Pissed over Pryor but we can’t quit the NFL
By now we should all know that the NFL’s ruling on Terrelle Pryor — that the former Ohio State quarterback can enter the supplemental draft but must serve a five-game suspension — makes no sense.
To justify the move the NFL explained that by receiving cash and hiring an agent while still on football scholarship Pryor undermined the integrity of the rules that determine eligibility, thus earning the suspension.
That nobody from the NFL ever made clear what separates Pryor from any other player who applies for the supplemental draft after squandering his college eligibility isn’t beside the point. It is the point. If you accepted the NFL’s flimsy rationale behind suspending Pryor you’re exactly as gullible as the league’s spokespeople thought you were.
This suspension isn’t about preventing college football cheaters from getting what league public relations chief Greg Aiello calls “a free pass in to the NFL.” Otherwise the nearly every player picked in the supplemental draft would face similar sanctions. And so would coaches like Pete Carroll, who left USC for the NFL just before the NCAA cracked down on a Trojans program in which “improper benefits” were nearly as common as big wins.
I’m hardly the first person to point out what this suspension really is — the NFL imposing a penalty on behalf of the NCAA in a brazen attempt to protect its de-facto (and cost-free) farm system.
This story posted Friday on NFL.com makes plain that the league now considers rule-breaking in the NCAA a violation of NFL rules.
Which wouldn’t be a problem if 1) the NFL also punished coaches who skip to the pros rather than face NCAA sanctions (see: Carroll, Pete) and 2) the two organizations shared a rulebook.
When Justin Gatlin tested positive for testosterone in 2006 the IAAF hit him with the automatic eight-year ban reserved for repeat offenders, his first flunked test coming while he competed at the University of Tennessee.
A little harsh?
For sure. His first positive test was triggered by his ADD medication, and his suspension was later shortened to four years.
But even if I didn’t condone the long suspension I could understand it since both “amateur” and professional track have strict and explicit rules against doping.
Thirteen years ago in an OHL playoff game Jesse Boulerice shattered Andrew Long’s face with the heel of his stick, an ugly attack that ended both their careers in junior hockey. The OHL gave Boulerice a one-year suspension it couldn’t enforce since he was graduating to professional hockey anyway, and if the AHL had chosen to bench Boulerice for a year I wouldn’t have disagreed. Every hockey league in the world has rules against players using sticks to smash opponents skulls, so what Boulerice did would have triggered a long suspension no matter what league he played in.
He accepted cash and merchandise, then hired an agent — clear violations since the NCAA has rules against players getting paid.
But I’ve got a tall stack of cash for anybody who can make a convincing argument that accepting money breaks the rules of a professional league.
Suspending a player for offenses that occurred before he enters the league is illogical.
It’s like your wife withholding sex because you forgot your ex-girlfriend’s birthday.
But banning him for breaking rules that don’t even exist in the league is hypocritical and malicious.
It’s like being arrested in Amsterdam because you once bought weed in New York.
And of you feel insulted, tricked, confused and angry over this situation, you should.
But what happens now?
To the NFL?
To our righteous indignation?
Pryor’s next move, beyond waiting for a team to select him in Monday’s supplemental draft, isn’t clear. He can appeal the suspension and hope to join his new team immediately, or he can accept the suspension and sit out until at least week six. Either way he’ll have to deal with the situation in front of him.
But how will we deal with it as fans?
I’m guessing we don’t; that by Sept. 8, when Green Bay and New Orleans kick off to start the regular season, most of us will have concocted a mixture of forgiveness and forgetfulness strong enough to allow us to enjoy the action on the field.
We can’t stay mad at the NFL, and the league knows it.
And if you doubt that, consider the euphoria that greeted the arrival of preseason games. Whatever beefs we had with the owners for locking players out and jeopardizing the entire season had fizzled by the time the exhibition season started, and fans celebrated meaningless games they ignore any other August.
Because football was back and we can’t stay mad.
So sooner or later, pending a suspension or a successful appeal, Pryor will wind up on an NFL sideline, wearing headphones and holding a clipboard the way most rookie quarterbacks do.
But by then the season will have started, we’ll be supporting our teams through games that count and cheering too loud to remember why we were angry in the first place.
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