Sports Fans and Team Account-“ability”

I guess we could also call this one, “How to make Michael Vick look like a quality human being.”

A two game suspension without pay, and a smear on the image of the National Football League is all we thought were going to come out of the Ray Rice incident. That was all the way back in late July. But it took the work of much maligned online celebrity gossip site, TMZ, to finally pull back the curtain. They revealed to everyone the incredibly disturbing footage of what actually happened in the elevator on Valentine’s Day in Las Vegas, with Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, and his then fiancée (now wife) Janay Palmer.

It was one thing to have “heard” about the incident, but it was a whole different thing to SEE what occurred. I don’t know WHY it was a whole different thing for us, because we knew what must have happened inside the elevator. But seeing it added a whole new aspect of shock and “completely unacceptablility”.

I saw the video as it was first aired on CNN.  If you’re anything like me, you sat there afterwards for about five minutes ,with your mouth wide open, and in absolute shock. I cannot believe there actually is any “real” man who would dare hit a woman to start with. But we now see the incredible force with which Rice wound up and decked Ms. Palmer. It shows just how bad his act of inhumanity and cruelty is horribly unacceptable in any civilized society. But adding to his sheer neanderthal brutality, he then proceeds to drag the unconscious woman into the hallway, where he drops her, and lets the doors try to close on her exposed behind.

Keep in mind, we had all seen the last video portion of Ms. Palmer lying unconscious in the hallway already.  But we had not seen the actual punch. But did we really NEED to in order to play judge and jury?  We knew what had happened.  Thusly, about two hours after the video was shown publicly for the first time, the Ravens immediately terminated Rice’s contract. About an hour later, The NFL stated that Rice had now been suspended “indefinetely”. The sports talk shows cancelled all other topics of the day, and this story is snowballing down a very steep slope.

If we all agree that initial punishment handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was entirely too lenient, then we all now have to look at him and realize that there is a VERY good probablility that he had seen this tape prior to today.  In fact, the story has just broken that the NFL Executive was actually sent a copy of the tape.  A source who reported this to the Associated Press played a 12-second voicemail from an NFL office number on April 9th, confirming receipt of the video.  The female voice says thanks, and then says, “You’re right.  It’s terrible.”  THIS does not bode well of the future of Goodell now.

It is also safe to assume the same thing can be said about the Baltimore Ravens organization. In both cases, there have to be serious repercussions at the top level of both.  This event has basically neutered Goodell’s future as a truly viable Commissioner of the NFL.  There is NO way anyone can now believe a word coming out of his pompous pie-hole anymore.  Once, the most powerful man in sports, is today on the brink of being tossed off a cliff because of sheer ignorance, arrogance, and apparent unwillingness to “do the right thing” to a star player.  He plays for a former Super Bowl championship team, which is owned by a very influential man in league circles, which I’m sure had Roger thinkinig twice about doing anything rash in his initial decision.

Furthermore, the press conference by Raven’s head coach  John Harbough, was thoroughly pathetic in every sense.  It was blatantly obvious he was on script for every answer he gave.  It was like watching Jon Lovitz’s ‘Saturday Nght Live’ “The Pathological Liar” character.  Except he didn’t say, “Yeah, THAT’S the ticket”, he just said, “This was the first time we have seen the tape”.  It was robot-like, and cringe-worthy with every lip movement.  It was not very convincing in the least.

This second video has been available since the criminal trial following the elevator incident, as Ms. Palmer had pressed assault charges against Rice. Instead of a “legitimate” punishment, he agreed to go into a form of pre-trial “intervention” or “diversion program”with Ms. Palmer, to prevent jail time, and a criminal record. It seems all was forgiven. Since then, they married, which leaves me shaking my head even more. I do not, and won’t even pretend to, understand the dynamics of domestic abuse and it’s victims, so I’m not going to be discussing that aspect of this ugly scenario. I’ll stick to the “sporting” relevance instead.

I feel this could be the turning point for the NFL and its discipline management.  Up until this very recent discovery of the tape delivery, it was very unlikely that Goodell would be fired by the team owners, who have become richer than their wildest dreams under his tenure.  He arrogantly admitted as much on the “CBS This Morning” program.  But whether it is Goodell, or another person elected to be Grand Poobah, they must realize that sports fans are getting tired of having to defend why they enjoy watching games, cheering for their favorite teams, and wearing their favorite players’ gear.  I know I’m tired of hearing about how barbaric and goon filled hockey is, how boring baseball is, and how thug-filled both basketball and football are.  I feel it is time for the sports fan’s opinion to be represented, and respected in North American sports.

Incredibly, in some European sports leagues, players, coaches, and management are contractually obligated to meet with fans. They must endure complaints about how they are playing, suggestions as to what may help the teams, or just listen to how bad they are right now. These players and managers have to sit there and take it. Can you imagine Brian Burke, Ozzie Guillen, or John Tortorella getting grilled by some random guy who just dropped nearly $500.00 to take his family out to watch their team lose? It would be carnage, and almost Pay-Per-View worthy.  In that case however, you would definitely get your money’s worth.

I think leagues and teams may soon have to be open to the idea of having a ‘fan representative’ at the bargaining table, and involved in trade discussions. It would surely add the “ability” for teams to be held much more accountable for the fans. While it would lead to one of the most brutal election processes in history, it may be a necessary element to help protect us, the sports fan. The people running for this position would possibly be put under a higher scrutiny than that of any political representative in any country. They would have to be willing to take a foolish amount of daily verbal and online abuse. We have to know we are getting the best out of our hard earned dollar when we go to a game. The companies who pay millions to have their advertisements placed during huge sporting events need to know that their products’ image will not be compromised by some player’s actions during or after the game.

Owners, GM’s and fans have to get their collective stuff together and put an end to the fans’ disillusions with teams and players. For those who don’t appreciate or like sports, I do understand it’s technically a form of entertainment. These same people must understand it is also a major part of the culture and heritage of North America. Sports also play a big part in the economy of this continent. It is time we as sports fans take appropriate and productive action. We have been going through another bad economic period.  Fans want to know that their team has a solid plan for the future.  Nobody wants a dog and pony show, with bright lights and tasty snacks.  We want tangible numbers, names, and a clear vision of how the team is going to succeed.

Teams have to stop signing these “problem players,” even if they are the top talents in their respective leagues. At the very least the leagues should  mandate putting in a personal conduct, or morality clause in EVERY player’s contract. That way the team can opt out of a problem player`s contract upon their discretion. While the players unions will have a problem with this, it is time that the powers that be, the fans who truly pay these guys, take a stand and say, no more. If you are a problem, or we know you will cause one in the future, you are not welcome on my team.

It will eventually take a boycott of games, or rescindence of sponsorship by major corporations to finally drive some common sense into this concussion damaged league’s head.  Until then though, team’s owners must begin to understand they have a responsibility, nay, obligation, to the fans to field a competitive team, but at the same time employ people who behave as a respectable person is supposed to. It’s time for management and the players to start to realize the real world we are living in. We don’t want to pay our hard earned dollar, and spend our valuable free time on an inferior product.  Stop being a distraction for the fans. Stop giving the sports you play a bad name, and respect the integrity of your game. While the media may get upset because they have no ugly stories to chase after, the fans can at least know they are cheering for real people. True people, actual role models, and someone we can all be proud to say, “Yes, that guy plays on my team”.


About Darin A. Ramsay

Stay at home Dad for my super 7-year old daughter. I'm passionate about who I love, and what I write. I am an independent sports analyst/writer, as well I opine prophetic on different topics as I see fit. I am forever a proud Patriots, Predators , Tigers, Spurs, Miami Hurricanes football, and Arizona Wildcat basketball fan.
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