To paraphrase Georges Clemenceau on Brazil, the New York Jets are the team of the future—and always will be. In 1969 the Jets tossed the pro football world on its head when the AFL upstart Jets were led by Joe Namath to a Super Bowl victory over the NFL old-guard team Baltimore Colts. Since then, the Jets have accomplished nothing—despite intermittent reboots of team management and proclamations that the future will soon be brighter.
The team has never been back to the Super Bowl; four times they were one victory away and lost. That makes one Super Bowl appearance from 1969 till now. Only the Detroit Lions and the Arizona (formerly the St. Louis) Cardinals have a worse won-lost record among franchises that have been around at least half a century.
Why has the team been so bad for so long? Blame a persistent shortsightedness among its leaders over the year.
Read more. [Image: AP/ Patrick Semansky]
During his first-year campaign, Robert Griffin III vastly exceeded expectations: He set a new record for rushing yards by a rookie quarterback and another for passer rating by a rookie quarterback. Griffin also appeared on the verge of becoming a celebrity athlete of national import; his rookie jersey broke the record for most jerseys sold in a single fiscal year, and he was the subject of a particularly reverential documentary called RGIII: The Will to Win. And perhaps most importantly, he led the Washington Redskins to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth, giving perennially jaded football fans in the nation’s capital a feeling that has been in short supply since the first Joe Gibbs era: hope. Though his season ended with a gruesome knee injury followed by major reconstructive surgery, expectations for his second year remained sky-high.
Griffin’s second season, however, has been an unmitigated disaster.
Read more. [Image: AP / Evan Vucci and Lynne Sladky]
Ever since FIFA, the global soccer governing body/alleged cesspool of corruption, appointed Qatar the host nation for the 2022 World Cup, the association has repeatedly found itself on the defensive: It has vociferously rejected widespread allegations of vote-buying by the Middle Eastern nation, and it has turned a blind eye to criticism of Qatar’s antediluvian views on homosexuality. Most recently, the country revealed its planned "gay test" for players and fans during the World Cup, which reportedly could include a forced penile plethysmography test or forced anal examinations. But even more damning news came November 17, when Amnesty International released a report that’s sobering, by any measure: The 2022 World Cup venue, it reveals, is being built with slave labor.
The report details the country’s widespread use of forced labor to build the glittering stadiums and related infrastructure that will host soccer’s biggest tournament; looking primarily at the cases of Nepalese immigrants, Amnesty International found that contractors and subcontractors hired by the Qatari state have denied pay to hundreds of thousands of Asian workers, housed them in facilities not fit for farm animals, and worked them until, in some cases, they literally dropped dead. The human rights group could not estimate how many workers have been the victims of criminally negligent homicide thanks to Qatar’s deplorable practices. But it is easy to believe that without an overwhelming response from either FIFA or the global community, tens of thousands of migrant workers will risk their lives so that the country and its contractors can build the World Cup infrastructure on the cheap.
Read more. [Image: AP/Osama Faisal]
This October, The Atlantic tackled football with a long essay detailing the case against high school sports. The author, Amanda Ripley, recently defended her views at a debate hosted by the New America Foundation. Each side made good points: Sports help kids stay out of trouble, but they also take time away from homework. Students get value out of their sports experiences when schools invest money into teams, but classrooms lose those resources.
To this point, Louisa Thomas, a Grantland contributor and fellow at New America, brought up an interesting argument: Playing on a sports team can be a transformative social experience that strengthens a person’s sense of community.
“We’re a nation of joiners—this is like Tocqueville’s original insight,” Thomas said. “This is a country in which people are drawn to teams; communities build themselves. In other countries, there’s a great sense of inherited identity. One of the functions that sports plays is social cohesion, and it’s a mistake to understate how important that can be.”
Her comments hint at a whole body of thinking on this topic: Thinkers from Alexis de Tocqueville to Robert Putnam have argued that joining organizations and teams is a crucial part of a society’s health, socially, economically, and politically. In particular, this is important in America, a large, multi-cultural country with a relatively short history.
Read more. [Image: Chris Heller/Wikimedia Commons/Open Clip Art Library]
Concern for player safety is at an all-time high, but it’s unclear whether it’s the responsibility of schools, coaches, or youth leagues to take measures to protect kids. Our sports roundtables discusses the game.
Read more. [Image: AP/Tom E. Puskar]
The Kansas City Chiefs have almost certainly been the biggest surprise of the NFL season so far. After posting the league’s worst record last year, KC has started the season 9-0, becoming the first team in history to do so.
Yet for all their success, the club gets little respect. As Forbes noted, fans believe the club is “not as good as their record.” Again and again, pundits call them overrated, flawed, or claim that their opponents have nothing to fear. According to a goofy new stat from Football Outsiders, the Chiefs are already the luckiest team in the league. Someone posted on the NFL Memes Facebook page that the Chiefs are “the worst undefeated team in NFL history,” and as of Thursday night, 267 people had agreed.
What a crock. There is no such thing as a “worst” undefeated team.
Read more. [Image: AP/Bill Wippert]
The response to Richie Incognito’s alleged harassment of a teammate just shows the futility of trying to hold the NFL to the same standard as any other workplace.
Read more. [Image: AP/Lynne Sladky]
Calling for others to endure pain in one breath, while you duck it in the next is a particularly loathsome form of cowardice. The men who call on Martin to fight Incognito in the locker-room, are also the same men who would ruthlessly cut Martin or Incognito should either be injured in any way that jeopardizes the team’s plans. Perhaps one of these braggarts actually would “go down swinging.” But “down” does not have the same meaning for a general manager as it does for a left tackle. Jeff Ireland can report to work with a broken arm. Jonathan Martin not so much.
The point here is power. As demonstrated by Trotter’s column, Martin has risked his career and millions of dollars by exposing Incognito. There’s a solid argument that Martin’s actions were “brave.” It just isn’t the kind of “brave” immediately empowers the NFL. On the contrary, it’s the kind that threatens it."
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