Tim Bouvine: All’s fair in love, war and the NFL

Tim Bouvine
Tim Bouvine
All parties involved in the deception that is the National Football League are to blame for the conduct presented to the sports world on a daily basis. Just think of all the qualities one can admire in another person and flip those ideals 180 degrees and you will get what transpires on a consistent basis in the most popular professional sports league.

Worse yet, is these qualities are generally accepted as being “part of the game” or shrugged off as “it’s business and not personal.”

Loyalty, honesty, integrity and team cohesiveness are secondary elements in today’s National Football League, especially during the offseason when free agency, roster and salary cap manipulations take over. Let’s not even get into the NFL Draft that elevates rumor mongering and deception to new heights every April. Perhaps the league should start their draft on April 1 because only “fools” believe all the disinformation that is bandied about.

The NFL’s free agency period that is ongoing at the moment is “people’s exhibit A.” The term itself is a misnomer as the NFL’s free agency declaration must have been conceived in sin as players’ options are limited by terms such as “franchise player” or “transition player” that preclude stars from gaining access to free market principles.

The long-lasting impression that professional football players are disloyal themselves has been supplanted by recent activity exhibited by general managers. These front office types are suddenly declaring anyone older than 30 with the possible exception of quarterbacks, is to be treated with contempt, either to be released from their “contracts” or forced to accept reduced compensation.

At this rate the general public will not have to worry about concussions and player safety ending careers early. The NFL career just gets shorter and shorter. Any fantasy football enthusiast would have no problem assembling an All-Star team solely with recently released players that have been deemed too old to be paid handsomely. A case in point is thirty-five year old Minnesota Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield.

The best tackling cornerback in the league was surprisingly released by team GM Rick Spielman, deemed damaged goods despite being the most consistent Viking defender in the last nine years because of his impending $7.25 million contract for the 2013 season. The NFL might as well start a “Senior Tour” like golf because there is plenty of entertaining talent that is being relegated to second-tier status due to age and not ability.

League general managers toss out artfully crafted wordings to the press that imply one thing, but actually are saying another. “People’s exhibit B” is Vikings GM Spielman declaring the team had “no intent” of trading Percy Harvin. That phrase means actually nothing in principle because it technically means there is no plan. Of course Harvin was traded this week to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for future draft picks.

Other GM’s around the league that speak their professional jargon on a daily basis know that phrase is meaningless and is often a signal to others that a player is available. It may sound too nuanced, but these phrases fool well over half of today’s NFL fans that seemingly are shocked when a trade is eventually announced. Spielman further explained his announced trade by declaring that “we weren’t actively shopping Percy” which again means absolutely nothing because of the artful use of the word actively that cannot be simply measured to ascertain any element of truthfulness in the statement.

Not all of the disturbing trends can be placed at the feet of GM’s. Players such as Harvin give credence to the “me first” approach in contract negotiations that can tear apart a team. The Vikings managed to pull it all together late in the year when Percy went AWOL after his mid-season ankle injury that may or may not have been a season-ending ailment. There are indications that Harvin simply left the team as he was threatening not to play throughout the 2012 year in dissatisfaction with his admittedly below market value rookie contract.

Some in the private sector away from professional sports might call that action job abandonment, but in the realm of today’s NFL it simply paved the way for Harvin to be traded elsewhere and receive a hefty raise with the Seahawks for a reported $67 million, six year deal with $25.5 million in guaranteed money. These contracts could easily be marked as “Peoples exhibit C” that says one thing, but actually means something altogether different.

Six years and $67 million mean zilch in today’s NFL salary cap wizardry that is almost as convoluted as the league’s “passing efficiency rating.” All that matters is the guaranteed money of $25.5 million as the contract is really not a binding contract, if that can make sense to average everyday football followers.

If it seems to be piling on the National Football League by solely focusing on today’s eminently popular attraction, it goes without saying that all of these actions are shared by baseball, basketball and hockey too. The NFL is a victim of its own popularity though as the seemingly non-stop year-round football calendar lends itself to increasing focus. One simply cannot avoid the chatter about the NFL at all if you follow the sports world in electronic media.

Good luck out there to anyone that attempts to explain the shady practices of today’s NFL to admiring youngsters. “It’s just business” seems to be the predominant excuse for all of the shenanigans, but it’s difficult to explain to a 12-year-old that traits we hopefully teach them don’t apply to the sports world.