By Mark Hebscher


It started this year with the Ray Rice incident. Then Adrian Peterson. Now it’s Deflate-gate and Marshawn Lynch and I’m getting sick of it. I used to be so in love with the NFL, but now I don’t trust the league to do the right thing….and it’s killing me.

The Cleveland Browns were my first love. On Sunday’s, I would sit with my Dad on the couch and wait for the voice and the faraway shot of a football stadium on WBEN TV, Channel 4 in Buffalo. “Live from Municipal Stadium on the shores of Lake Erie, it’s the Cleveland Browns and the New York Giants. This is Frank Glieber along with Warren Lahr.” I was hooked. I wanted to know EVERYTHING about the NFL. I became a football fanatic. I could rhyme off the Browns offense including the interior linemen (Clark, Schafrath, Wooten, Hickerson and Hoaglin with Milt Morin and Catfish Smith as tight ends) I saw Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly, Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus and O.J. Simpson play live. I’ve covered Super Bowls and interviewed the top figures in the game. I bought jerseys and footballs (under inflated) and pennants and programs. But now, I don’t want to know anything more about the NFL because it’s all bad news. We can only hope for a great Super Bowl game to salvage the season. I don’t even care who wins that much, I only care about the excitement rating, although I can’t imagine it will top the Seattle-Green Bay orgy from a week ago Sunday.

I can’t actually trace where my displeasure with the league originated. I do know this: Since Roger Goodell took over, it’s been a nightmare and we’re still stuck with him. This year alone has done more to damage the reputation of the NFL than the previous 50 years combined. Ray Rice. Adrian Peterson. Cover-ups. Investigations. Stupid rules (It was a catch!). Poor officiating. Before that, it was concussions and how the league knew they could cause permanent damage and then they got caught and all they had to do was offer 700 million dollars to make it go away. So, it’s about money and greed and power and opulence (see Jones, Jerry).

And now, with the bright lights of the Super Bowl shining down, what are people talking about? Deflate-gate. The P.S.I. of a football and the allegations that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick cheated by altering the air pressure. Come on! And now you’ve got Marshawn Lynch, who’s made over 50 million dollars by signing NFL contracts saying the only reason he’s talking at Media Day is because he’ll get fined if he doesn’t. Like 100 grand or 200 grand is going to make a diff with this guy. And the media asks him questions even though they know he’s going to say the same thing. Even Deion Sanders, a guy who as a player once dumped a bucket of ice water on announcer Tim McCarver’s head during a World Series postgame interview, couldn’t get Lynch to answer his questions. Last year, Lynch only talked to Deion. This year, he gets treated like the rest of us. The NFL should take a draft pick away from Seattle for that kind of behaviour. At least.

And earlier this week, Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said Goodell and Patriots owner Bob Kraft are best buddies and they have dinner together so that’s a conflict of interest and we can see who Goodell favors. Sherman should be fined for his comments. Taking a shot at the league is one thing. Suggesting that Goodell is in the pocket of the Patriots and will benefit financially from them winning is slanderous. It makes the Seahawks look bad. So you have a player that’s challenging an incompetent commissioner who also has no backbone. Not good.

You have to admit that the Patriots appear as the white, establishment, elitist team that is always looking for that edge. Belichick is an oddball who was implicated in the “Spygate” scandal a few years back and is now looked at by many as a cheater. Brady, ever since the “Tuck Rule” way back when against the Raiders, has been hated by many, especially after he married a supermodel and got better looking as he aged. The Pats owner, Robert Kraft, appears to be the nicest guy in the world, and may have suffered the most this post-season as his franchise is getting a lot of fingers being pointed at them. Quite frankly, I don’t know which team I dislike least. The Seahawks will probably win, but I kind of hope Lynch fumbles a couple of times and maybe Sherman gets his hand stepped on. And when the time comes to hand out the Vince Lombardi trophy, I hope that Goodell bobbles it and it falls on his head and he gets a concussion and they have to carry him off and he can’t come back to work because he took one too many blows to the head. That would be a fitting ending to this ridiculous NFL season.