Monday, August 1, 2016

Let Them Smoke The Kush

Sorry for the brief hiatus, jags and jagettes. That said, I can assure you that it's for good reason: I'm currently writing a book about hockey that I want to release before the season starts back up, and it's vital that I stay on track despite the goings-on in the world of sports.

Before I go any further, let me say that, yes, I am in fact capable of stringing together enough statements infused with fury and curse words to create such a publication, and that the book will be created as a PDF, so that you can indulge in your Kowalski tirades at home or while on the go.

So what, then, could have stirred such fervor to divert my concerted efforts? Why, the NFL, of course, and its never-ending practices and policies of antiquity and covering its own ass at the expense of the foot soldiers who readily discard their lives for the league's benefit.


But league still trails in understanding irony, realizing years of violent blows to the head make your brain not work


As this article verifies, the NFL pulls in more money annually -- upwards of $9 billion -- than a significant portion of countries around the world. What's more, they do so as a 'non-profit organization' that is therefore granted tax-exempt status. That's right, folks: the NFL is a mom and pop operation that in no way intends to make money and does not have to pay a single friggin' cent to the tax base that it manipulates so regularly to line its pockets with the hard-earned income of fans, alongside the trauma-ravished brain tissue of its direct-impact employees who, as it were, do have to pay taxes.

If I may grant myself some journalistic license -- that's rhetorical, by the way -- the NFL has established itself as a flawless allegory of the underhanded, profit-driven machine of inhumanity and hypocrisy that has infiltrated every sector of American life, from healthcare to education, and against which people of all political, spiritual, and social convictions rally and lobby in their own way, yet are so powerless to stop. It's serves only itself, and yet it is handled with more diligence and care than basic civic needs. Pittsburgh is merely one of many shining examples, as our city was ready to front the bill for Heinz Field, but continues to endure an outdated transportation system, disorganized infrastructure, failing public education offerings, and designation as a city in financial distress as per Act 47 in Pennsylvania. The Steelers, meanwhile, have faced no such financial woes.

These greater seeds of evil and debilitating self-sabotage can be tough to ingest for the loyal base of constituents who nourish the machine with their own ignorance, so let's step back and tackle the original target of my vitriol, the NFL.

Le'Veon Bell, the Steelers running back, is the most recent victim of the league's ridiculous policing of its players. Lest this thought be sent to derail my argument, let me make one thing clear: I don't give two shits that it is a Steelers player in question. I can already foresee it as the final verdict on Bell is passed: every half-witted pundit who gets paid to talk sports in this town will hoist himself -- because our city wouldn't dare honor the opinion of a 'herself' -- upon that pedestal of neutrality and journalistic duty, deriding a majority of the discourse he needs from the general public to keep his job, under the pretense that he comes from another town or can separate himself from the team or whatever pitiful device he can conjure up to obscure the fact that he is doing something that any generally intelligent, somewhat articulate sports enthusiast could do with a little patience and a paycheck. Hell, I do it with no patience and no paycheck.

Moving on, Bell's success on the field has cemented his popularity both locally and nationally, but it hasn't restrained him from making waves in other ways. Namely, Bell was arrested for driving while under the influence in August of 2014 and created a verse in his own rap song more or less demanding that he be paid in the proximity of $15 million a year. But these behaviors are merely fodder that distract the public from a more important point: smoking weed and playing football have nothing to fucking do with one another.

Whoa, simmer down your internal James Carville -- there's plenty more to expand upon here.

Foremost, yes, it is illegal to drive under the influence and Bell fully deserved the consequences for it that ought to have been dictated the set legal precedent for such an offense. Instead, the NFL suspends him from his job because, well, it can.

Furthermore, yes, marijuana can have a profound effect on your job performance, but if you're clearly performing well at your job, then the team shouldn't give a shit about your recreational habits. If you start to suck at your job, then maybe your employer is right to question what you are doing prior to showing up for work.

Most importantly, the NFL has adopted such a stringent policy on marijuana use because, regardless whether league reps will admit it, there is concern that it will reflect poorly on the league and stall the lofty ascent of its multi-billion dollar revenue stream. This particular argument overlooks, yet again, some crucial information: (1) football players are not hired to be role models; (2) marijuana does not begin to match the negative effects of domestic violence or gun violence, yet is punished more strictly; and (3) the NFL is a worse role model than any individual player.

Indeed, some football players are role models: they are highly dedicated to their craft, spend time giving back to the community, and do their best to demonstrate positive lifestyle choices. That said, there are custodians, garbage men, plumbers, accountants, stay-at-home parents, dishwashers, cashiers, and gas station managers, among others, who display commitment to a job, hobby, and family and whose behavior is commendable. The one issue is, of course, these people don't make a ton of money. In this case, NFL owners and league executives operate under the premise that "hey, we pay you a bunch relative to the average population, so 'shape up' or we'll show you," which is a standard derived purely from self-interest than in some dedication to the greater good. Maybe, then, we should consider altering our criteria for role models, or maybe just do a little less worshiping of professional athletes, and such a problem would disappear.

More damning, though, is that the league itself puts in no better performance at enviable behavior:

(1) The league chose to turn its head from obvious evidence in the Ray Rice domestic abuse case, among others. This avoidance of a serious crime is made worse in light of the proliferation of mandated reporting laws, where health care employees -- you know, who often work in real non-profit organizations -- are obliged to report any suspected abuse of individuals in their care.

(2) The league gives little to no regard to alcohol abuse, which could prove just as damaging as use of other recreational drugs. Though it stipulates that players who have had problems in the past must adhere to sobriety, alcohol is completely acceptable as long as it falls within limits that don't warrant a player seeking help.

(3) The NFL, via its favorite lackey, Roger Goodell, continues to turn a blind eye to concussion and the long-term impact of head injury. It isn't difficult to grasp: continuous damage to the head leads to irreparable damage to the head. Yet the league keeps dismissing scientific reports, silencing outside criticism, and denying any connection between the two to avoid paying anything to players who have suffered from long-term effects and to ensure the public that everything is just fine in the good ol' wholesome world of professional football.

This screen capture was taken from a NFL-provided feed of a press conference with Roger Goodell. Media outlets were denied access to the original video. Note the fishy characteristics of Goodell's appearance.

Luckily, thanks to the efforts of some online advocacy and hacking groups, the original film was located and disseminated. You can now see Goodell in his true form.

So what's the greater take-away(s) from this tirade? Let's take a look:

(1) The public needs to hold more organizations accountable and be more vigilant for its own cause: that is, we ought not let the NFL and its ownership groups get away with egregious offenses because we find the product entertaining; we can have both. It will require, however, impartiality to the player involved in disciplinary situations and more careful consideration of how we view professional athletes in general.

(2) Stop treating occupation and income as the main indicator of model behaviors and attitudes:  unfortunately, the NFL is beast that we have helped to create and sustain; accordingly, we must reign in our reverence for it. OK, so Uncle Dave might not drive a fancy sports car, run a 40 in 4.2 seconds, and tells that one joke over and over again, but he enjoys his life, enriches the life of those around him, and is a dedicated ice sculptor -- oh and he's never done cocaine off a hooker's ass crack and then beat her mercilessly with a table lamp.

(3) Players should be held to the standards of everyday humanity: you know somebody who smokes weed or, knowing my readership, you're smoking a bowl right now. Professional athletes are no worse for it than anyone else, so let's judge them for the behavior they display no matter their toxicity report, not for eating a pot brownie and falling asleep while watching re-runs of Rocko's Modern Life a few days before a drug test.

(4) Separate the heads from the beast: simply put, if a team doesn't want individual's of a certain moral character on their team, then perhaps they should be in charge of deciding what is worthy of dismissal and suspension, not the league. It would be ideal for things to work themselves out that teams with an absurd 'morality clause' will be missing out on good players and possibly good people as well, whereas teams with too loose standards will be harassed by their fan base not to support convicted abusers and the like. Of course, they could also be Cowboys fans and not care if he orchestrated a terrorist strike on their own household as long as he wins them a Super Bowl.

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