The Bloodied NFL Shield

The season hasn’t exactly gotten off to a roaring start for the National Football League. With the release of the infamous Ray Rice elevator video, questions about whether the NFL properly investigated the Rice incident and treated other domestic violence incidents with the seriousness, concern and respect they deserve, and more recently the disclosures about Adrian Peterson’s treatment of his son, the NFL has been battered by bad news.

And now the unthinkable has happened: advertisers like McDonald’s, Anheuser-Busch, and Visa, that previously lined up and paid through the nose to associate themselves with the NFL’s familiar red, white, and blue shield logo, are expressing concern about the League. Nothing is more certain to get the attention of the marketing-driven, multimillionaire NFL owners than the possible loss of ad revenue.

It’s got to be a shock to the NFL, which for years has enjoyed bulletproof status as the most popular sport in America, with a Commissioner ranked as the most powerful figure in sports. Maybe the NFL had a bit of hubris about its position in American society, or maybe it figured that the advertisers, fans, and Super Bowl viewers who love to watch huge men crashing into each other with bone-jarring violence on Sunday afternoon wouldn’t be too troubled by if some of those huge men occasionally engaged in a little domestic violence on the side.

This time, the NFL figured wrong. For every fan who wears a Ray Rice jersey as a sign of support for a guy who cold-cocked his now-wife in a casino, there are countless others, male and female, who are starting to wonder: who are these guys, really? And, more troubling, what has the NFL done to shield them from the consequences of their actions?

Who’da Thunk It?

I ripped the Browns and their management earlier this week when they traded Trent Richardson, accusing them of giving up on the season and disrespecting their diehard fans.  So it’s only fitting that the Browns somehow figured out a way to score 31 points today and beat the Minnesota Vikings on the road, 31-27.

IMG_4861Let’s not kid ourselves — Minnesota isn’t very good, and the Browns aren’t either.  But I am amazed that this Browns team could figure out a way to score 31 points against any NFL team.  Of course, they frittered away lots of opportunities and had incredibly ill-timed turnovers, but this was the first time a lot of these guys had ever played together.  How in the world did they manage to gain more than 400 yards on offense and win on the road?

This week Browns fans everywhere will be tantalized.  Brian Hoyer looked a lot more comfortable in this offense than Brandon Weeden — could Hoyer and his quick release be legitimate?  The Browns D held Adrian Peterson below 100 yards, forced a fumble from him, and recorded six sacks.  Could the defense actually keep the Browns in games this year?

That’s the maddening thing about the Browns that only charter members of the Browns Backers can fully appreciate.  They usually don’t just stink up the joint — they always manage to raise your hopes before crushing them with an embarrassing loss or an impossibly inept play, and you look back on seasons and see countless losses that could have been wins and wonder about what might have been.  With today’s win, that process will start all over again.  Browns fans everywhere will see their hopes raised — at least until next week.