The Sneezing Opossum
This is not the column I intended to write. I planned to write about the Minnesota Vikings and their optimistic prospects for this season. I would cover all the bases with paragraphs like:
The biggest problem the Vikings had last season was (Christian Ponder/A defense that led the league in giving up points), but now we have a (solid veteran/great looking rookie) quarterback in (Matt Cassel/Terry Bridgewater) and a revamped defense with (a stronger secondary/ Christian Ponder on the bench).
At some point, I would have extolled the virtue of having a great running back like Adrian Peterson, because he is—as I said—a great running back.
The optimism after the 4-0 pre-season was nothing compared to how fans felt after the first game, when Minnesota destroyed the Rams 34-6 in St. Louis.
Then the Ray Rice story exploded.
And then it went nuclear.
Every day there was something about the story, or about the media coverage, to rant and rave about.
The video of what happened inside that elevator was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. Turns out Rice did not hit his future wife as many times as I had assumed. But, then, I tend to assume the worst.
For me, the low point in the media coverage was when somebody (not named) at the Associated Press, cited a law enforcement official (not named) who said the video of what happened in the elevator was sent to an official (not named) in the NFL Office.
I do not know if this accusation is true, but that kind of documentation is worthless, allowing the talking heads on television to solemnly ask, “What did the Commissioner know and when did he know it?”
I have over 100 students in class, and none of them recognized that phrase as heralding back to Watergate. But most of them have heard of Watergate and almost all of them can spell Watergate, so there is that.
Watergate is the Holy Grail of Journalism. Woodward and Bernstein brought down the President of the United States. Now commentators and reporters are salivating to mount NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s head on the wall and, like Nixon, he is going out of his way to make it easy for them.
Then came the news that Adrian Peterson was indicted by a Texas grand jury on a charge of “reckless or negligent injury to a child.” I immediately knew I would not be wearing my #28 Vikings jersey to the home opener or cheering him if he played.
Picking a jersey number is not easy. Rookies end up not making it. Veteran players become free agents and leave. And it would be weird to have our own names on a Vikings jersey. But we figured Adrian Peterson jerseys would be good forever...
The photographs of his four-year-old son’s legs were horrible, and that is what most people are focusing on, but the words that kid told the police were at least as bad.
After Peterson made his initial statement, I was sad that he had absolutely no idea what he did was wrong. Not just using a switch to discipline a child, but to do it to a four-year-old, on bare skin, that many times.
The feeding frenzy progressed exponentially.
When the Vikings played the Patriots, it was observed that Peterson has children by different women, the implication being this is not a good thing. No one pointed out the same is true of New England’s quarterback Tom Brady.
Patriots fans were not talking trash, because they have the specter of Aaron Hernandez on their resume, and it would take a real idiot to get into a conversation about which is worse: Child abuse or murder?
For seven minutes of the game, it was fun to be a Vikings fan again. Then Matt Cassell started throwing interceptions, in part because his teammates decided not to catch his passes. The chants for Terry Bridgewater got louder and louder, but I think it would have been a big mistake to throw in a rookie quarterback on defense against the Patriots.
Black humor was a big part of being a Vikings fan long before Peterson’s arrest.
A dozen U.S. senators, most of whom are up for reelection in November, signed a letter to the NFL demanding a zero tolerance policy towards domestic violence. Does the Senate have such a policy? Of course not. Are they going to impeach Federal Judge Mark Fuller, who beat up his wife? Of course not.
Everybody knows, “Those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.” But history repeats itself whether you are paying attention or not.
Ray Rice. Adrian Peterson. Greg Hardy. Jonathan Dwyer. A league where the future is going to rely on the likes of Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston?
History repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce, and professional football is so far into farce that’s now what the “F” stands for in “NFL.”
My question to Goodell and the NFL would be: If you wanted to look like stupid idiots in handling this mess, then what would you have done differently?