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When you awake this morning, I'll be gone.
Damn it, Football. It was a great run. Sometime in 1979, I professed my love for you. After 36 years of love, I need to be true to you and to me. I am no longer in love with you. Let me be more honest. I don't even love you like a good friend. In fact, I really hate your guts. Football, I need you out of my life.
I owe you an explanation. Yes, I've met somebody else. She makes me feel whole, alive, and intellectually stimulated. And though we slowly drifted apart, my love for her surprised me. In fact, I never thought I would ever love somebody like her. And I guess I would have never looked around if you satisfied my wants and needs.
Perhaps I should have shared my feelings earlier, but I'm not sure it would have helped. Let's face facts: You've changed. And I've changed. So instead of muddling through out of some sense of obligation, let's make a clean break. That way we can each pursue our own goals.
I do feel like I owe you a better explanation, though, after all these years. Here's why I'm calling it quits.
1. You've gotten too fat.
When I first met you, you were 28 teams in six divisions - and that made you look so damn sexy, because each week I was with you, each game truly mattered.
Damn, girl, at the end of Week 16 (remember when you didn't take a week off every seaason?), each division race was much closer. That means your sexy ass was shaking all the time.
No longer. It's not so much that you are 32 teams now, but that you are also eight divisions. And your divisions don't shake like they used to. Last year only four of your eight divisions were decided by a game or less. And one of your division winners was 7-8-1. That's pretty ugly, babe.
You really let yourself go.
2. You worry way too much about money.
I know what you are going to say. You are going to say, "Back when we met, we didn't worry about money because we had less money to worry about." And I agree. Back then, there just wasn't as much to spend on players, much less their retirement. That wasn't fair, but that was the world we lived in.
Now, you make exponentially more - and so do the players. Yet, you're still begging on the streets for even more from perfect strangers. You've gotten greedy.
3. We don't agree on how to raise kids.
Should we be raising kids together? I'd feel responsible if our son played your game and injured his head. That will affect him his whole life. Let's face it, our son has a great, persistent attitude. Few, and I mean few grow up to earn NFL money. I'd feel guilty for damage to him, honey. Would you feel guilty?
4. You are a control freak.
You are so damn intent on supporting that 32/8 weight that you limit the amount of money teams can spend so the rich teams don't get that good. Guess what? Maybe you shouldn't be carrying that weight around. Why should I care about Cleveland, St. Louis or Tennessee? They stink almost every year. Why have crap teams around if they stink?
Some teams will never be run like the better teams, but consider this: If you let those crap and mediocre teams spend more, we'd have some real entertainment and drama. I don't want to make this political, but it's a little socialist of you. You have crap teams supported by the masses, you have semi-crap teams making lots of money but unable to spend fully on players, and you have well-run teams competing every year.
When all the teams make money, what is the real incentive to be great? Where is the drama in that? You want to control the money so bad you've turned every season in Groundhog Day.
5. You've become one-dimensional.
When I first met you, all good-to-great teams had something unique about them. Some had a crushing running game. Some had a great defense. Some had a great passing game. You've changed baby; you've changed big time.
Now, success depends on whether your quarterback can pass the ball eight yards down the field to the receiver more often than the opposition. What is the skill in that? Where is the running game? Where is the defense? Oh yeah, you really changed defense. You used to let the defense play defense. Now, they get to be nothing more than a shadow - they can be around the receiver and nothing more. You made offense easier and, consequently, less interesting.
Think about this, baby. We used to be able to definitely measure the skill of a quarterback. You know why? First, most of the time, they were able to overcome rules that benefited the defense. Twenty years ago, just 13 quarterbacks passed for more than 3,000 yards. Some Hall of Fame QBs were barely over 3,000 yards. Why? Some of them had good defenses. Some of them had a running game. Some of them were allowed to spend money to be better.
Last year, 22 quarterbacks passed over 3,000 yards. Yuck. That isn't entertainment. There is no drama seeing Kyle Orton succeed. I didn't wait until noon to see Alex Smith play catch without competition. Crap QBs should have difficulties each week. When you allow the crap QBs to be crap, you truly appreciate the great ones.
When we say the words "Jay Cutler passed for a very respectful 3,812 yards" for a 5-11 team, you should be punched in the throat. (I take that back, baby; I don't want to be all Ray Rice about this.)
6. Your best friend Roger is a douchebag.
Let me count the ways:
- Have a Breast Cancer Awareness Month and fine a player for wearing pink.
- Have a Salute to Service Month honoring our Armed Forces and charge the Armed Forces for the privilege of being saluted.
- Investigate an assault by a high-profile player on his fiancee by not investigating the assault by a high-profile player on his fiancee.
- Settle lawsuits accusing you of ignoring medical research into concussions by not admitting liability for ignoring medical research into concussions.
- Allow 1/32 of the league to be racist because it didn't use to be a bad thing to be racist.
Now, it's natural to wonder, "What does this other league have that I don't have?" Or perhaps you are wondering if I'm leaving you for the NHL. I admit that I flirted with the NHL, as you always suspected, but I was always true to you. And I'm sure you thought. "I'll understand anything but soccer. You've always ridiculed soccer, so it cannot be that."
So let me be blunt. It's soccer.
English Premier League Football, to be exact.
I want to be respectful to you, but I also want you to fully understand how EPL is meeting my needs.
1. She stays in shape all year around.
Twenty teams. No divisions. That is a tight body.
And when I say "all year around," I mean "all year around." The drama unfolds over 36 weeks. With breaks for tournaments and international play, this league is loving me the whole year! Damn!
You might be thinking, "The bigger the boat, the bigger the waves." And you might be right, if I was interested in six weekly "waves" that start with "the hapless [insert crap NFL team] goes against wild-card contender [insert slightly better than mediocre NFL team]." Where is the drama? We have to wait three hours for the answer, yet chances are the story is written by halftime.
With the EPL, every game has a storyline. Why? Not only does she stay trim, she works every year to stay trim like the day I met her. How? She kicks out the three worst teams at the end of every season and promotes three new teams. Each game has drama. Will the crap team steal a point against a better team? Will the better team's manager get sacked after losing to a crap team? Will a win will move a team up three spots and into next year's premier international tournament?
Each match really matters. Let's face it, your drama culminates at the Super Bowl, when the winner is crowned World Champion. For a league of American teams. Even the headline event is soaked in hyperbole.
2. She has a healthy relationship with money.
Each league has a choice. Will money be the sole motivation?
Should we trot out veterans as a marketing partnership or can we honor veterans with a solemn minute of silence or a trumpet ditty?
Should we use pink uniforms as a marketing partnership yet control how a player mourns or can we simply give when the need is there?
Should we send our players off with health problems and little coverage (only bending after the brand was damaged) or make a system that supports players after they play, even at the lower levels?
Sure, baby, I know what you are going to say. The lower revenue EPL teams will never compete against the glory teams. A $30M team is at a distinct disadvantage to the $300M team. Let me ask you something: When did you become a socialist, bleeding heart, tree hugging hippie?
There's much more to team engagement. It's about beating your local rivals in a derby. It's about upsetting a glory team in a tournament, even when your team is a league lower. It's about doing better this year than last year.
Let's face it, baby, after that Cinderella would take the coach home early rather than dance with that NFL prince.
3. She has always something interesting to say.
Who gives a shit about the Cleveland Browns, right? Well, what if the Browns were the fourth-worst team in the NFL and a loss would put them in position to be relegated to a lower league. What if they played a struggling "glory team" and even a tie would increase criticisms of the glory team manager? What if they played a fellow team in the relegation zone, with the loser moving to last place? What if the Browns played a team looking to qualify for a special tournament next year?
The same for Tennessee. Or Detroit. Or Tampa Bay. Or Miami.
Now imagine if somebody could buy a player from your team. Then your team uses the money to buy a player from a different team, perhaps from a different league. WOW! Imagine the surprise.
So what if the top team spends $300M and the bottom team spends $30M? That team better finish in the top four to make next year's Champions League. What does a top four finish earn? Four EPL teams averaged 37M Euros. What? And they played games outside of the EPL? WHAT WHAT? Should their manager rest a couple key players in the first Champions League game on Tuesday because they're playing an EPL rival on Saturday? WHAT WHAT WHAT? Imagine if the EPL leader gets dismantled in the Champions League and suddenly loses confidence. (Head explodes.)
4. I like her friends better than yours.
Baby, let's admit something: You might break your arm patting yourself on the back when talking about your friends. Oh, I know they all like to wave towels and paint their faces, but that's hardly impressive. Your friends know when to yell because you tell them when to yell. How about figuring shit out for themselves?
Granted, soccer friends are not known to be classy, but they are passionate. And it's not as if your friends don't beat up the occasional opposing frenemy too, right?
Sorry for my long note, but I wanted to share as much as possible because I need to distance myself from you so I can grow. Perhaps things will be different someday, years down the road. Perhaps Roger will quit to work for the ambulance-chasing law firm he's right for. Maybe the owners will change. And maybe, just maybe, you and I will reconnect and be friends again.
But I doubt it. It's better that we just be honest and realize it's impossible to teach an old billionaire new tricks.
With fond remembrance,
P.S. No more "Here we go Steelers here we go." It's "Up the Cherries" now.
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