Wednesday, September 10, 2014

NFL Fans Can Show Guts The League Lacks

I watched the extended video of Ray Rice knocking his then fiance out cold, Monday, like most people, disgusted and shocked.  Not that the initial video of him dragging his now wife Janay’s lifeless body from the elevator left much doubt as to what happened, but seeing exactly what did was nauseating.

Ray Rice is a coward.  He likely will never play in the NFL again.  The incident also has left a black eye on the league where he was once one of its promising, young stars.

Commissioner Roger Goodell has proven utter incompetence with his weak, initial two game suspension of Rice and ill pursuit of the full video; and the Ravens organization appears to be equally inept in its lack of due diligence investigating one of its franchise’s best players.

Rice, Goodell, and the Ravens all dropped the ball.  If there was a playbook on exactly how not to handle the situation, each could author a new chapter.

But, as a fan and a man, it doesn't take much guts to say Ray Rice is spineless.  It doesn’t take guts to say Roger Goodell should be fired.   Both are obvious.

Those are just words.  Having guts requires action.

If NFL fans, myself included, are so appalled at how the league responded to a woman being beaten by a man whose body is trained to be weapon then we need to act.

I love football as much as anyone.  Just this weekend, I almost threw a childlike fit in front of my fiancĂ© and soon-to-be sister in law because Chicago traffic was delaying me from seeing the first two minutes of the Michigan State v. Oregon game.  I literally missed two minutes of a 60 minute game and you would have thought I was racing to the hospital to see the birth of my first child.  Nope, just wanted to make sure I heard Gus Johnson call a play action completion for six yards.  Mature.

Sadly, I am not alone in my football obsession.  Weekends in America are centered around kickoffs.  Weekdays are centered on setting fantasy lineups.  The average team is worth $1.43 billion.  The NFL is a monster and it knows its power.

Tweeting and ranting and raving about how bad the NFL and Rice messed up is like a bee stinging an elephant.  It may cause temporary discomfort, but it won’t take long before the elephant is back to normal.

Every NFL fan has a mother, wife, sister, or girlfriend.  A large percentage of fans are women, many of whom I’m sure have been victims of abuse in one way or another.

To really send the NFL a message that fans are disgusted with the league’s outlook on women, specifically domestic violence, the NFL needs to get hit where it hurts - the pockets.

As long as a ratings continue to soar and the money keeps rolling in, Roger Goodell will likely have a job.  He reports to the NFL’s 32 owners and if they can give him a little slap on the wrist, but keep the checks flowing, please believe Goodell isn’t going anywhere.

We need to walk away.  Maybe it’s a week, maybe it’s two, maybe it’s the season, but if NFL fans truly want to express anger toward how the NFL handled the brutal beating of a woman, we need to walk away.

When the league sees ratings, jersey sales, and overall revenue drop, changes will be made and the NFL will have no choice but to listen to its customers.  It will serve as the perfect platform to say 'your organization has a problem with how it views and treats women, here's what you can do to change it.' 

The League has been criticized for not being leaders or proactive in speaking up and acting against domestic violence.

But, fans have a chance to send the loudest message and  respond in a way the NFL hasn’t.     

Walk away from a league whose leadership has proven it doesn't value women.  Not only Ray Rice, but players like T.J Ward, Greg Hardy, Ray McDonald, and Darly Washington have also abused or acted violently toward women and are still on the field while making millions of dollars a year.

Not everyone in the NFL is a misogynist or abuser. In fact, the percentage of those who are is quite minute.  But, after watching the gruesome video and seeing the flaccid response by the league's "leadership" to get to the bottom of what happened and act appropriately, there needs to be a drastic change.

It takes guts to stand up to someone you love.  Love is a hard thing to walk away from.  I love the NFL.  America loves the NFL.

But, the health and well-being of women trumps any game, touchdown, or superstar.

It’s time for fans to show we have the guts the NFL's "leaders" have proven they don't have.

It's time to walk away from the NFL until Roger Goodell is gone and the league proves it cares about not just its on field product, but also what is happening off of it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Purdue: A Spirit Unbroken

My heart sank when I heard of the shooting at Purdue University that took the life of a Boilermaker in another senseless act of violence.

These incidents have become far too common.

Yet, when it hits so close to home, there is a different level of emotion.

Purdue was my home for almost three years.  I worked there as a reporter at WBAA Public Radio.  The shooting occurred within walking distance of my old office.  I have spent countless hours covering stories and events in the Electrical Engineering building where the shooting happened.

That part of campus is legendary.  A statue of one of the world’s greatest icons, Neil Armstrong, sits there.

It’s an area of elite learning, a place where dreams transform into opportunities.  Students who study there leave ready to build the future of this country.

So, to have some monster come in and try to tear down the fabric and peace of the University and a place I used to call home is maddening.  It’s gut wrenching.

But, there is something I learned during my time at Purdue - Boilermakers are a family.  That doesn't mean it’s perfect, but there is a unique sense of unity in West Lafayette that is hard to match.

Gold and Black is worn as a badge of pride.

Generations of Boilermakers wake up at the crack of dawn on Saturday mornings in the fall before football games to honor a tradition of costumes, merriment. 

Go to a basketball game at Mackey Arena. For opposing fans, it is brutal.  You don’t want to mess with a fired up Paint Crew.  It is deafeningly loud.  They want you to know very clearly, this is their house and it is not to be disturbed.

That’s a microcosm of the University and around noon, Tuesday, someone tried to disrupt the house.

Purdue is a place you grow to love.  I have.

I am technically not a Boilermaker.  I didn't attend Purdue, but was embraced by the University and
community through my work at WBAA which is housed in Elliot Hall of Music.

I have amazing friends who still live in West Lafayette.  I met my girlfriend there and have experienced some of the greatest memories of my life on campus.

A cloud may hang over campus temporarily.  The shooting has left Boilermakers, and the nation, with heavy hearts. 

The life lost and the mental and emotional scars can't be replaced and repaired.

But, when you hurt one member of the Purdue family, you hurt them all.  The tragedy will only create a stronger, more united Boilermaker nation. 

You can’t break the Purdue spirit.  You can’t break Purdue’s heart.

Boilermakers can’t be derailed.

Boiler Up, Hammer Down.  Hail Purdue!