It’s Not Racism, It’s Criticism And Sherman Is One Of Many On The Receiving End Of Unnecessary Remarks

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Since the NFC Title game, few have recalled the qualities of the Seattle Seahawks’ defense and what made it the NFL’s best. Instead the focus has been on one man, Richard Sherman, and his post game interview that saw him call out an opponent and proclaim his own superiority when asked a routine question about the game-ending play.

Since then, many have taken to social media, and beyond, to opine and mainstream news media has picked up a story which went from immature dunce-in-the-heat-of-the-moment postgame interview to racially charged everyone-and-their-aunt-has an-opinion matter.

But there’s the reality of being a professional athlete and especially the face of a franchise: YOU GET CRITICIZED. A LOT. Especially for dumb stuff, as well as real stuff. 

Sherman was fairly criticized for taking that moment to shine the spotlight on himself. It was a total team effort that beat the 49ers for the chance to go to Super Bowl XLVIII. And he has since apologized for his immaturity. He’s only in his 3rd year as a professional; I assume he’ll learn from this.

Sherman was unfairly criticized for the manner in which he stole the spotlight. He was called a lot of names, some petty, some angry, some mean, and most notably, a thug. He said he was “disappointed” with that term, saying it’s replacing the N-word and he, and others, assumed some of those unfair criticisms were falling his way because he’s black. That simply isn’t true.

The reality is franchise guys get ripped on ALL THE TIME simply for being themselves…

Tom Brady gets made fun of for his Ugg commercials, his GQ style, having a super model wife and a mote at his California home.

Eli Manning takes mean-spirited shots for his facial expressions. Really mean.

Tim Tebow gets laughed at for his virginity and religion. Relentlessly.

Mark Sanchez is comedic fodder for his hairstyle and proclivity to run into the posterior end of his linemen.

Peyton Manning is supposedly awful in the cold and in the postseason (apparently he required a historically historic season to dispel this notion) and has taken so much criticism for the large size of his head, a popular twitter account was developed and has more than 97,000 followers.

Tony Romo is a choke artist.

Philip Rivers is a troublemaker.

Colin Kaepernick is punk.

Dez Bryant has been labeled a brat.

When you’re the face of the franchise, or the most vocal member of the team, you will get criticized and vilified for ridiculous, illogical and inconsequential matters as much as you’ll get venerated for ridiculous, illogical and inconceivably athletic plays.

Sherman’s jersey is now among the Top-10 best selling jerseys in the league.

People are running to the rescue, defending not only him from the criticism but also excusing his admittedly bad behavior, not understanding he’s faced down far greater obstacles than this. He just needs to get a thicker skin and not take things so personally.

So while some erroneously called him a “thug” and others conclude that is a racially charged term, I’d ask: What’s it called when Tebow is mocked on Saturday Night Live, or when Sanchez is ridiculed or Romo is heckled? Humor? Opinion? Or part of the territory? 

As far as racism, there will always be people of any color, sex, creed or culture that harbor ill-will towards others based on their color, sex, creed and culture. Assuming the few with ill-will speak for all who offer criticism is shortsighted. Furthermore, the only way to change those perceptions is to showcase a different reality on a consistent basis.

Last week, Sherman starred in a commercial where he was asked about his reputation of being a thug, is it any wonder that people are using that word to describe him now? "Beats By Dre" made that connection with Sherman and blasted it out for all to hear, many times over. Fair? Nope. Predictable? Yup. Racist? No. 

Starting now. Sherman should walk past the criticism, fair and unfair, and play the game he loves for the fans who love him in the biggest game of his career.

 

Thoughts On Damon Bruce And Whether He Should Be Fired

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If you don’t know what Damon Bruce said on his popular sports talk radio show in San Francisco, here you go. Take 9 minutes and listen to it. My grandma told me “some sports radio host said women don’t belong in sports media,” so that’s how I heard about Bruce’s comments.

Once I heard what he said, the “apology” and understanding the context in which he said it, here’s how I’ll sum up what I think he was clumsily trying to say: Bruce believes sports are raw and unfiltered and people who don’t appreciate that shouldn’t try to change it. His mistake, and it’s a bad one, was that he correlated women in sports media to a shift in conversation. He also said sports is a “men’s only club” and other more inciting “insight” along that ilk.   

First, I'd like to applaud Bruce for speaking his mind. Doesn’t bother me when that happens, even when I disagree with his opinion, even when I’m living proof that he’s wrong. But when we shut down dialogue, ideas get stagnant. I invited Bruce on my radio show to discuss this, he said when he’s able to join me, he will. He is currently suspended for his comments.

Second, hypothetically, let’s just say what Bruce is alleging is true. Let’s just say that women participating in sports media makes EVERYONE more sensitive and pansy-assed. Fact is, estimates are that women make up less than 10% of sports media. So THAT is some serious ninja-level efficiency if women are affecting THAT much change while representing such a gross minority. Bruce shouldn’t even be mad. He should be kinda impressed. (Ron Burgandy voice).

Third, can’t tell you how often I’m asked 1) “How do you know so much about sports?” or 2) “What’s it like to work in a man’s world?” or 3) “Why do you like sports?”

My answers are: 1) “Lawyers study the law, I study sports.” 2) “I’ve only ever been a woman in this world. No clue what a man’s world looks like.” And 3) “Why do you like to breath?”

Bruce’s comments reflect a societal theme that sports begin with men and women in sports are there because of men. It’s highly pervasive and only going work it’s way out of common sentiments with conversations sparked by guys like Bruce and women responding intelligently and patiently. 

Bruce’s attempt to defend Richie Incognito for his bullying of a teammate led to Bruce’s own bullish ideas being exposed. And he’s not alone. I'd be willing to bet these were concepts he hashed out with his buddies, finding agreement from male counterparts and concluding he's onto something significant. Significantly short-sighted.

I don’t want him to be fired; he’s a talented broadcaster. BUT, I think he needs to be around people who are less “yes-men” (or women) and challenge his opinions. He fell into an all-too-common trap of believing his opinion IS fact. And in radio, hosts are often told to be confident in their opinion, regardless of what it is. That can be solid advice, I guess, so long as there’s fact supporting that limb you’re hanging on. Otherwise the only thing that’ll support you if that limb breaks is the fact gravity sends you crashing to earth.  

In some ways, this situation with Bruce reminds me of when Augusta finally “allowed” women as members more than a year ago. It proves how far behind the times they are and how regressive their ideas are because women don’t need their approval or allowance to live happy, prosperous lives. In any capacity.

 

 

NFL Preview- Division Winners

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Division Predictions

Looking at each game and projecting wins and losses accordingly, here's how the season could shake down. It's rebuilding years in San Diego, Oakland, New York and Jacksonville. The NFC West is not as dominant as some think and the NFC South lays claim to some wildcard spots. The NFC has double the playoff-caliber teams as the AFC and that makes it tough on some teams in the conference. 

AFC WEST:  BRONCOS (13-3), CHIEFS (11-5), CHARGERS (3-13), RAIDERS (2-14)

This is the easiest division to predict. I could be very wrong about the Chiefs, I haven’t seen what I wanted to in the preseason, but looking at their early schedule, their first 9 games are fairly winnable. You get a team like that, coming off such tumult on a run and they’re likely to be very impressive. I think the Chargers are going to have a VERY tough year. Obviously. I had to work really hard to find 2 winnable games for the Raiders.

AFC EAST: DOLPHINS (9-7)/PATRIOTS (9-7), BILLS (7-9), JETS (3-13)

Both Dolphins and Pats finish with winning records. I give the Dolphins a nod because they took some chances in the offseason, adding Grimes and Ellerbe and Wallace that I think make this team much better. The Patriots had the polar opposite offseason. I wanted to be more optimistic about the Bills, but with no preseason for Manuel, I can’t trust them. The Jets’ season will make the Chargers season look entertaining. 

AFC NORTH:  BENGALS (12-4), STEELERS (7-9), RAVENS (7-9) BROWNS (6-10)

Love this Bengals team. Offensively, defensively, this team is “Most Likely To Be Overhyped” and that’s ok. They’re also fun to watch and have a schedule that helps them procure the most wins since 1988. Can’t help but think the Ravens and Steelers both take steps back. Mostly because they face off the NFC North with 4 solid teams. Wanted to be more optimistic about the Browns, so a 1-win improvement is all I could see given the schedule.

AFC SOUTH: TEXANS (12-4), COLTS (10-6), TITANS (5-11), JAGS (3-13)

Nothing shocking here. Texans continue to take the AFC by storm, Colts have another playoff season under Luck and the Titans offseason acquisitions prove meaningless until they get a quarterback. The Jags season will make the Jets season look fun.

AFC WILDCARDS: COLTS, CHIEFS

NFC WEST:  NINERS, (14-2), CARDINALS, (8-8), SEAHAWKS (7-9), RAMS (5-11)

THIS is where people are going to think I’m nuts. And feel free, but Pete Carroll’s first 2 seasons the team went 7-9. One of those years that was good enough to make the playoffs. True, he didn’t have Russell Wilson those years, but this year he’s without Gus Bradley, the guy who coached up that D to the top scoring D in the league.  Take away the blowouts over Arizona, Buffalo and San Francisco in weeks 14-16 (Seahawks scored 58, 50 and 42) in which the defense collected massive stats and the offense averaged 20.1 points per game week 1-13, and 17. Good enough for 24th in the league. Just ahead of the Browns and Raiders. Point is, losing Gus Bradley is a big deal. Couple that with the Hawks east coast swings and the improvement of the rest of the NFC and they miss the playoffs. Niners run the NFC, secure the top seed. I could be wrong about the Rams, but I don’t think Brian Schottenheimer is the guy for that set of offensive talent.

NFC EAST:  COWBOYS (11-5), GIANTS (8-8), REDSKINS (8-8), EAGLES (4-12)

This is the Cowboys’ division to lose. Redskins take a step back and Eagles don’t quite have enough on defense to keep pace in the NFL.

NFC NORTH: BEARS (10-6), LIONS (9-7), PACKERS (8-8), VIKINGS (7-9)

Picking the Bears to win the division. Packers have a tough season behind one of the NFL’s flimsiest offensive lines but they could be in the playoff hunt come season end. Lions look tough on paper. But same story, different year. Hoping they put it together this year.

NFC SOUTH: FALCONS (11-5), SAINTS (10-6), BUCS (10-6), PANTHERS (7-9)

Love the Falcons chances this year adding Steven Jackson. Saints are once again a beast on offense, but can’t stay healthy on defense. No pass rush= Drew Brees throwing 48 TDs over the season and the team losing games 38-35.

NFC WILDCARDS: SAINTS, BUCS, LIONS, CARDINALS, GIANTS, REDSKINS, PACKERS

You might be asking yourself, “Why does she have 6 teams as potential Wildcard teams?” It’s because I’m accounting for a win/loss differential of 2 in my projections and pointing out the fact that the NFC has about double the playoff quality teams as the AFC, so the end of the season could once again see a good 10-6 team miss the playoffs.

Season’s here Thursday!!! Who are YOUR division winners? Drop your thoughts at @Julie_Buehler on twitter, or leave comments here…

 

The Owners Have The Power, But The Players Have The Balls

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When he filed suit against MLB and Bud Selig, accusing them of improperly investigating him, Alex Rodriguez robbed baseball of it’s last shred of dignity. Not that it had much left, but whatever there was, is now gone and Hal Steinbrenner was the one guy who could have prevented that.

If Yankees’ owner, Hal Steinbrenner, had a pair, baseball wouldn’t be in this position.

If he had a pair of ears, he’d have heard the groans of baseball fans as ARod took the field and embarrassed the vaunted Yankee pinstripes.

If he had a pair of feet, he could walk the hallowed grounds of Yankee stadium, dripping in rich history and swell with pride for his franchise, perhaps walk a day in the shoes of a ground keeper that carefully manicures his field and comprehend the importance of something bigger than his bank account.

If he had a pair of synapses surging through his cerebral cortex, he’d know ARod was going to sue baseball anyway and would have sought to minimize damage by disallowing the disgraced player’s reinstatement to the Yankees.

If he had a pair of hands, he’d have ripped up ARod’s obscenely large paycheck and tell him it was “File 13’d,” then tossed #13 out of his office.

If he had a pair of cojones, he wouldn’t have allowed ARod to bully baseball. He would have accepted his leadership role in ending an embarrassing parade of cheaters waltzing through the sport and made ARod an example that talent and production will not be purchased at the cost of integrity.

But the truth is, MLB owners don’t seem to want a clean sport, don’t seem to think they need it and therefore, their commissioner, Bud Selig has been apathetic towards finding a solution.

For years MLB has lulled the American public to sleep with a nostalgic notion of yesteryear’s purity, while allowing players to plunge into the progressive world of performance enhancing drugs headlong.

For years Bud Selig claimed the players union was so strong, too strong, and inhibited his efforts, while his indifference did the damage no union could.

And for years, as pay rolls exceeding the GDP of many European nations and players were guaranteed parts of billions because they jammed a needle in their arse and claimed it was “to heal,” baseball fans filled the stadiums and relished “America’s pastime.” Well, this is America and we are waaayyy past the time where leaders are excused for inaction. 

Know the name Curt Flood? You should. He changed the game of baseball. Radically. Sure he was a 3-time all star, won 7 consecutive Gold Gloves, played on 3 pennant winning teams and boasted 2 World Series titles, but it was what he did off the field that today’s players can thank him for. Flood fearlessly led the charge to institute free agency for all players at a time in baseball when players were essentially property of a team and a time in our nation when black men were heavily discriminated against. He lost court battles. Lost millions. Lost the remaining years of his illustrious career in the contentiousness, but 6 years later, other players won the rights to free agency and monstrous paychecks. Before his fight, Flood was told by then union leader, Marvin Miller, that he faced impossible odds; that he would surely lose everything in order to see future players win anything. According to reports, Flood said, “That’s good enough for me.” He knew fighting for a fair future for others was worth sacrificing an unjust present. Even if it meant losing millions for him.

Hal Steinbrenner could have done the same, if he had one-ninth the courage.

He could have led the charge of MLB owners to publicly decry performance-enhancing drugs. To publicly renounce his signing of a monstrous paycheck to a man who illegitimately earned it. He could have dared players to prove their worth in court while explaining their indiscretions and inappropriate means of success. He is one of the few men who could have prevented baseball from getting bullied and he is one of the few men who can bully ARod right back.

Instead, ARod filed suit. As he said he would. Without a shred of concern for consequence. And Hal Steinbrenner did what his father would never do: said nothing.

ARod doesn’t have to win in court for MLB to lose. They already have. With weak men like Steinbrenner and Selig allowing the sport to be bullied and not standing up for it, baseball has already lost much.

But in the wake of weak leadership, some star players, like Evan Longoria and Mike Trout and others are speaking out against egomaniacal bullies like ARod and doing the work the owners should be doing in decrying performance enhancing drugs. While the owners acquiesce to the “all powerful” players union, the players are announcing they’d be open to seeing contracts negated with positive drug tests. That’s the only way to get the syringes out of the sport.

While the owners might have the power, there’s a reason that the players have the balls. 

 

 

Countdown To 2013 NFL Season

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Dates to add to your calendar: Your mom's birthday (helping you out on that one).

July 23rd: 2013 NFL Fact And Record Book released.

August 4th: Hall of Fame game between the Cowboy and Dolphins.

September 5th: The season kicks off with a show down of the Welker-heavy, Dumervil-light Broncos versus the defending world champions (who wouldn't have that title had Frank Gore gotten one more goal line carry...)

Between then and now I'll be releasing analysis for each team, division by division, culminating with my prognostications of who wins each conference, which player is MVP, DPOY and ROY. 

July 8-12 NFC South. The Bucs are an incredibly intriguing team as they were #1 in rush D and #32 in pass D. The fact they added Dashon Goldson would have been enough to conclude they'd improve their woeful pass D, but by adding Darrell Revis as well, this team is poised to be one of the hottest teams in the NFC. Also heating up the division is the Falcons rebounding from NFC title game loss, the Saints getting their whole coaching staff back AND Luke Kuechly leading the Panthers into a new season (can't always focus on the QB you know...) So the NFC South will kick off our look at each division in style! 

July 15-19 AFC South: The Colts were the best story in sports last year. Read that again. Considering some vast upheaval of the past decade's most consistent franchise, the unlikely heroes of rookie starters and their coach's victorious battle with cancer, there's not a close second. But how they build off an 11-5 season will heavily hinge on the key pieces they've added in the offseason. Given the Colts remarkable success, the Texans franchise-best season was in some ways an afterthought, thankfully, much the like the entire efforts of the Titans and Jaguars. And seeing how THIS division has the largest combined NEGATIVE point differential (-275) of any division in football by at least 100 points, you can understand why I'll want to get this division out of the way early.  

July 22-26 NFC East: Formerly the darling division in the NFC, now pondering the effects of a rookie head coach in Philly, a Giants team that didn't make the playoffs, a Cowboys team that once again failed to make the playoffs (cue silent giggle), and a Redskins team that was led by an charming quarterback, but failed by a faulty secondary. This division is turning into what used to be the NFC West.

July 29-Aug 2 AFC East: Time to head into the first preseason game where we'll be elated to see guys we've never heard of make jaw-dropping plays against guys we'll never hear of again. But this is also when we'll look at the AFC East. Considering the offseason the Pats had, and their unceremonious defeat in the AFC title game, one might conclude this 2013 season will FINALLY mark the end of the Patriots dynasty. But I'll tell you why that's patently false. The Butt Fumble will live forever, but the Jets would love to move on from 2012, did ANY offseason moves improve the team? I can't wait to see what the Dolphins do with Tannehill and Wallace and we'll see it first hand in Canton. And of course, there's a new regime in Buffalo. One day they have to get it right. Right?  

Aug 5-9 AFC North: First full week of preseason action and we'll dive into the division who's representative did pretty well in the postseason. The Ravens saved their best of the playoffs, but can they refill the tank for a repeat? The Browns have a new regime, some shiny new pass rushers and talented youth. Will they go from last to first? The Bengals are on Hard Knocks, and their defense is one of the most underrated in the NFL, will this be the year they move into the front seat of the division? And the Steelers. Feels like forever since they were vying for Super Bowls, we'll look at this rebuilding process. 

Aug 12-16 NFC North: This division boasts the highest combined point differential of any division in football (+161). So you can understand how the Lions could go winless against their own division (correct, atrocious secondary). But can we understand how losing Cliff Avril and adding Israel Idonije will prevent that this year? The Bears have a new front office, head coach but the same "genius" quarterback. Can they get to the playoffs? The Vikings have the best player in the league, a new dynamic receiver and a division to lay claim to. But only if the Packers somehow realize they aren't the Packers in 2013. True, Aaron Rodgers was sacked a lot. And yes, he'll miss his receivers, but how Green Bay scored such good, young backs in the draft seemed like larcony to me. But we'll hash that out in this week.

Aug 19-23 AFC West: Welp, the Broncos won as many games as the rest of the division combined. Math is math folks. And as tough as you might think it would be to surpass the 2012 offseason moves (you know, adding that Manning fellow), Denver managed to one-up themselves in offseason acquisitional-drama. (Yes, made-up word, but it fit so nicely.) So will adding Welker and going Office Space on a fax machine get the team to the Super Bowl? The Chiefs suffered through a (-24) turnover margin, so they added Andy Reid and a quarterback that helped tie an NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season. His name is Alex Smith. You may have heard of him. This week, we'll also talk about the totally unfaked, REAL, and new Chargers' front office and check out that roster with curious delight. And, yes, we might need some rubber gloves and Pine-sol, but we'll check out the stink that is the Raiders' roster as well. (Then silently weep.)

Aug 26-30 NFC West: Saving the best for last, we'll examine the one division that has sent each team to the Super Bowl since the turn of the century. Sure, they all lost on their trips, and while that fact has my therapy bill soaring past my student loans, it doesn't diminish the fact that all four teams have stout defensive lines, intriguing offenses and fascinating head coaches. Can the Cardinals get a running game or will be Carson Palmer be running for his life behind that offensive line? What will become of the embarrassment of riches in Seattle, I'm not talking about Paul Allen's estate, but that revamped defensive line. Just how many ankles will Tavon Austin be responsible for breaking? And how will the Niners respond to losing the Super Bowl? Considering the last team to lose a Super Bowl and return to win it was the New York Giants, and 7 years separated their 2000 loss and their 2007 win, it could be a long stretch for the Niners. But history was meant to be re-written, right? 

THEN.... FINAL COUNTDOWN!!!! Sept 2-5th... I'll examine the teams that will make the playoffs, MVP candidates, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, conference champs and fantasy prognostications. We'll also hold our Team 1010 Fantasy Draft in the final days before the season begins. 

This year's league will be a "Man Of Steel" themed league. The Kryptonite reference is taken. My team is "Watt's Your Krypotonite".  I trust your creative juices can flow from there. 

Listen every day to "Jules From The Gridiron" on "Buehler's Day Off" for the latest! Here's to a remarkable 2013 season and bringing home the Fantasy Championship!

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