“Absence does not make the heart grow fonder, but it sure heats up the blood”
Ladies and gentlemen, the NFL IS back.
The lockout, which began on March 12th, has been the longest in the league’s history. But today, the NFL and the NFLPA (NFL Players’ Association) have agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The important news is that no regular season games will be lost. Furthermore the astronomical fees that first-round draft picks used to command will be severely reduced.
The league and everyone with any sense of attachment to it will not have appreciated the prolonged period which has seen them jettisoned from the sporting headlines. This is the all-swaggering, hit-somebody-in-the-mouth National Football League. It is a place for the brash, brazen and bolshie not for the silent and secretive.
Yet the lockout ushered in a hush-hush tone. Terms were debated around the table, behind closed doors. I have my own opinions on the American media’s handling of the affair and intend to blog on them at some point in the very near future. My main source of frustration centres around this pertinent question: if a similar incident were to happen in the Premier League, do you think the English media would have seemed so out of the loop? Personally I think the America media purposely gave both sides their distance. They enjoy almost unparalleled access to players, coaches and locker rooms and it’s a fruitful arrangement which they daren’t disrupt. The English media have to make do with weekly press conferences and post-match interviews which, in certain instances, are only hosted by an in-house television channel. Whether intimate access or strong investigative journalism is better for the general public is something to debate elsewhere.
But now football is back, expect the fireworks to light up the sky once more. The absence of any real drama has caused me to yearn for the crazy storylines even more.
I can tire of lengthy transfer sagas quite easily (I’m looking at you Luka, Cesc and Carlos). But the Americans have a way of inducing drama into the mundane. It took three years of Favre Watch for me to finally become exasperated with the depressingly familiar scenario. It’s the little things like telling us Carson Palmer’s house in Cincinnati has been sold or announcing that Brett Favre’s wife had renewed her fitness membership in Minnesota.
Free agency will begin this week and there are plenty of players who will be looking to move or at least substantially increase their back accounts. There are, in the shape of, Nnamdi Asomugha, Peyton Manning, Sidney Rice, DeAngelo Williams, Ahmad Bradshaw, Randy Moss, Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards, some massive free agents capable of turning around many team’s fortunes. But there is considerably less sand in the egg timer this time. Envisage the furore on the final day of football’s transfer window and translate that madness to the free agency stampede this time around.
The starting pistol has been fired but the marathon of the off-season has been reduced to an 800 metre dash. As Jason La Canfora stated: “every hour is of the essence with clubs trying to cram what could normally be done over weeks into hectic days”.
We may have lost no actual football action but the fans have been short-changed this offseason. Ladies and gentlemen, American football IS back. Time to indulge on the madness.
You can follow me on Twitter @liamblackburn.
“Self-praise is no recommendation”
You might forgive New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis for thinking the sun shines out of his derrière. There has been universal praise for his shut-down abilities and when discussing Revis’ extraordinary season in 2009, pundits trip over themselves to shower him with plaudits. In a recent NFL feature, Brian Baldinger cooed that he was the best player in the entire league.
His own coach Rex Ryan is among Revis’ biggest fans and like anything concerning his Jets, he isn’t afraid to tell anyone in earshot just how good he is. The trouble is Ryan and the Jets have created a monster. He has hyped Revis up to the high heavens and back down to his very own island. The player’s are certainly enjoying breathing in this air of confidence, Revis it seems, more than most.
This has become an issue now Revis wants more money. He believes he is deserving of it and the praise Ryan and others have lavished on him is only reinforcing these beliefs.
Does Revis deserve to be paid more? Sure. Does he deserve to be the best paid corner in the league? Possibly. But Nnamdi Asomugha’s gigantic deal means that the Jets will have to cough up a lot, an awful lot.
The trouble is, if you listen to Rex, the Jets also have the best players everywhere else. This surely means that the offensive-line, the linebackers, the punter and the kit man will also want to be the best paid in the league. There’s only so much pie to go around and Revis’ demands threaten to take a large slice of New York pastry. The Jets know that if they load up Revis’ plate, Nick Mangold, David Harris and others will be doing their best Oliver impressions in front of owner Woody Johnson, “please sir, can I have some more?” It may well set a dangerous precedent.
Had it not been for Ryan salivating over Revis and the rest of his troops, you’d think the Jets would be in an extremely strong position when negotiating with Revis and his agent. He has three years left on his current deal, a deal he fought tooth and nail to acquire and the Jets have strength and depth at his position. The defense is extremely strong and has been strengthened again since last term. No more so is this evident than at Revis’ own position, cornerback. The Jets traded for Antonio Cromartie and they used their highest draft pick on Kyle Wilson. As a result, Revis’ absence may not be as significant as he would like to think. The Jets are considerably better with Revis but they have covered their back by loading up in his position.
However Revis can draw upon a plethora of soundbites from his own coach to provide compelling evidence for his own case. Rex’s most glowing reference:
“This year was the best year a corner has ever had in the National Football League.”
Ryan has shot himself in the foot. Whilst his brash demeanour appears to be doing wonders for the team, this is the other side of the coin. Revis believes this contrived hype and he wants the dollars to match it. It will be fascinating to see how this one transpires.