Of Mice and (Rich) Men

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Rich men play games like spiders while their prey, including ordinary folk, spin endlessly in a web, caught up in the gossamer fabrics of an ecosystem that demands its attention and participation.

This is nowhere more evident than in the world of football where the game played out on the field goes hand and bushel with the games played everywhere else. The games benefit the rich men the most and their money buys and sells the commodities contained within.

Information and access is exchanged and bought then sold like crank to an addicted audience.  We are incapable of quitting. It is dosed like medication via a network of drug dispensers whose job is to feed the audience in a manner designed to enable and continue their addiction.

I suspect it has always been so with knowledge and information.

Real American Football kicked off last weekend as college football returned. Spencer Hall of SB Nation wrote a beautiful college football preview where he talked about The Mesh offense, how much he loved it and the beautiful efficiency it brought to the game. A well-designed and executed offense is an exquisite pleasure to behold. It is the glitz that makes the game turn, and as such is very popular, and lucrative, when it fulfills these requirements.

Yet to make the game work, the foundation one might say, is that the offense be met with resistance and that it be glorious as well. The game would not be fun if there was simply only offense. The defense is as necessary to the game’s survival as the trajectory of a touchdown throw. Neither survive without the other.

Like all social constructs, the game depends on a set of rules, both written and unwritten. These rules boil down to nothing more than aesthetics. They range from uniform requirements, goal post placement, and ball inflation to the ever-so-popular drug and personal conduct policies. It is the latter that garners the most attention, particularly when major aspects of the game and its rules align, such as in #Deflategate.

These disciplinary cases are fascinating as much for dynamics behind them as they are the facts. They litter the landscape of the NFL’s disciplinary proceedings with prodigious amounts of commentary in the form of articles, blog posts, and social media commentary. The addicts’ participation is integral because we are talking about aesthetics after all.

How the game is played is likewise governed by the rules. What comprises a completed pass, a first down, and a touchdown are set forth within them and increasingly the rules are cumbersome. There is struggle to apply these rules uniformly and this generates commentary as well.

The game of football is the ultimate conflict between chaos and order. That nebulous webby material between these two competing principals is where the consumers lie. The goal is for this area to be stable enough for the addict to abide. The fix is supposed to keep the addict there.

This area is constantly buffeted by shifting threads as competing forces collide into each other creating chaos in the web.  

Football makes a lot of money which historically goes primarily into the pockets of the rich (predominantly white) men who lord over the game as owners, managers, and coaches. Women’s inclusion in ownership has come primarily by virtue of marriage or birth. Inclusion elsewhere is subject mostly to the whim of those who are in charge.

“The quarterback always gets the girl” and when he does the story makes the front page. The glitz and and glamour trade is profitable too and relies as much on the women as it does the men. Stories about these high profile men and the women they collect generate revenue. The product sells because the game is quite lucrative indeed.

The latest high profile disciplinary case involves Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who may or may not be suspended as a result of the NFL’s personal conduct policy. How you view these proceedings, and their function, is determined by a variety of factors, not the least of which is how you consume the news.

As in all games that rich men play, wading through the bullshit is time consuming and exhausting because much of it is designed to manipulate you in one way or another. This is by design just as we’ve seen on a global scale involving other topics. These games exist outside of sports too.

As a commodity of the NFL, specifically the Dallas Cowboys, Elliott’s absence and the financial impact it will have is of concern. This is a money-making venture after all even though it oddly was tax exempt for a number of years.

Every single fight over these rules has depended on aesthetics. No one wants to kill the golden cow after all. Each party plays to what it considers to be its respective base. We see this on a larger scale as well. That base is always shifting as a result of the forces attacking the web.

Jerry Jones is part and parcel of this rich club, and the Cowboys have intervened seeking to stop any discipline for Elliott, alleging the team will suffer irreparable harm without him on the field in the form of losses and a possible playoff/Superbowl appearance.

Elliott is under contract and as a rising second-year superstar whose job security status is #elite. Lesser players will come and go through this maze of disciplinary measures with varying degrees of attention, discussion, and success. Only the elite have resources to wage this type of war.  

Elliott is elite by virtue of his ability to advance an offense in a manner that is pleasing to the hive. Those who profit by it have a vested interest in this fight. The drug is fed to the audience in a manner designed to achieve the desired effect. It is the same fight you see out on the field just with different players. A battle between chaos and order.

It is difficult to quantify what, if any, financial impact will come outside of ever increasing legal fees. The lawyers benefit financially as well. When Jones bought the team in 1989 he paid $140 million. Today Forbes estimates the Cowboys’ value at $4.2 billion and it is the fifth most valuable sports franchise in the world.

The Cowboys record since Jones took over is 243-205, with 14 playoff appearances and three Super Bowl wins. Success came early on and lately the success has been somewhat lacking.

In 2016, the Cowboys went 13-3 and advanced to the Divisional Round of the playoffs, losing to the Green Bay Packers. This surge was led in part by Elliott, who rushed for 1,631 yards and scored 15 touchdowns.

No doubt there were other factors such as an up-and-coming rookie quarterback named Dak Prescott who threw for 23 touchdowns and 3,667 yards while rushing for an additional 282 yards and six touchdowns. Wide receiver Dez Bryant did pretty well too despite missing three games adding his own eight touchdowns and 796 receiving yards.   

The Cowboys didn’t grow to a $4.2 billion valuation based on just one season. “America’s Team” is very popular and back in 2009 Jones completed construction on his very own Taj Mahal that is often referred to as Jerry’s World. It was built in Arlington, Texas with construction costs reported at $1.2 billion. The friendly taxpayers of Arlington contributed $325 million of their own. These games are played elsewhere after all.

Elliott signed a rookie deal that puts him under contract through 2019 with an average salary of $6,239,089. His deal included $24 million guaranteed with $16 million reflected in his signing bonus. Some of these guarantees will be reportedly voided if he is suspended in this case.

Physically – if he doesn’t play – the wear and tear on his body is reduced by the number of games he will miss. He is young and should be poised for several more productive years. So long as he stays healthy and productive, he should receive at least one more lucrative deal. This does not include any endorsements he gathers along the way.

The possibility of an injury always lurks in the background for these men who put their bodies and their future health on the line to feed the horde. Football is a violent sport and we are fast becoming aware of the incredible long-term damage it does to the human brain.

Addicts do what they do and that is consume this product voraciously much in the same way it devours the bodies and souls of the men who play it. We are all complicit in this game.

The personal relationship underpinning the case is complex in all the ways these tend to be. There is an ecosystem here too, with a market economy that has its own layers. The game isn’t played just out on the field after all.

We romanticize our personal relationships but economics is always at play there. Marriage is presented as an essentially romantic liaison, but most marriages survive due to economic reasons. Whenever someone says they stayed together for the kids, what they usually mean is that it was an economic decision.

When relationships frazzle, you see familiar storylines crop up. One of these is a tale that goes back to the beginning of time. It is reflected in our first stories where the jezebel nature of women leads to the downfall of men. It is a tale literally as old as Adam and Eve.

The women in this system barter their beauty and their desirability much like Elliott does his athletic prowess. There is a power structure here too though the rules are mostly unwritten. The lucky girl gets to marry the quarterback and be on the front page of People Magazine. So the games play on.

What happened between Elliott and his sometime girlthing has been nauseously regurgitated and debated. There are conflicting statements and the accuser’s credibility is under fire. It is a difficult case in many ways. There will be no criminal charges. It simply isn’t a strong enough case.

This, however, is a disciplinary measure subject to scrutiny and review through an internal arbitration process established by a 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and its players union, the NFLPA. It is overseen by another rich white man by the name of Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL. Under Goodell, the NFL (a multi-billion dollar corporation) has been remarkably bad at handling these matters since the union handed it over.

The extent to which you want the league wielding this power depends on a variety of factors as well. It also reflects how you view the ecosystem with all its parts and particles. This is a money-making endeavor after all.

Where do I fit in this ecosystem you might ask? I ask myself that question on the regular. It has been a part of my life as long as I can remember.

Where Spencer Hall loves his offense, I am the exact opposite. I am a defensive-minded gal and have been since I started analyzing the game from a less-than-causal perspective. It is a cat and mouse game with a defense where you try to hide your hand and attack the opposing offense in a manner that surprises them. I love the offense too, but my heart has always been with the defense.

It is the job of the defensive players to prevent the offense from scoring, but not too much! After all, we all crave some excitement. There is some sort of imagined soft spot between high score, low score, and the ratio in between that is hard to quantify as well. The beauty of the game shines at its brightest when there is an epic battle between the two.

Not long ago I realized my own scoring sweet spot fell within the 14-to-30 range. I realized this from doing predictions. Everyone wants to see a good offense, but a great defensive battle between two teams leading to a low scoring game can also be sublime for those who love this aspect of the game.

I view the punishment cases in much the same way. The NFLPA handed over a vast amount of power to the league office that will be very hard to recoup. There are no simple solutions to how they can succeed in getting it back and the fight between the two has become increasingly ugly, and dirty.

In the fight between chaos and order, I generally side with order. No one wants to see Tom Brady’s fully deflated balls on the field no matter how much they worship him. They likewise do not want to see players destroy their bodies or their lives, through overdose or otherwise.

It is the nature of chaos to generally detest rules while order generally demands them.

We rail against the rules but the game would not exist without them. This is an inescapable truth. I think there are good reasons for having things like minimum and maximum ball pressure set by someone qualified to decide what they should be. I think there should be limits on what a player can do on and off the field to intentionally harm his opponent or someone else. This isn’t dissimilar from the vast majority of most workplaces.

Does Elliott deserve to be suspended? Your answer depends on the part you play in this ecosystem and how you ingest this drug.

In addition to the allegations of domestic violence. There were two other incidents involving Elliott. One where he pulled the top down on a young woman at a public parade that was widely photographed and distributed. The second a fight where Elliot allegedly hit someone in a fight at a bar. Neither party pursued any form of charges against Elliott in either of these incidents.

Indeed, we are now told not to worry that Elliott banged this second young woman after he publicly exposed her breasts so no harm no foul. Other women were also alleged to be a problem in the relationship he had with his accuser.

That these two incidents happened while he was under investigation is a cause for concern. It is far preferable to fly under the radar while you are being investigated by the league for assault. That another assault occurred during the investigation is assuredly cause for concern.  

At various times in our lives we’ve all needed a little checking whether we wanted it or not. Sometimes life has a way of doing it. Sometimes your boss or your significant other does it to you. Hopefully you have friends who can do it should the need arise. We need those people in our lives whether we realize it, or recognize it, or not.

I think Elliott needed a bit of checking, the extent of which you can debate. In a perfect world, I would probably give him two-to-three games with a suspension of one if he did community outreach work with a local women’s center.

In five years or so, give or take an injury or two, the Cowboys will realize Elliott has outlived his usefulness and they will move on. Rich men do this with things they consider to be commodities and toys, including women.

I have an uneasy relationship with rules, order, and the checks and balances process. Nefarious reasons exist just as much as benevolent ones. As in all aspects of this game, your views on it depend on a wide variety of factors. There is a sweet spot here too that relies on these variations.

It was reported during #Deflategate that some of the NFL owners not named Robert Kraft were pushing for a suspension of Brady. Chief among them was Jones who was allegedly upset about the power balance and the influence Kraft wielded over the league and Goodell. Jones wanted a “check” placed on that influence and was very supportive of Goodell in the aftermath.

Today it is Jones who has been caught in the web of league discipline and it is he who is fighting against the system. There is a game behind the scenes between competing forces among ownership. Rich men play their games between each other as well.

Many of the the drug dispensers, who despise Goodell and the league’s disciplinary measures for a variety of reasons, are mostly united in an effort to defend Elliott and rail against the system. It’s odd to see these fan bases unite when their owners behind the scenes are driving some of the action.

The Cowboys will kick off their season on September 10 at Jerry World in a divisional rivalry game with the New York Giants. It remains to be seen whether Elliott will join the team on the field as his case winds its way through the system.

This game will be played in primetime on Sunday Night Football with country music star Carrie Underwood serenading the two teams into action. Underwood is a beautiful woman married to Mike Fisher, a hockey player who recently retired from the NHL after an amazing 17-year career. Sometimes the hockey player gets the girl too.

And so the games play on.

Follow Sharona on Twitter @SportsbySharona, and check out her other work here, including Derrick Henry being a better bet than DeMarco Murray in Tennessee.

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