Lots of football news of late. Not all of it is depressing, but quite a lot of it is.
:: The most positive story is that, pending NFL approval, Terry and Kim Pegula are set to become the new owners of the Buffalo Bills. This is, well, huge. Worrying about the team's future viability in Buffalo has been one of this region's favorite pastimes for years, going all the way back to the late 1990s, and maybe even earlier than that. Ralph Wilson fueled some of this by deftly "convincing" local officials to pony up lots of money to renovate county-owned Ralph Wilson Stadium, and by stalwartly insisting right up until the end of his life that he had no secret backup plan to secure the team in Buffalo. Wilson maintained until he died that the team would be put up for sale to the highest bidder, and that's what happened.
It didn't help, in the late 1990s, that a bunch of NFL teams really did move for more lucrative cities: the LA Rams went to St. Louis, the LA Raiders went back to Oakland, and the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore. That last, however, did give the league enough pause to promise Cleveland an expansion franchise in a couple of years, and they even went so far as to declare the newly moved team a new franchise in terms of the NFL record books, so the Ravens can't count Jim Brown among their historic greats. Nobody ever thought the NFL would make any such motion to keeping football in Buffalo, and then the team started playing one game a year in Toronto, supposedly to help make money, but which felt like the first step in what would be a long, slow move.
The Pegulas are enormously wealthy, having made their fortune in the natural gas industry. Interestingly, no one around here had even heard of the Pegulas, despite their ties to the region, before Pegula announced his desire to buy the Buffalo Sabres a few years ago. It was the scenario that only the most optimistic people dared voice: "Oh, I don't worry about the team. When Ralph dies I'm sure some rich guy who used to live here will step up and buy them to keep them here." Well, that's pretty much what happened.
Is it a good thing that the Bills are staying? Sure it is. I'm not nearly as convinced that the team is as essential to the local mindset as some are. If the Bills moved, it would be a body blow to the psyche around here, but things would heal, in time, as they always do. I don't think the team leaving would be anywhere near as bad a blow to the economy as many do, but it wouldn't be good news, certainly. It is nice to know that people around here no longer need worry about that. The Pegulas' ownership of the Sabres has been a bit rocky thus far, and there's the fact that their fortune springs from fracking for gas, which is less than environmentally sound. But, for good or ill, the Bills are here. My personal fandom may be on the wane, but that doesn't mean I wish for them to leave and break the hearts of a lot of people I know. I do wish that the football team didn't command so large a presence in our community's emotional life, but that's the way it is.
:: I see that Penn State students still think that they and their football team were the real victims. I couldn't invent a more perfect example of the degree to which a sport's emotional hold over its fans can become toxic if I tried.
Someone on Metafilter pointed out the following: "In NCAA math, l'affair Sandusky (2-year bowl ban, 20 scholarships) is now officially less egregious than Reggie Bush taking money (2-year bowl ban, 30 scholarships)." Child molestation is second to a player taking money he shouldn't have taken. But then, that shouldn't be surprising, because...
:: ...Then there's Ray Rice, whose wife-beating was originally judged by the NFL to be not-so-bad a violation of its internal morality as smoking marijuana. Of course, then the rest of the video got released, forcing the NFL's hand because of public relations reasons.
It interests me to see the NFL taking such a hit over this one, to the extent that Roger Goodell himself is feeling a lot of heat. Quite well he should, since it's absurd to think that the NFL was genuinely surprised to see the entire video recording or Ray Rice punching his wife. (I continue to be confused as to why no charges have been filed in this matter. Obviously I'm no expert, but in a case like this, can it really be that if his wife declines to press charges, none will be filed? Is that really how it works? "We have video of a crime being committed, but the victim says 'No', so we don't pursue it"?!)
One person said on Twitter that it's important to remember that the NFL didn't act when they saw the video, they only reacted when you saw the video. That's right, and it's saddening, but again, not terribly surprising. What I think happened here is that Goodell figured the national media would pretty much do the same thing they did when he "investigated" the New England Patriots during the Spygate scandal: just say "OK, Mr. Goodell, thank you for your time" in response to his "I've investigated and handed down a punishment and we're done here." This time, though, it wasn't the national media that was driving the story, but rather TMZ, an outfit somewhat notorious for not really giving a shit.
I hate that it takes a woman being beaten to make it happen, but I'm always happy to see the NFL's image get tarnished a bit. The league holds too much power and mystique in this country, for what is essentially a rich kid's club.
:: The Bills are 1-0 and hosts Miami Sunday. Go Bills, squish the fish! (I know, they're not fish. "Pummel the mammals" doesn't do it.)