Monday, November 9, 2015

Week 9 NFL notes

There is a saying that a picture speaks a thousand words, but does it? We can look at an image and know nothing about what it actually means. I was listening to ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” morning show on Monday, and they devoted 10 minutes to discussing yet again the issue of domestic violence, after the release of photos of the woman who made some lurid accusations against the Cowboys’ Greg Hardy, who denied that he did any of things to her that she described, such as stuffing her head in a toilet bowl and dragging her by the hair. Frankly, while I hate to sound “insensitive,” but the gallery of “injuries” shown on Deadspin’s website are not that “shocking” or “graphic.” Yes, the dark spot under the chin is something that requires explaining, but what is implied to be bruising elsewhere look more like rashes on the woman’s pale skin that everyone has from time to time, that have other explanations. 

Admittedly Nicole Holder’s claims seem tough to make up, especially when the accused is still alive to refute them—as opposed to a spurned woman lying about being physically abused by a dead man after the fact, as is the case of Jodi Arias. However, there are still those pictures, although again Hardy continues to deny that he was responsible; the fact that the woman “settled” for a hefty payout privately from Hardy and could not be found by prosecutors wishing to deny Hardy’s appeal of his original conviction is also unsurprising.

People can make assumptions on those still photographs, because they don’t provide any means to establish an alternate reality. We are to believe only one narrative. That should not have been the case in the Ray Rice incident, since there was a lengthy chronology recorded on video. The problem, of course, is that video or audio evidence (as in the George Zimmerman case) can be doctored to fit a false media-created narrative.. I confess that I am unsentimental about the victim mythology of women, especially after observing the self-entitled place of white women in this society, and the potential for physical aggression by black women (there have been two recent local incidents in which black females felt “entitled” to strike a cop; I also recall the all-female brawl in the Metro tunnel that led to a change in security arrangements). Even the roundhouse right that Janay Robinson was about to deliver to Rice’s face just before he struck her went completely uncommented on.

The judge who ruled in favor of Rice’s appeal of the NFL’s indefinite suspension noted that the alleged victim had not once, but twice had struck Rice with closed fist before the half-millisecond super slow-mo edited video that everyone has been force-fed, which clearly shows her attempting to strike him for a third time. Watching the actual events leading up to the “punch,” it is clear that Rice not only did not initiate the physical altercation, but was clearly responding to her physical aggression. Robinson was also heavily intoxicated as noted by police, so one shouldn’t jump to conclusions about whether she was actually “knocked out” or “involuntarily” succumbing to the effects of her intoxicated state.

Sure, Rice’s action looked bad, but isn’t there some point where a woman must take responsibility for her own actions that lead to an escalation of conflict? The 2011 CDC report on intimate partner violence (which for obvious political reasons avoided using the term “domestic violence”) found that not only did men report being the victim of domestic violence nearly as often as women, but that committed by women had actually began exceeding that of men—no doubt a consequence of the fact that domestic violence committed by women is treated much differently than that of men, and women feel “entitled” to act in a physically aggressive manner, since no one will “blame” them. Of course no one—especially the media—paid any attention to that segment of the CDC report. 

People believe that physical aggression has more to do with “size, when in fact it has more to do with opportunity and temperament; while there are certainly men out there who are “wired” to violence and need to be off the street for everyone’s sake (a UK study I mentioned found that men still hit other men at a far higher rate than they do women), the reality in most cases is that the passive, innocent wallflower cowering in the corner before a wild animal is a myth of the worst kind, because its one-sided nature places all of the onus on the male and requires that female not be responsible for her own behavior at all—thus perpetuating a vicious cycle in which a male is either a helpless victim, or responds and is demonized and criminalized for it. For me, the questions that self-righteous hypocrites must answer is did Robinson’s actions constitute domestic violence (as she was originally charged), and if not, why not? Even if Rice’s own response was “inappropriate,” why is it necessary that we have to avoid examining a woman’s culpability at all costs? No one even allowed Rice’s now wife to take responsibility for her own actions, because it doesn’t fit the victim narrative. 

Not surprisingly, incidents that don’t make CNN are when the female is clearly the perpetrator. Take for example the recent case of Erica Palmer, the ex-girlfriend of Erik Walden, a linebacker for the Colts. Police referred to the incident involving the two as “aggravated assault, family violence aggravated assault, theft by taking and first-degree burglary.” This was “tailor-made” as another anecdote to support the theory that domestic violence is rampant in the NFL (when in fact reported domestic violence by NFL players is at a far lower rate than of the general public). Yet this incident did not make the news. Why not?

The facts were these: Walden’s ex-girlfriend paid a “visit” to his home where he was living with a new “companion.” Palmer—armed with a gun, knife and baseball bat—apparently threatened to shoot both of them. Walden “wrestled” the gun away from her, although before she got away she struck his companion with the bat, breaking her arm. Palmer soon returned, however, to try to finish the job intended. While Walden was in the process of taking his companion to the hospital, Palmer slashed Walden with the knife and ran away again. Police eventually arrested her in a hotel hideaway by tracking her cellphone. 

But what if Walden had acted in the force necessary to stop Palmer’s violent acts, and there was no witness? What would be the story line then?

On a less serious note this week:

Patriots 27 Redskins 10. Nothing out of the ordinary here, so I’ll mention that as the NFL trading deadline of November 4 approached, there was some talk if the Redskins would seek a suitor in the effort to unload the albatross around the team’s neck, Robert Griffin III.  This was unlikely, of course, since regardless of the politics, for no team was so desperate for a quarterback that it would take on a $16 million hit for a quarterback who had fallen to third on the depth chart and was largely an afterthought, with no room on the team for him even to suit up for games this season. RGIII’s days as a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL were already numbered when he tore an ACL in college. In a wide-open “spread” offense where he was only required to go to the first read or run, he just doesn’t have those “intangibles” that one expects from  a quarterback whose reason for being over other players is to accurately place a thrown ball into another player’s hands on a consistent basis. The “new breed” of quarterbacks have managed to fake it so far, but that is because they’ve managed to avoid injury to their main asset—and I’m not talking about their heads.

Panthers 37 Packers 29. We learned two things following this game: The Packers are dysfunctional both offensively and defensively, and at least one person thinks that Cam Newton is a “Hall of Fame” quarterback. In regard to the first point, Packer coach Mike McCarthy—he who has in the past been a questionable commodity as a play-caller and clock manager—made the point offensively in the after game press conference. But the Packers have often seemed schizophrenic offensively for most of the season, as if two different teams showed up to play. Aaron Rodgers certainly hasn’t been consistent, and even his best game empirically—against the Chiefs—was rated poorly by one metric’s measure. On defense, the players did the talking, with Julius Peppers, B.J. Raji and Ha H Clinton-Dix having a spirited “discussion” on the sidelines as Newton and company scored 24 points in the second quarter. After last week’s debacle in Denver, the question was whether that game was a “fluke,” or the season in general was. 

Like the Packers, the Panthers hadn’t played anyone who wasn’t ripe for the picking, and that includes Seahawks. Newton, meanwhile has received all kinds of stellar verbiage from his coach as well as the “experts” who are hailing his “greatness” and Hall of Fame “credentials.” The reality is that he has a good team around him, the Packers have been playing horrible defense the past three weeks, giving up an average of 500 yards a game. One should also note that the Newton was largely ineffective in the fourth quarter, last week giving up a 17 point lead to the Colts who forced overtime, and the Packers nearly overcame a 23-point deficit after Newton’s late interception that gave the Packers the ball in the red zone, before Rodgers once again showed that something is wrong with him that the team will not reveal. Newton’s career stats and losing record coming into the season are nothing to brag about, as is his 78 passer rating heading into this game. Let us remember that the Tennessee Titans started the season 10-0 in 2008 and failed to win a playoff game.

Vikings 21 Rams 18. The Vikings are now tied for first place in the NFC North, with two games to play against the Packers. Teddy Bridgewater will probably miss the next game after being knocked unconscious. Fortunately for the Vikings, Adrian Peterson—who gained 125 yards in the win—seems to be his former self and there is a chance they might win against a Raiders team with a decent offense and lousy defense. But no more cupcakes (unless one includes the Bears) the rest of the season, with the Packers in two weeks.

Titans 34 Saints 28. Despite another hot performance by Drew Brees, this time he was outplayed by rookie Marcus Mariota, who threw for 371 yards and four touchdowns. Statistically, Mariota has exceeded all the expectations of the draft “experts” who claimed that Jameis Winston was more NFL “ready.” Nothing could be further from the truth; one can only speculate why—if they want to ask the right questions.

Steelers 38 Raiders 35. Derek Carr may turn out to be a star in this league, but you’d never know that with the Raiders’ awful defense. The only thing the defense did “right” in this game was knock Ben Roethlisberger out of the game with a foot injury, but Landry Jones stepped in nicely to lead the Steelers to victory.

49ers 17 Falcons 16. No, Colin Kaepernick did not have a “good” game, in fact he was benched before you could say Jack Robinson. Blaine Gabbert, the laughing stock of the NFL, did, of sorts. It should be noted, however, that both teams didn’t play particularly well offensively, and 49ers scored all of their points in the second quarter. 49er fans booed when Gabbert came in the game, so maybe they prefer to lose with Kaepernick instead.

Jets 28 Jaguars 23. The Jets gained only 29 yards rushing on 28 carries; you think that Geno Smith could have won the game with his arm and poor decision-making? Not to worry, Ryan Fitzpatrick is Ivy League educated, and he was able to take advantage of four Jaguar turnovers to pull off the win, even with an injured hand. 

Bills 33 Dolphins 17. Reality has set-in, and the Dolphins are just a bad team, with or without a new coach. Tyrod Taylor came back for the Bills, throwing only 12 passes the entire game. But he didn’t need to, as the Bills piled-up 266 yards on the ground.

Colts 27 Broncos 24. Once more, Andrew Luck manages to humble Peyton Manning, and I say all is good. Luck didn’t throw a single interception in this game, but his counterpart did. In fact, Manning has out-interceptioned Luck 13-12 this season.

Eagles 33 Cowboys 27. I hate games like this. Not only did the team I wanted to win didn’t, but it was the kind of game that ended in anti-climactic fashion. The game was tied at 0, 7, 14, 21, 24 and 27 before a 41-yard TD pass ended the game in overtime. Some are now calling for another change in the overtime rules, allowing each team one possession in overtime regardless if a touchdown is scored on the first possession.

Giants 32 Buccaneers 18. I only mention this game because there has to be something wrong when Eli Manning is “outplayed” by a rookie quarterback and still manages to lead the team to a comfortable win. It must say something about the rookie quarterback and his “NFL ready” abilities.

Bears 22 Chargers 19. Has there ever been a quarterback who has done less with more than Philip Rivers? Nearly 40,000 yards passing and 271 career TD passes and all he has is one appearance past the Divisional round in the playoffs. He is having what is statistically his best season, and the Chargers are 2-7. Meanwhile, Melvin Gordon, another running back who had a stellar career at Wisconsin, seems to be another disappointment, with only 31 yards on 11 carries.

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