Monday, July 6, 2009

18 comments MMQB Review: Non-Peter King Edition 2

We are week 2 into the Peter King Summer Sabbatical and it has never felt sadder on a Monday morning to wake up and realize there is not a 100% chance of idiocy sitting in the form of a column on's web site. Still I did an Internet search on Peter's name and found some hope that Peter had come out of his Sabbatical to comment on the Michael Jackson death.

I have never felt such a rush of excitement in thinking that everyone's favorite Brett Favre lover had called Michael Jackson a "child molester." Alas, there is another Peter King making trouble in the world. Why couldn't THAT Peter King be the guest writer for MMQB? Just based on his quotes in that article I would really like to hear what he has to say about the sport of football. I am sure it would give me good material to work with.

This week the guest columnist is Matt Birk. I don't think this is fair. I usually don't even have to turn my brain on past 60% usage level when reading Peter's MMQB. He says something stupid and I write something about it. Unfortunately Matt Birk went to Harvard so this poses quite a challenge for this uneducated and sun deprived blogger.

It's truly an honor to fill in for Peter King. My only goal in this column is not to mention Brett Favre. Whoops. Mission failed.

Now see, you can't be self aware if you are writing Peter's MMQB. You have to say you are going to lay off the Brett Favre talk because a lot of people are tired of it and then mention Favre at a minimum of four separate times.

An alarming number of former players live in physical and mental pain because of injuries they suffered while playing, some of the symptoms not manifesting themselves until long after their careers were over. These men have had to exhaust their savings in order to receive medical care for their ailments, achieving a quality of life most of us would not deem bearable.

Remember in grade school when the regular teacher would be out for the day and a substitute was called in and everyone went wild because the substitute let you do whatever you want, while the real teacher was mean and lectured you all day? Matt Birk replacing Peter King is the opposite of that.

This bothers me because everyone associated with the NFL is making money. Under the current system, about 2 percent of the revenues being paid to players goes toward retired players. So why can't we give a bigger piece of the pie to the players of yesteryear?

Because that comes out of someone else's pocket that doesn't want to give the money up. I know Matt Birk is a good guy who wants to help out the retired players but if he thinks many other players are going to be willing to give a large portion of their paycheck to help out retired players, he is delusional. At least I think so. There are maybe 10%-20% of players who will be able to do that or are willing to help out.

Do you know why? The average NFL player's career lasts 4 years or something near that number. If you knew for 4 years on average you would be making as much money as 1% of Americans, how much of that money would you be willing to give up? I say not that much because you want to save some money for the future or just spend it all. I am not talking about these guys like Matt Birk and other guys who have been in the league for a while, those guys would be willing to give some of their check because they probably have security by now. I am talking about the majority of the league. Those guys who are not "core" players on a team who are making tons of money now but want to live a lavish lifestyle while they can. Those guys are really not going to want to give money up to the retired players.

I am not saying that is right, I just think it is natural that it will either take a while to get support for this idea of the current players helping out the retired players or there will never be sufficient support for this idea. Not to mention the money these player's make can barely help them live the lavish lifestyle they want according to Bill Simmons (It is about a third of the way down the post). That's why they all go bankrupt because it is not as easy as it looks to live off 6 or 7 figures according to Bill, because that puts you in the 60% tax bracket with unicorns, alligators in the New York sewers, the government being responsible for the AIDS epidemic and other mythical ideas that don't exist no matter how many times people insist they do.

The owners are certainly not going to want to cough up extra money from the revenues to help the retired players out, and honestly, I am not sure I would want them to. Because these owners will make that money back and we all know where they will make that money back...raising prices on things at stadiums and passing the costs on to the fans. I love older players but I certainly don't want that.

I am sure there are probably other solutions to this problem but it doesn't seem like anyone really wants to think about it. Part of the problem is that the NFL doesn't celebrate it's history that much, so they don't celebrate the older players as much and this issue isn't quite as much in the public eye as necessary. The money has to come from someone's piece of the pie, I just don't want it to be the fans. The players aren't going to want to lose too much of their paychecks and the owners are not going to want to lose any revenue.

Knowing the owners, they will probably add a $2 "help out the retired players" tax to each ticket sold in the NFL, much like the absolute bullshit "convenience charge" Ticketmaster charges. (As if there should be a separate charge for making the entire way they do business "convenient." In any other industry that is just called "doing smart business" because there is competition...but that is another story.) The point is that this money has to come out of someone's pocket and no one wants it out of their own pocket.

The NFLPA wants the money to go to current players because football salaries already lag behind their baseball and basketball counterparts, for which the NFLPA catches heat. So, if this problem is going to be remedied it's going to have to come from the current players.

I agree it doesn't make sense for the Player's Union to help out retired's not like the NFLPA is a union that is supposed to protect the rights and interests of NFL players. Retired players shouldn't count in this right? It's not like the retired players were ever players in the NFL, besides the NFLPA should focus on the more important issue of inflating current player's salaries instead of the ancillary issue of ex-players not having sufficient money to pay their medical bills as a result of lack of health coverage.

Enough sarcasm. How is this not the NFLPA's responsibility? Can you imagine if the President of the United States said he was no longer going to fund any type of Medicaid or unemployment benefits until he has taken steps to make sure the average salary of the American worker is equivalent to that of other countries? Maybe not the best example, but I think you get what I am saying.

In the NFL, where contracts are not guaranteed and everyone is one play away from a career-ending injury, I don't fault players for being focused on the present. But it's our responsibility to leave this game better than we found it. Players today should hope future generations will do the same for us.

Especially when you are in that 60% tax bracket Bill Simmons talked about. It is so hard to manage these millions of dollars, no wonder these athletes go broke.

A quick word on Steve McNair: He was the definition of a gamer. His toughness and grit are legendary. Not only was he out on the field every Sunday, but he also played at a high level. That is what great players do. A lot of guys can play well when they feel good, but the season is a grind.

Fred was so right that I am lucky Peter King is not writing MMQB this week. He probably would have compared Steve McNair to Brett Favre in some fashion and I would have suffered a heart attack on the spot while typing in a fury and my last gesture would have been to add the "a lot of cursing" label to the post and then submitted it quickly before I died.

On a more personal note, Steve McNair's death really makes me wonder of what might have been. Here's the short version of the story and you can skip this if you would like. I used to love to play Super Tecmo Bowl on Super Nintendo and I always played with the Houston Oilers, but never chose a favorite NFL team until the Panthers got a team in 1993 (I chose them as my favorite team before they even had a team. I was prepared to be very dedicated). As I was watching the NFL and deciding who to hate, I found really, really enjoyed watching the Oilers play because they ran the run-and-shoot and it was fun to watch, plus I played with them on Super Tecmo Bowl (though it was a couple seasons behind, it did not matter to me).

Anyway, the first draft for the Panthers as an NFL team was the 1995 draft, which was also the draft where Steve McNair was drafted. I loved McNair so much more than Collins in that draft and wanted the Panthers to draft him. They of course did not, so I followed the Panthers and that was that. Houston moved to Tennessee in 1997 and I enjoyed watching McNair when I could. Long story short, if Carolina had never gotten an NFL team I could have ended up being a Titans fan due to my growing interest in football in the 90's (which admittedly caused by the fact there would be an NFL team 10 miles from my house, but let's not get to Lost-like here and wonder if I would have watched the NFL with as much fervor if the Panthers never existed), my enjoyment in watching the Oilers play, and the eventual move to Tennessee. Not a very interesting story, but it's weird for me to think about since McNair was killed.

2. I think the media drives the business of football and I love that fans can't get enough of our sport, but sometimes I have to laugh at what is considered news in the offseason. If a player skips Organized Team Activities (OTAs), it's a headline. Newsflash: Ten years ago, OTAs didn't exist, yet somehow teams were able to pull everything together and play a 16-game season with uniforms and everything. The O also should stand for optional, since OTAs are not mandatory.

I agree. I think it is stupid that the media makes such a big deal of a player missing OTAs since they are voluntary. What does annoy me though is that nearly every job has something that is "voluntary" but is really not voluntary. OTAs are similar to that but many sportswriters act like there is no other occupation in the world where there are "voluntary" and "optional" events. In football they are optional but OTAs also tell the coaching staff how serious about the new season a player is. It's one of the first chances the players have to interact and get out on the field with their new and old teammates. So much should not be made of an absence but NFL teams are not the only ones who have "optional" mandatory events.

3. I think everyone deserves a second chance, especially Michael Vick. Third chances are extremely rare, however.

Why does Mike Vick "especially" deserve a second chance? I think he does deserve a second chance but it's not like he was framed for the crime or got caught up with the wrong people. He was the ringleader of the dogfighting ring and lied repeatedly to the commissioner and the public about his involvement. He deserves a second chance but why does he "especially" deserve one?

4. I think every stadium in the NFL should be outdoor and natural grass. I used to hate playing inside because turf burns on the old AstroTurf hurt like you wouldn't believe. But playing outside is how everyone grows up playing.

I just thought I would throw this in here. For a Harvard educated guy, Matt Birk's writing skills leave a little something to be desired. I don't proofread this blog as much as I proofread other stuff I write, but I also have about 1/100,000 the audience MMQB does.

He says "But playing outside..." like he is changing his line of thinking from the previous sentence but he is not. It doesn't really make sense. It would make more sense if it said:

"I think every stadium in the NFL should be outdoor and natural grass. I used to love playing inside because turf allows me to run faster and I get a better grip on carpet. But playing outside is how everyone grows up playing."

That's our English lesson for the day. You wouldn't use "but" there unless you had something that changed the line of thinking from the previous sentence.

(I think I have officially made everyone stop reading this blog permanently now...I am just saying he his Harvard educated, he should know this...or at least the editor should.)

6. I think there is too much stimulation at football games today. We don't need all the lights and noise and T-shirts being shot into the crowd. The game on the field is enough.

You can tell Matt Birk isn't in the crowd that often. Imagine how boring introductions would be without all the lights and noise. Most of the crowd is far away from the action so they need to be able to feel a part of the game and a lot of the theatrics do that. I don't care much for the T-shirts being shot into the crowd but the lights and noise help get the crowd pumped up for the game even more. I don't see how more noise is a bad thing when you are dealing with a bunch of drunk fans.

8. I think kids should play flag football until they reach high school. Youth tackle football is dangerous and awfully boring for parents and kids alike. Besides, no kid wants to be stuck playing offensive line. Everyone deserves a chance to run and throw the ball, and that's what kids want to do.

This is a spasm of thoughts. I will try to sort through them. Flag football until Junior High/Middle School would be sufficient. Kids are old enough at that point to play tackle, at least I think so. I don't see how flag football is less boring than tackle football. Also, I vividly recall there being offensive linemen in my junior high/middle school so I don't know how playing flag football would negate the need for an offensive line. I think Harvard educated or not Matt Birk may have taken too many shots to the head. There will still be an offensive line even in flag football.

a. I think "Minnesota Nice" really does exist. It seems out here on the East Coast people are in more of a hurry and are a little bit crabby compared to those in the Midwest.

Whatever. Hurry up and get this column over and done.

c. I think you should always stop at any lemonade stand you see on the side of the street, buy lemonade, and leave a BIG tip. (Example: If the lemonade is a quarter, give the kid a dollar and tell him to keep the change.) The reaction is priceless.

Maybe this is an example of Matt Birk and "Minnesota Nice" because I haven't seen a lemonade stand in a few years and I have certainly not seen lemonade at the price of a quarter.

I wonder if writing MMQB every week just naturally lowers your IQ by 40 points and you somehow end up writing the most inane and useless observations. It's like MMQB has a mind of its own that lowers the author's IQ while writing it.

d. I think, like your regular MMQB writer, I love drinking coffee and eating pizza.

Peter King doesn't "drink" coffee. He samples the aromas of coffee at exotic locales, such as the Holiday Inn in San Diego, and then gives a review of the taste and blend of the coffee because he is a fucking expert.

As such, I think it's funny when someone refers to me as an "athlete." When I wake up in the morning, I don't feel too athletic.

This is where Matt Birk shows he is not a professional sportswriter like Peter King. Peter feels athletic in the morning when he gets up and bitches about there being no fresh coffee in the lobby at 6am or complains that another country's coffee is too weak. It's like the Special Olympics for Whiners and Peter is a gold medal winner on the level of Michael Phelps.

Editor's Note: Check tomorrow for a special MMQB: Tuesday Edition, guest-authored by another current NFL player.

If it is interesting, we will cover it. Though since it is guest-authored it will probably contain useless questions about what it is like to play in the NFL. That's not very interesting.

I hope everyone had a good 4th of July weekend.


Anonymous said...

Who has AstroTurf anymore? It's now field turf and it's nothing like the concrete and carpet.

Bengoodfella said...

Good point. I clearly did not catch that. I think it is interesting Birk played on field turf for about 10 years (assuming Minnesota has field turf, which I think they do) and did not know exactly what surface he was playing on.

I missed that few teams play on AstroTurf anymore and have switched over to the new field turf. Maybe he just calls it AstroTurf still?

RuleBook said...

This is all I could hear as I was reading the column. As an added bonus, imagine Peter King as the little boy.

KentAllard said... has editors? What do they do?

Bengoodfella said...

Of course YouTube is blocked here at my place of employment so I don't get to share in the joy that is the video.

Yes, has editors and they spend most of their time editing out coffee references and giving insights on how can make their home page seem even more muddled.

Martin said...

Most football players have a short career, but most of the ones who have these long term chronic injuries played more then 4 years. They were the long time players. it's hard to convince anybody who is likely to only be in the league 4 years that they need to financially assist guys who were in the league 8,10,12 years.

Folks like Birt keep harping on the "non-guaranteed" status of contracts, but ignore the entire "signing bonus" aspect, which IS the guaranteed part of the contract. When we hear Pete Waterhouse signed a 4-16 contract with a 6 million signing bonus, we all know it means 6 million guaranteed, and then whatever. Also, about a year ago, I read a very nice article about disparity in wages among the sports and it turns out that the NFL players are right there with NBA and MLB players in terms of salaries. The article even pointed out that over a period of time, that the NFLPA had done a better job of increasing the amount paid to it's players then the otehr sports the last 15-20 years. (Of course this doesn't address the aspect of how bad the NFLPA had been doing with the salaries before then).

Adressing the "voluntary" aspects of jobs. i feel lucky in some ways to be out here in Cali, because there have been so many lawsuits over non-voluntary "voluntary"" business activities, that they have pretty much vanished out here. Instead they just spell them out as part of the job...which means you get paid for doing them. I think this is the biggest thing against OTA's for football players. They aren't getting paid to be there, so why be there. With Roger trying to add another game or two, I think that things like OTA's will become paid as part of a restructuring to compensate for the added games.

The NFLPA might just negotiate for the abolishment of them too instead, sort of as a comp-time for the extra game.

Matt's poor sentence structure resonates with my 7th grade english teachers voice: "Never, EVER, begin a sentence with the word but."

Bengoodfella said...

The football players who have had longer careers are also going to be the ones that are in a better position to help the NFL veterans. I think all the current players should help the veterans, but like you said, it is really hard to convince someone who is not guaranteed to be on a roster in a year or two to cough up money for a veteran they barely even know. I just don't know how much success they can expect to have with the current players.

That's a good point and I do understand how the contracts aren't guaranteed but many players do get some signing bonus money as well. Of course that is like real life where no person's salary or contract is guaranteed so I don't have too much sympathy.

As far as the OTAs are concerned, if you don't want to go, just skip them. If you have a good reason, then a player shouldn't worry what the media says. I do think the NFLPA should do something about those OTAs but we'll see if that happens.

Bottom line, good luck getting the NFLPA to get a lot of participating in giving money to veteran players.

Also, I start a lot of sentences with "but" and that is out of pure laziness. If I knew anything I wrote would be read by more than 10 people, I would get rid of stuff like that.

ivn said...

didn't Matt Birk go to Harvard? you'd think he'd be able to write a little better than that.

Bengoodfella said...

Ivn, you are right. It wasn't horrible, but I certainly was expecting a little bit more from himn. That's what I get for raising my standards from what Peter King normally writes.

ivn said...

oh wow I didn't even read that you mentioned it in the beginning of your post. boy do I feel stupid right now.

what a banal column though. if I didn't know any better I'd think ol' Harvard boy is talking down to us. "Hmmm...better throw in something about how tough it is to raise kids. I'm sure they'll understand that."

and re: "Minnesota Nice," Matt, what did you expect when you moved to fucking Baltimore?

AwesomeSean said...

Gamer, grit and toughness? I don't remember McNair playing SS for the 2006 STL Cardinals.

The retired players angle is tired. First (and I am not looking this up), NFL players are eligible for a pension after like 60 games on the active roster. Next, tied directly to that is the NFL (the teams) prohibits many players from reaching that level so as to avoid paying the pension (presumably.) If there is to be a more lucrative pension plan it must come from the players share of the revenues. If they cannot agree to set money aside for themselves and their own future earnings, why should the owners pick up the bill?

Bengoodfella said...

Ivn, don't feel stupid. It's no big deal, I usually write so much stuff I am sure people have to scan at some point.

Birk didn't do a bad job any stretch of the imagination or anything but you are right there wasn't a whole lot here. When Peter is not writing it, all of a sudden it becomes much like a player blogging but following Peter's format. The players do a good job writing but it's kind of boring. That's what makes me wonder what will be in a the mail bag tomorrow.

When you move from anywhere to Baltimore, it's going to seem a whole lot rougher in Baltimore. I have been there and though I have never been to Minnesota, I would imagine it is quite different. He should use his fancy boy Harvard education to figure that out.

Bengoodfella said...

Sean, that is funny because when I was writing stuff about McNair I almost made a comment that I sounded like I was doing a parody of myself...but I figured he is dead and they are kind of true so I would not mention that...

Nice information on the pension plan. I did not know all of that. I wonder how that affects the older players because they don't really have a chance to put back now that they are retired. Maybe I am confusing the issue. I don't think the money should come out of the owners end because it is the player's pension so they should have to pay for it and I think they should have to pay for the retired player's part as well. It should not have to come from anywhere else because a union is for things like this.

I just don't know how many players will want to contribute to the older player's health insurance after they are retired.

AwesomeSean said...

BGF...More info. Don't need 60 games on active roster BUT you do need to be an active participant in at least 3 games each over 3 seasons. So, I suppose if you were injury prone but had upside you'd stick. Injury prone but mid-level talent, probably not. Think of the 55 man roster and how many of those players we don't know even as fans of a team.

Check it:

I don't know how to link in the comments section so deal with it. 401K plan is pretty sweet too...$10K gets you $30K. Bet a box of Triscuits the health plan is pretty bang-up to.

Bengoodfella said...

So I guess an active participant means you have to be on the 48 man roster on Sunday for three games in three seasons. Your comment on potential is exactly correct then.

$2 for every $1 put into the plan is not a bad deal at all for the 401(k). I guess my next question is why are the veterans struggling so much now. I think they enacted this in 1998, so what kind of plan did they have before that. The players have no right to bitch about the plan at all really.

The health plan for the older players must really, really suck compared to this one. I wouldn't mind having the current pension plan in football. Actually I wouldn't mind just having a fucking pension. They are bitching about the pension, well at least they have one.

Fred Trigger said...

I dont think a lot of the older players have pension plans, or healthcare for that matter, which I think is what Matt Birk was getting at.

P.S. Remember when I said Donald Fehr was good at his job compared to the other major sports? Take a look at how the NFL's players union gets manhandled by the owners and tell me they couldnt use a union rep like him (or Marvin Miller for that matter).

Martin said...

Yeah the majority of these guys are from the 70's and first half of the 80's. The suppossed what happens is that they have so many injuries it's hard to hold a normal job after football, and that the medical expenses are so high, the pension can't cover it all. They can withdraw from the pension early, but they get a smaller share. These guys are withdrawing early to pay for the medical and the everyday expenses in their lives. At least this is the story that I've read since that big thing in DC a year or two ago.

Bengoodfella said...

So those are the players that need financial help and they get the pension, it is just not enough to cover their medical bills...this sounds like something that the NFLPA should be all over.

I don't think this should come out of the owner's pocket either. My company isn't going to care if/when I don't have enough money for retirement so really the owners shouldn't care either. I think the NFLPA should be on this.