Fan Free Agency

Do you have a favorite team, which you have rooted for forever, but never wins?

Does it irritate, depress, or frustrate you that they lose, with no chance of winning?

Say No to all of this, with Fan Free Agency; in which fans (like the players & owners) can renegotiate their loyalties, whenever its convenient.  Let me illustrate…

SD Padres

Growing up, I was a Cincinnati Reds fan.  It was the mid-1970’s, and they were baseball’s best team.  Joe Morgan (2B) was my favorite player, because he played smart and could do it all.  When the Big Red Machine was traded away/ broke down, I hung with them through the losing of the 1980’s. After being denied the playoffs in 1981, despite having the best record in baseball, the Reds once proud farm system now produced more suspects than prospects– in the forms of Ron Oester, Gary Redus, and Nick Esasky. Player/ manager Pete Rose’s betting scandal rocked the organization by decade’s end, and Marge Schott’s racism & ignorant ownership meddling always lurked in the background.  Patience was finally rewarded in 1990, when the Reds went wire-to-wire and won the World Series, sweeping the mighty Oakland A’s.

Diehards stayed with them when they were quickly surpassed by the Atlanta Braves in the 1990’s. Center-fielder Eric Davis & SS Barry Larkin were my favorite players.  I really didn’t care for other Reds ‘star’ players including Reggie Sanders, Ron Gant, and Hal Morris; whom I noticed were almost always neutralized by good pitching.  But hey–you still stick with your team, right?  So I did, even when I knew they couldn’t compete with the best.

When the Reds went all-in on Ken Griffey Jr. in 2000, fans were excited. A few years later, the reality of Griffey’s superstar contract on the DL had left hardcore supporters waiting on the next crop of prospects including: Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Johnny Cueto. The bandbox ballpark they had just built, to accommodate Griffey Jr. in his pursuit of Aaron’s career HR record, hurt their development of starting pitchers and outfield defense.

Despite all that, things started looking up for the Reds when they acquired perennial Devil Rays prospect Josh Hamilton from the Cubs in 2007, who hit .292/.368/.554 in 90 games in CF for Cincinnati.  Reds management didn’t recognize what they had, and dealt Hamilton to Texas in the off-season for Edinson Volquez; where Josh became a 5-time All-Star, AL MVP, and helped the Rangers win two pennants.

To complete the 2007-08 off-season double-disaster, the Reds also brought in Dusty Baker to be their manager.  Dusty Baker’s low-OBP, small-ball, “aggressive” style has long been been a losing strategy in MLB– even since his playing days in the 1970’s.

Dusty is also notorious as a wrecker of pitchers (see Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Jason Schmidt, Russ Ortiz), managing the SF Giants from 1993-2002, all with superstar Barry Bonds; winning his only pennant in 2002.  The Giants were set to win it all, until the 7th inning of Game 6, when the Giants suffered one of the worst meltdowns in World Series history.  [collapse starts at 2:15 in the video]

* Barry Bonds was the real MVP of the 2002 World Series

After losing the heart-breaker shown above, and then Game 7 the following night; the Giants didn’t renew Baker’s contract.  Cubs GM Jim Hendry signed Baker to manage the Northsiders.  Dusty’s reign ended ignominiously when star RF Sammy Sosa & Baker both mishandled game situations & criticism, wearing out their welcome in Chicago.  Wrigley Field normally has the most optimistic, soft-hearted & forgiving fans in baseball; but a majority of Cubs fans had little affection for Baker’s brusque style by the end of his tenure in 2006.

Baker’s problems have always included: not trusting younger players; overemphasis on small-ball tactics; bullpen management; and of course– abusing his starting pitchers.  He, like many old-school ballplayers, refuses to understand the value of sabermetrics, statistical analysis, medical science, etc; and is therefore ill-equipped to manage a MLB team in this era.



The video above, from the infamous ‘Steve Bartman’ game, is vintage Dusty Baker; staying with his young stud starter too long (119 pitches), while his team falls apart fundamentally.  He ceaseless fidgets his toothpick throughout.  Mark Prior was never the same after this outing, as his promising career was cut short by rotator cuff injuries.

Dusty Baker: Cincinnati Reds Manager 2008-13

Dusty Baker: Cincinnati Reds Manager 2008-13

Bad decisions don’t win, and the Dusty Baker-managed Cincinnati Reds of 2008-13 confirmed that theory; as he never won much in Cincinnati, even though he had talented players with an owner willing to spend.

Still a lifelong Reds fan through 2007, it no longer made sense to let myself be held hostage to the short-sightedness of professional nitwits.  I simply did what any reasonable, non-masochistic baseball fan would do– pick a new favorite team.


Enter the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who were the joke of MLB from their inception in 1998, until Stuart Sternberg acquired controlling interest of the team from Vince Naimoli in 2005. From there the TB Devil Rays invested in sabermetric scouting & evaluation, with much-improved player development; quickly putting together an enviable farm system, even as they were still perennially finishing last.

Tampa Bay Rays

They changed the franchise name to the Tampa Bay Rays for the 2008 season, just as their prospects were maturing; and to the complete surprise of most, won the AL pennant in 2008.  It looked like the beginning of many trips to the fall classic, with a roster full of young talent and another top draft pick to come.

Under GM Andrew Friedman and savvy manager Joe Maddon, the Rays competed with the high-payroll Yankees & Red Sox for six seasons on sheer hard work, brains and a shoestring budget; until it finally snapped on July 31, 2014 when the Rays dealt LHP David Price (the best pitcher they’ll ever have, with another year of arbitration remaining), to the Detroit Tigers for prospects.

In the 2014-15 off-season; RF Wil Myers, 2B Ben Zobrist, and OF Matt Joyce (all championship-level players with team-friendly contracts) were jettisoned for no good reason.  A return to the World Series for the Rays was never-to-be, as poor drafts & stunted player development ended the talent pipeline.  Ownership’s refusal to invest in talent eventually whittled the short-stacked Rays into the AL East fodder they are today.

Tropicana Field

Now, everything with the Rays centers on getting the taxpayers to build them a new stadium.  Tropicana Field was designed by original owner Vince Naimoli.  It is a charmless domed stadium located at the end of a peninsula, making it poorly accessible to most of the Tampa-St. Petersburg population.  It rightfully stands as a monument of Floridian thoughtlessness & greed, with the TB Rays locked into a 30-year lease through 2027. Rays fans are annually bombarded with veiled threats from ownership to move, if the taxpayers don’t pitch in. [1]

Stuart Sternberg in a 2011Tampa Tribune interview said,  “Every year that goes by increases the possibility that we won’t be here. If there is something inevitable, you have to deal with it. At some point, my partners in baseball are going to throw their hands up in the air and say, ‘enough is enough.’” [2]

A baseball fan’s advice to Stu Sternberg who is worth an estimated $800 million [3]: try keeping your best players, and fill in on-the-field needs with (at least) mid-level contracts. If you always punt on C, 1B, DH, and LF; then you don’t score enough runs for your awesome pitching staff.  That’s how you piss away chance after chance to win it all, with 70-80% of the talent already there.

The Rays revolutionized team defense, proving Defensive Efficiency Rating (the percentage of batted balls in play, minus home runs, converted into outs) and other defensive sabermetrics to be superior in comparison to traditional defense metrics (errors, assists, put-outs, etc). Advanced metrics show the Rays defense at their peak (CF BJ Upton/ LF Carl Crawford era) was historically great.

Rays ownership & front office consistently played for tomorrow with arbitration eligibility, holding back its best prospects (even when they were desperately needed [see Desmond Jennings, Wil Myers]), in order to extend their peak seasons before free agency.  Many players rightfully resented those tactics (see Upton & Crawford for sure), and considering the talent the Rays organization had, it seems a shame the front office never was allowed to value winning ahead of cost savings & revenue projections.

The Rays consistently had one of the lowest payrolls in MLB ($40-70 million), while competing in the AL East against the NY Yankees & BOS Red Sox, both in the $140-220 million range.  Their pitching staff, along with their defense, was the best in baseball.  Nobody put together & managed a bullpen better than Joe Maddon.  What the Rays needed was another $15-20 million, well-spent on bats; but ownership would never approve it.  That will be the sad, but enduring legacy of the 2008-14 Tampa Bay Rays.

For me, the Rays and their remaining hardcore fans will suffer on their own– with the assurance that winning is but a distant memory.  Outside of 3B Evan Longoria (signed to a ridiculously low long-term deal), most of their winning talent is now somewhere else– or on the DL.  Their championship window was carelessly squandered, by an ownership that refused to care for its product on the field, because it really only cares about getting itself a new field.


The point of all this is: why support teams that run themselves poorly?  Why should fans be loyal to teams that don’t invest in themselves?  One solution is to become a free agent fan, and choose an organization that runs itself well; that proves it wants to win by building from within, while spending (& dealing) wisely. Those are qualities a baseball fan can admire and get behind.

This free agent fan chooses the San Diego Padres as his favorite MLB team in 2015.  I’ve never seen much of the Padres, but I like the moves they’ve made in the off-season. They play in a pitcher’s park (cool), and newly-acquired RHP James Shields was my favorite player with TB.  He joins Wil Myers (the guy he was dealt to KC for), so I’m in on the Padres.  BJ Upton is also in the mix, so no West-coast bias here.  Matt Kemp is a great player, and his health is key.

The Lowdown: the Padres are trying to compete against the defending world champion SF Giants (who haven’t repeated in their run), and the sky high-payroll LA Dodgers in the NL West.  Rockies & Diamondbacks are considered to be second division clubs, until proven otherwise.  Padres have upped their payroll to $108 million in order to take a shot.

The new format of two wild-cards helps their chances.  As always in baseball, you never know how it will turn out, but at least 2015 Padres fans can feel like their team has committed itself to winning.

Think in terms of winning value & money spent, and see you in October.  Good judgement in those areas are all a baseball fan can expect from management & ownership under capitalism.

Play Balls & Strikes!


NFL History: The Super Bowl Era

The inaugural Super Bowl (January 15, 1967); the AFL/NFL merger in 1970; and the premiere of Monday Night Football (ABC 1970), helped catapult the NFL past MLB as America’s game by the 1980’s.

NFL 1970's logos

American football in its Super Bowl era is defined by specialists on offense; at quarterback, running back, lineman, and receiver. Defenses also became specialized, but less so, as it has always been every defensive players job to tackle & create turnovers. Special teams were one of the biggest innovations of this era; as coaches started realizing its value in scoring and determining field position.

Straight-ahead toe punchers were the NFL place-kicking style since its beginnings and predominated since the drop-kick disappeared in the 1930’s, when the rugby ball was replaced with the more throwable modern design.
In the early NFL, many games were lost/tied due to missed extra points/short field goal attempts. In the era of 16-20 man rosters, where physical survival was always the most important skill; those who took kicks could not be called place kickers in the modern sense.

Norwegian place kicker Jan Stenerud (K  Kansas City Chiefs 1967-85) revolutionized American football with European football (soccer) skills, bringing distance and accuracy to NFL kicking during his 19 seasons. NFL field goal percentage increased steadily during his career, as did the distance from which head coaches would allow their kickers to attempt field goals.

In the KC Chiefs 23-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV (1970), Stenerud scored the first nine points on field goals of 48, 32 and 25 yards, in a game that was over by halftime. He led the league in FG % 4 times, and was always at or near the top in FG% from 40+ yards. Jan Stenerud was the first place kicker to regularly convert 50+ yard FG attempts.

Ray Guy 8

Ray Guy (P Oakland/LA Raiders: 1973-86) specialized in punting opponents into poor field position.  In ways never seen before, Guy revolutionized NFL punting with his whip-like flexibility, leading the NFL in punting average 3 times and finishing 10 seasons in the top-5.  His accuracy at pinning opponents close to their goal line compelled the NFL to start tracking “punts inside the 20” in 1976.  He was the first punter to understand the importance of net yards per punt (punt yards minus return yards), applying extreme “hang time” to his punts.  Ray Guy would boom 50- yard cloud-scrappers, allowing his coverage teams time to defend against a big returns. Many times from his end zone, he would blast a punt over the returner’s head, completely flipping field position for his team.

Ray Guy, a #1 pick by innovative owner Al Davis in 1973 (and one of the most valuable players in modern NFL history), was finally inducted into Canton in 2014.  He’s currently listed beneath “Coaches” and “Contributors” in the NFL HoF ‘by position’ listing.  Most old-timers don’t consider punters & kickers as ‘real’ football players, even though these positions have historically had a huge impact on winning & losing.

The 1970’s NFL was innovated and dominated by modern-era coaches including; Don Shula (Miami Dolphins), Chuck Noll (Pittsburgh Steelers), Al Davis/John Madden (Oakland Raiders), and Tom Landry (Dallas Cowboys).  Steroids became part of the landscape for NFL linemen, and artificial turf added another occupational hazard for players. An increased incidence of skin burns, ligament tears and concussions all awaited those who played in stadiums equipped with artificial turf.

Artificial Turf & the NFL

The greatest QBs of the day were Bob Griese (Miami 1967-80), Roger Staubach (Dallas 1969-79), Dan Fouts (San Diego Chargers 1973-87), and Ken Anderson (Cincinnati Bengals 1971-86) .  The best running backs of this era were O.J. Simpson (Buffalo Bills 1969-79) and Walter Payton (Chicago Bears (1975-87).  Both of these ball carriers played on poor teams for most of their careers, which added proof to the argument that a great quarterback was necessary for a championship team.

O.J. Simpson was a college football star at USC, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1968 before transitioning into a NFL superstar. The charismatic Simpson was a poster child for the NFL in the 1970’s & 1980’s.  After retiring from the NFL, he did color commentary on Monday Night Football, starred in television commercials, and even Hollywood movies– always as a friendly & joking personality.  Simpson was notorious among ex-players for beating his wife, and his true nature was finally revealed to the American public in 1994-95; when he was compelled to hire a top legal team to buy an acquittal for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman, despite overwhelming physical evidence against him.

In 1997, a civil court awarded a judgment against Simpson of the $33.5 million for their wrongful deaths. In September 2007, Simpson was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with numerous felonies, including armed robbery and kidnapping. He was found guilty in 2008, and sentenced to 33 years in prison. He will not be eligible for parole until 2017.


More than anyone else, O.J. Simpson personifies the ugliness lurking behind the NFL’s benevolent mask.

—–End of 1st Quarter

NFL HoF comparison Example #2: 1970’s-era WR comparisons

Fred Biletnikof (1965-78 Oakland) 190 G, 589 Catches, 15.2 Yds/Catch, 76 TD
Cliff Branch (1972-85 Oakland)  183 G, 501 Catches, 17.3 Yds/Catch, 67 TD
John Stallworth (1974-87 Pittsburgh) 165 G, 537 Catches, 16.2 Yds/Catch, 63 TD
Lynn Swann (1974-82 Pittsburgh) 116 G, 336 Catches, 16.3 Yds/Catch, 51 TD

Listed alphabetically, the best player of these four was Cliff Branch, and he’s only one not in the NFL Hall of Fame.

Cliff Branch

Mobsters were still welcome to buy NFL franchises.  In 1977  Eddie DeBartolo, Sr (after being refused in a half-dozen attempts to buy a MLB franchise) purchased the San Francisco 49ers and turned it over to his son, Eddie, Jr.  Wikipedia describes DeBartolo Sr. as “a powerful strategic thinker.”  Dan Moldea shares this research:

“U.S. Customs Service had received information from one of its special agents, William F. Burda, in January 1981 that the DeBartolo organization ‘through its control of particular state banks in the state of Florida is operating money-laundering schemes, realizing huge profits from narcotics, guns, skimming operations, and other organized-crime-related activities. This organization is reported to have ties to [Carlos] Marcello, [Santos] Trafficante, and [Meyer] Lansky; and because of its enormous wealth and power has high-ranking political influence and affiliations.'”

In other words, the shopping malls that made Eddie DeBartolo’s fortune were financed with laundered Colombian drug money.


The 1980’s were dominated on the field by Bill Walsh (San Francisco 49ers head coach & GM) and Joe Gibbs (Washington R-word head coach), both winning 3 Super Bowls for their franchises. Pro football’s greatest stars were Joe Montana and a legendary college draft class in 1983, that had three HoF QBs: Dan Marino (Miami 1983-99), John Elway (Denver 1983-1998) and Jim Kelly (USFL/Buffalo 1983-96).

Outside linebacker Lawrence Taylor (NY Giants 1981-93), became the new NFL prototype on defense, terrorizing offenses with his unique brand of intelligence, athleticism & skill. He was unintentionally responsible for one of the most gruesome injuries in modern football history, breaking Washington R-word QB Joe Theismann’s leg [and ending his career] on Monday Night Football. To Taylor’s credit, he immediately signalled to the R-words bench to get their medical staff on the field, as Taylor was horrified by what he had just done. ABC showed the definitive shot, a ‘reverse angle’ replay of this injury, over & over during its broadcast.


The USFL challenged the NFL monopoly from 1983-85, and did well in three seasons using a spring schedule that challenged MLB.  Casino & real estate mogul Donald Trump owned the New Jersey Generals. In his blustering George Steinbrenner-like fashion, Trump outbid the NFL for one college star after another; while never coming close to winning a championship.

Doug Flutie & Donald Trump

By 1985, Donald Trump was using his free-spending ownership in the New Jersey Generals to push for a merger with the NFL, which would significantly increase the value of his franchise.

Hershel Walker & Trump-usfl

Trump’s clout forced the USFL into rapid expansion, as they moved to a fall schedule in 1986.  Other USFL owners realized the futility of going head-to-head with the NFL, and the league went bankrupt before the ’86 season– slowly dying in court.  Its greatest stars such as QBs Jim Kelly and Steve Young went back to the NFL teams that claimed their draft rights.


The NFL Players Association had misrepresented & betrayed its rank-and-file since its inception in 1956. The NFL owners didn’t even he recognize the NFLPA as the official bargaining agent for the players until 1968.  A 1974 players strike ending in a defeat for the players. The 1982 strike ended with a players revolt against their own union, with NFLPA executive director & head lawyer Ed Garvey stepping down.

Even more disastrous for the NFL players, was the 1987 strike which collapsed within a month, after the owners brought in replacement players.  Approximately 15% of the NFLPA’s members crossed picket lines to play during the strike including veteran stars: Mark Gastineau, Randy White, Joe Montana, Doug Flutie, and Steve Largent.

A collective bargaining agreement that allowed NFL players to benefit from free agency wasn’t ratified until 1993.   Still today, no NFL contract is guaranteed.  If a player blows out a knee after signing a multi-million dollar deal, he can be cut & released from his contract by the team.  Signing bonuses have been notoriously clawed back by ownership.


In 1985, William “Refrigerator” Perry (DT 1985–1993) became a prototype for sports de-evolution, by becoming the first 300-pound NFL lineman; helping the Chicago Bears win the Super Bowl—-


In 1979 ESPN was launched, providing 24-hour a day sports programming.  In 1987, ESPN gained partial rights to the National Football League.  Players salaries and owner franchise values have skyrocketed since, due to massive broadcast revenues. Today the NFL Network is a successful premium channel, delivering 24/7 NFL content.

The NFL adopted instant replay into its officiating in the 1980’s/1990’s, due to massive referee incompetence. Instant replay has likely been used to fix NFL playoff games and decide Super Bowls; the most infamous example is the Tuck Rule game, which is better seen than explained.

The NFL in the 1990’s was initially dominated on the field by the post-Bill Walsh San Francisco 49ers, led by QB Steve Young (1984-99) & WR Jerry Rice (1985-2004); then the Jimmy Johnson coached Dallas Cowboys, led by WR Michael Irvin (1988-99), RB Emmitt Smith (1990-2004), and QB Troy Aikman (1989-2000).

Three-time MVP, QB Brett Favre (1991-2010) restored legitimacy to the Green Bay Packers, with his unique combination of gun-slinging playmaking & good-sport toughness.  Deion Sanders (ATL/SF/DAL, 1989-2005) was likely the best NFL cornerback and one of the best punt returners, ever– an electrifying playmaker.  Barry Sanders (RB Detroit Lions 1989-98) may have been the NFL’s best ball carrier ever.


In the 2000’s the New England Patriots, coached by Bill Belichick were the NFL’s only sustained dynasty. Free agency, with its salary cap restrictions made it difficult for championship teams to maintain a stable nucleus, with contending teams constantly poaching their rosters.

Belichick and the Patriots front office, were among the first in football to use statistical analysis metrics, equivalent to sabermetrics in baseball, to quantify player value in terms of wins.  This gave New England a consistent edge in player drafting as well as on-the-field tactics & overall strategy.

Modern NFL play-calling is high-percentage short-gain/low-risk passing on early downs, and going for it more frequently on 4th-down; passing up field goal attempts for potential touchdowns– providing the distance for a first down/touchdown is makeable. The most valuable position in football is by far, quarterback.  It’s not impossible, but it is very difficult to win a Super Bowl without at least an above-average QB.

Some of the best players from 2000-present were/are: QBs Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts 1998-present), Tom Brady (New England Patriots 2000-present), Drew Brees (SD/New Orleans Saints 2001-present). The best play makers were RB LaDainian Tomlinson (SD Chargers 2001-11), WR Randy Moss (MN/OAK/NE 1998-2012) and punt return specialist Devin Hester (Chicago Bears 2006-present).


Unfortunately by this time, off-the-field problems were starting to overshadow the actual football.  Team captain & star middle linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, Ray Lewis was a suspect under investigation for a double murder committed on Jan. 31, 2000. The NFL intervened on Lewis’ behalf, and he was dropped as a suspect by the police.

Ray Lewis

Lewis was never able to produce the clothes he was seen wearing the night of the homicides. The Ravens won the Super Bowl a year later, and Ray Lewis (1996-2012) went on to become arguably the greatest middle linebacker in NFL history.  The murders have never been solved.

In June 2002 Pat Tillman, a linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals enlisted in the United States Army, motivated by patriotic duty after 9-11. The NFL assisted the Bush administration in its use of Tillman as propaganda to sell its dirty “War on Terror.”


Pat Tillman  served several tours before he died in the mountains of Afghanistan on April 22, 2004– in a friendly-fire incident.

The US Army initially reported Tillman had been killed by enemy fire, and maintained this lie for over a month; until the Pentagon notified the Tillman family that he had died as a result of friendly fire. In 2007, Kevin Tillman also an Army Ranger in a convoy behind his brother Pat at his end; read testimony before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, of the Pentagon’s version of Pat’s ‘heroic’ death.

“Above the din of battle, Corporal Tillman was heard issuing fire commands to take the fight to an enemy on the dominating high ground. Always leading from the front, Corporal Tillman aggressively maneuvered his team against the enemy position on a steep slope… in the face of mortal danger, Corporal Tillman illustrated that he would not fail his comrades. His actions are in keeping with the highest standards of the United States army.”

Pat Tillman was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for valor, for his fictional bravery. The Bush administration cynically lied about Tillman’s friendly-fire death, to exploit its propaganda value.

Pat Tillman friendly fire death

—-End of 3rd Quarter

By 2006, Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick was implicated in a dog fighting scandal, involving over seventy dogs, most of them pit bulls showing signs of injuries. Vick and four of his associates were convicted for conspiracy in interstate commerce and unlawful animal cruelty. Michael Vick served 21 months in prison. He was reinstated by the NFL in 2009.


Sexual assault allegations were made against Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger in 2008 & 2009.   In 2010, after intense pressure from the NFL, the district attorney for the plaintiff held a press conference to announce that Roethlisberger would not be charged; expressing how the plaintiff no longer wanted to pursue criminal charges due to the level of media attention. The district attorney stressed that she was not recanting her accusation.


The NFL handed Ben Roethlisberger a 6-game suspension (later reduced to 4 games) in 2010, for “ungentlemanly conduct.”

From 2009-11, the New Orleans Saints operated a slush fund that paid out bonuses for inflicting crippling injuries on opposing players.  Players targeted by the Saints coaching staff included star QBs Brett Favre (Vikings) & Kurt Warner (Cardinals). NFL officiating was so incompetent that none of the bounty hits in question were ever penalized or deemed illegal by in-game officials.

Saints bounty Brett Favre

In 2012, the NFL owners locked out its referees, and started the season with replacement officials, despite safety complaints from the NFLPA. The owners were refusing to pay the modest referee union demands, amounting to a $3.2 million/year, in a $9 billion/year league.  By Week 3, hapless NFL officiating was taken to a new low during Monday Night Football, when Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson threw the first game-winning interception in league history. Embarrassment over the inexplicable replay decision forced the owners to give in to union demands, which amounted to an extra $100,000/year expense for each of the 32 NFL team owners.

New-era NFL owners are mostly billionaires, buying franchises for personal amusement as well as seeking public subsidies for new stadiums. Since the 1980’s, 70% of the cost for new NFL stadiums has been paid for by taxpayers; for which team owners keep all revenues on tickets, concessions, parking and television broadcasts– for games played in publicly-financed buildings.

In 2013, Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, was ordered by a federal judge to pay $85 million for “organized crime fraud,” finding him in violation of the New Jersey state RICO act.

Today, the NFL is still opening new stadiums with synthetic playing surfaces, despite overwhelming research and player preference towards playing on natural grass.

Player compensation for concussion related diseases and other realities of post-NFL life have been slow in actualization.  The NFL continues to take the stance that its game is safe, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The NFL denies players are getting brain damage from concussions received during NFL games & practices.

Mike Webster

Performance-enhancing drug (PED) suspensions are a weekly occurrence; here is the ever-expanding list. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is now the preferred PED, due to its difficulty to detect with testing.


Obesity and unhealthy playing weights for modern NFL linemen is an ugly scandal the NFL refuses to seriously discuss publicly.  Player weights at all positions have increased at least 30-50% since the 1970’s.

As discussed earlier, alcohol & gambling have always been part of the NFL. Bootleg whiskey from the 1920’s has been replaced with omnipresent beer advertising for every game.  In the 2000’s, domestic violence & DUI arrests for NFL players became common news.


Today, billions of dollars are collectively bet on every NFL contest.  Nevada is the only state where sports bookmaking is legal in the US.  Las Vegas bookies establish and monitor the betting line of every NFL game. Over 99% of football betting (office pools, fantasy leagues, handshake wager, etc.) is illicit. Accurate team injury reports are required by the NFL, and teams are fined by the league office if they don’t strictly comply. Cooperation from the NFL is insisted upon by their mobster partners, so they can set an accurate betting spread.

NFL Security is employed by the league to deal with every scandal in this media-driven age.  Justice Department officials are employed by the NFL to do research, use their contacts, and develop attack-campaigns designed to intimidate, squash and/or blacklist any perceived opponents of the NFL.

The NFL is a non-profit, and Commissioner Roger Goodell takes home over $30 million annually for carefully filtering & interpreting any NFL information released to public. He has been aggressive in his use of public relations in the NFL’s attempts to bury all scandals.  Dan Moldea’s Interference, neatly characterizes the function of NFL Security officials:

Phil Manuel, former Senate investigator: “The oldest trick in the book is to hire old Justice Department officials and make them understand that they are to protect the security of the NFL owners.”

An IRS agent taken off an NFL-related gambling probe: “What we’ve got here are connections among the Cosa Nostra, the federal government, the big attorneys in the D.C. area, sports figures, and the television news media. We were getting too close to the people at the top. [He] was being protected by people within the Justice Department.” p. 171

“We have a basic rule in the NFL,” says a former law enforcement official who advises the NFL of security matters.” It is to keep it upbeat and keep it positive. But above all keep it quiet.” p. 33

—–Two-Minute Warning

As far as what sports fans can learn about the NFL from its pre-Super Bowl era– it is sketchy at best.
Too little data exists (even for many skill-position players such as QB, RB, WR), while most players (offensive linemen & all defensive players) have no meaningful records of their actions.
The all-NFL/all-pro designation is nothing more than sportswriter & coaches opinion, from its inception in the 1930’s.
There is virtually no game film, and what little exists is usually of poor quality and not available to the average fan.
This lack of objective data for player performance, along with its omnipresent mobster & gambling influence, are the defining features of early American football.

In 1985, a Harris Poll showed the NFL was more popular among US sports fans than MLB: 24% to 23%.  In 2014, 35% of sports fans called the NFL their favorite sport, while only 14% preferred MLB.

NFL Militarism

The NFL reflects popular culture in decline.  Its glorification of violence dovetails with militarism and ruling-class values. It is a difficult, but necessary task to reduce it’s hold on popular consciousness.  The NFL, like capitalism itself, is rotten to its core and cannot be reformed– both will have to be revolutionized by the people, before its self-destructiveness reaches the limits of human sustainability.

Click here to read Part 1– American Football: Early NFL History