. To fans of those athletes, he’s a scary name. Usually if someone is associated with Dr. James Andrews, something is wrong. That problematic something, whether it is knee, shoulder, or elbow, is going to get fixed. But if it is serious enough for Andrews to look at, then it is pretty serious.

If there’s someone else who has a bigger list of names associated with him, I want to see it. Can you imagine what the contact list on his cell phone looks like? He must have some kind of referral rate! Just take a look at all the names he has been associated with, either through surgery or consultation, over the years: Troy Aikman, Drew Brees, John Smoltz, Jack Nicklaus, Roger Clemens, Michael Jordan, and more recently, Brett Favre. These are all Hall of Fame caliber players, and there are countless others. Smoltz has repeatedly said on local Atlanta Braves telecasts that Andrews single-handedly saved his career and made his off the field life more enjoyable. Back in 2000 Smoltz was having serious elbow pains. Just four years removed from a Cy Young award, he thought his career may be over and he thought the things he took for granted, such as playing with his kids and swinging a golf club, would be severely limited. But in swooped Andrews to perform Tommy John surgery and two years later, Smoltz was an All-Star closer.

Andrews is in the news this week, and Minnesota Vikings fans are praying that he has some good news for a certain someone. Brett Favre had his ankle surgically repaired by Andrews back in May and is set to consult with him later this week about the ankle. If Favre gets good news and assurance from Andrews, then it’s a good bet that #4 will be suiting up for the Vikings again. Just when you thought that career was put to rest, huh? Admit it… you never thought Favre was going to retire anyway!

Just last week I was at Turner Field watching the Braves take on the Mets. During the game, Braves pitcher Kris Medlen began experiencing pain in his elbow and had to leave his start early. Before the broadcasters even said it, the good doctor’s name entered my mind and I immediately cringed, both as a fan and for the player. It’s amazing how one name can be associated with so many athletes and so many professional teams. Sure enough, an MRI showed Medlen had a partial tear in his UCL, which will likely eventually lead to Tommy John surgery. Any guesses who is going to perform that surgery? Kris, meet Dr. James Andrews.

“Dr. James Andrews” is definitely a scary phrase to hear, especially if it relates to a player for one of your teams. On one end, fans feel fairly confident that Andrews will fix whatever ails the athlete. But, if it’s serious enough for Andrews to look at and possibly fix, then chances are that athlete is going to miss a lot of time on the field. That’s what’s scary!

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The Scariest Three Words in Sports Debate… You’ve Been Traded

August 9, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer.

The three scariest words in sports are undoubtedly, “You’ve been traded.”


Yes, I realize that’s more like two words and a contraction, but you get my point. The simple utterance of this phrase has the ability to make or break an entire career. A trade can mean the difference between playing for the Los Angeles Lakers or the Utah Jazz, the New England Patriots or the Detroit Lions, the New York Yankees or the Kansas City Royals.

Every season in every professional sport trades are made, many of them advantageous to the players involved. But that is not always the case. Sometimes up and coming stars are relegated to obscurity. As a lifelong Yankees fan I have watched this happen to plenty of young guys in the farm system. Obviously not every prospect is going to make it, but an untimely trade to the wrong team can be disastrous. A player’s future can be derailed because a new team uses them ineffectively or at the wrong position. Or maybe the new team simply overworks a young star so much that their body breaks down.

Obviously trades can be beneficial. But, they also have the infamous ability to marginalize burgeoning stars and established veterans alike. Nomar Garciaparra is a case study. Nomar was Boston’s answer to Derek Jeter. He was a Red Sox Nation fan favorite if there ever was one. He was a rookie sensation that blossomed into one of the fiercest hitters in the league. He was respected and liked by his teammates. But his career took a dramatic turn for the worse because of a trade.

Once the face of the Boston Red Sox, Nomar’s entire legacy was undermined by a 2004 trade to the Chicago Cubs. He was dealt at the trade deadline in one of the most pivotal seasons in Red Sox history, the year the ended the 86 year drought and finally won another World Series. It was a campaign for the Red Sox that meant so much more to Boston than just winning the most coveted prize in baseball, it was a rebirth. The team finally won, but more importantly, they vanquished the New York Yankees to get there. It must have been an indescribable feeling for the Red Sox, one Nomar Garciaparra would never fully know.

Nomar continued to play, but both his skills and his star power seemed to diminish rapidly. His power numbers fell first, followed by his batting average, health, and, ultimately, playing time. He ended his career less auspiciously than it began, playing in a limited role for the Oakland Athletics. Nomar went from one of the most recognizable faces in baseball to Mr. Mia Ham. His fall from greatness was swift and painful to watch, and it was triggered by a trade.

No one is safe, no matter how iconic they appear to be or how much the media likes them. Donovan McNabb is proof. While he had a wild ride and somewhat of a love-hate relationship with Philadelphia since he was greeted to boos in the 1999 draft, he also went on to take the Eagles to new heights. With McNabb under center Philly made eight playoff appearances – including four consecutive NFC East championships from 2001-2004, five NFC Championship appearances, and a Super Bowl appearance. You would think those kinds of results would keep him safe from criticism and second guessing, but alas, no. McNabb’s fate was a trade within the division to a much less appealing Washington Redskins team.

Although McNabb figures to use this slight as motivation to succeed, he faces immense obstacles. Thus far he has remained optimistic even comparing his relocation at age 33 to John Elway in Denver, when Elway received a new head coach – and a big change – at age 34. But, as ESPN.com writer Matt Mosley points out, “Elway had Terrell Davis at running back and a stable offensive line,” something McNabb doesn’t bring with him to Washington. In fact, he doesn’t even have the young receiving corps of DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant that he had back in the City of Brotherly Love, meaning this trade could be the abrupt punctuation on an otherwise impressive career.

Modern sports superstars wield considerably more power in controlling a career than those of the past. Since the advent of free agency, these privileged pros have literally gotten to choose the team of their liking on a semi-regular basis. Contemporary stars may even have an entourage of agents and publicists that work to secure even more career control. These players have their own dedicated staff working around the clock trying to place their client in the most lucrative situation possible–with full no trade clause and 4th year option, of course. But even when athletes land in scenarios they deem unfavorable they can still use a variety of tactics, including everything from holdouts to a highly publicized war of words, and try to get what they want. Unfortunately for players, however, this is not the reality for all professional athletes. Some still live and die by trades.

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