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When It Comes To The NFL's Issues, Who Is Really The Problem?

September 15, 2015

If you don't mind, I'd like to use my space this month to make an admission.

You see, I, Glenn Clark, am a part of the problem.

Wow. That felt good. Would you mind if I made another admission? 

You see, I, Glenn Clark, am probably going to remain a part of the problem, even after making this admission. 

The National Football League recently kicked off its 2015 season after another offseason of bizarre and, at times, reprehensible actions.

We spent the bulk of the offseason soaking in "Deflategate," and now that the season has started again, I still have absolutely no clue as to whether the defending Super Bowl champions were aided by cheating or railroaded by an organization that sought, for some reason, to make an example out of them as a reminder of its power.

(Of course, we're still not entirely certain if it actually has any power.)

When we weren't bantering about deflated footballs, lesser headlines included the league perhaps trying to wield its power over an upcoming Will Smith movie about concussions, a very talented young member of the San Francisco 49ers (Chris Borland) stepping away from the game so he could preserve his health and a once well thought of offensive tackle (Jonathan Martin) stepping away from the game whilst admitting to multiple suicide attempts stemming from an atmosphere of bullying and loneliness.

(Meanwhile, the player guilty of such bullying, Richie Incognito, was welcomed back into the league with open arms by Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills. The same coach and team that were more than willing to sign another player, IK Enemkpali, who had, just hours earlier, broken the jaw of his own quarterback, the New York Jets' Geno Smith, in a locker-room fight. The Bills later released Enemkpali.)

Meanwhile, there still hasn't been an openly gay player to participate in a regular-season game, and the only one to ever come close, former St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam, now appears to be on the cusp of never playing the game again.

But I need to make sure I'm being fair here. The NFL is not the problem. It isn't.

I am the problem.

I know I can't reconcile the awful things the NFL does and justify the fact that I will still end up watching 80 percent of the roughly 357 hours of regular-season television windows the league provides this season.

I am the problem.

I'm the reason why the league will be able to put together some new branding initiative to tell you about how concerned it is about diversity and head injuries and how much improvement it has made in these departments. It's nonsense, and I know it is. But I'm going to watch, anyway.

Because I am the problem.

I have stated on a number of occasions that I do not want my 7-month-old son to grow up and choose to play football. While as a parent, I respect his right to make his own choices, I hope I can guide him away from this one, in particular. Perhaps it isn't morally the NFL's responsibility to dictate the safety of the sport when played at lower levels, but we all know real change isn't coming to the sport unless the NFL truly leads the change.

Never have I questioned the fact that the league moved kickoffs up 5 yards. I've praised the move at every turn, despite the fact that I know it had everything to do with litigation and zero to do with altruism.

Yet, when the Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers kicked off the season Sept. 10, they were still playing on a Thursday night. And when the Ravens face the Steelers in Pittsburgh in a few weeks, they'll be doing that just four days after they both most recently played -- athlete safety be damned.

Yet, you know who was watching that first Thursday night game? And you know who will be in Pittsburgh Oct. 1?

I am the problem.

The league doesn't really need to fix any of these issues. It can consistently offer minor changes to rule and policy to give itself at least a momentary pause from the protests of some.

But I'm the guy who is using my 750 allotted words this month to voice my concern and frustration … just a few weeks after spending more than 10 hours participating in events surrounding fantasy football drafts.

So please don't misread or misunderstand anything I've stated in this space. The National Football League has done nothing wrong. Nothing at all. It's probably not going to fix much of anything, and it doesn't need to.

It's not the problem. I am.

Issue 213: September 2015