Stories indexed with the term ‘NFL’

Column: Michael Sam’s Saga

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Last February, University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam publicly declared he was gay – a first for a likely NFL draft pick. Last week, the St. Louis Rams drafted him in the last round – another first. But I believe the trickiest terrain is still ahead.

When Michael Sam told his University of Missouri teammates he was gay before last season, no one seemed to care very much. No one tweeted the news to the public, and Sam had a great season. It’s a safe bet that NFL teams – who know what kind of gum their prospects chew – already knew he was gay, too. But when Sam came out publicly, it changed the equation.

The NFL has already had gay players, so that isn’t new. But publicly declaring you’re gay is new – and so is the onslaught of media attention.

After Sam came out, he dropped from a projected fourth- or fifth-round draft pick to the seventh and final round. There’s no way to prove this, of course, but it’s hard to believe part of the reason wasn’t homophobia – though that term isn’t accurate. As the saying goes – often attributed to Morgan Freeman – “It’s not a phobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole.” [Full Story]

Column: Bill Ford Sr.’s Legacy of Loyalty

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Editor’s note: A shorter version of this column was published in the March 12, 2014 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

In the course of his 88 years, William Clay Ford, who died Sunday, captained Yale’s tennis team, earned an engineering degree and chaired Ford Motor Co.’s finance committee, which is enough for any lifetime.

But he will likely be remembered mainly as the owner of the Detroit Lions, during five woefully unsuccessful decades. Since he took over the franchise in 1964, the Lions have won exactly one playoff game, and remain the only NFL team to miss out on all 48 Super Bowls.

Ford’s critics claim he was a snob who didn’t care about the average fan, a fat cat who was more focused on profits than the playoffs.

False, and false. [Full Story]

Column: Blackout Needed on Super Bowl Ads

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Congratulations! You not only survived that annual orgy of conspicuous consumption called the Super Bowl, you also survived the two weeks of endless stories without news that lead up to the big day.

And when the big game arrived, what was our reward? On the one day we actually look forward to watching TV ads, they were so bland and boring and just plain bad, we had no choice but to turn our attention to the actual football game.

Has it come to this?

But back to the point of the whole exercise: The Super Bowl ads.

To say a bunch of ads were disappointing is like complaining that your dentist’s routine cleaning is getting predictable. We usually don’t expect ads to do anything more than annoy us.

But with Super Bowl ads, all the hype raises our expectations, and all the money companies spend – a record four million dollars for a 30-second ad – only increases the pressure.

Trying to be funny is the one, surefire way to make sure you’re not. And, because the ads are so expensive, every executive at every company has got to throw in his two cents, which is trying to create comedy by committee. And that’s the second surefire way to be sure you ain’t funny. [Full Story]

Column: Super Bowl Reflections

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

It’s been five days since the Super Bowl, just enough time to give us a little perspective on the whole thing. Was it a football game? A concert? A competition for the Clio Award? Or some bizarrely American combination of all three?

Let’s start with the least important: The football game. You might have caught bits of it, squeezed between the ads and the show. How could you tell when the game was on? Those were the people who ran really fast, and wore clothes.

For the Super Bowl’s first 30 years, most of the games were boring blowouts. I suspect even the players can’t recall the scores of those snoozers.

But the ads and the halftime shows were hard to forget, and often featured a member of the Jackson family having his hair ignited or her wardrobe mysteriously malfunction.

But lately, it’s been the other way around. Ten of the past 16 games have been barn burners – and the rest of the stuff is putting us to sleep. [Full Story]

Column: Super-Hyped Super Bowl

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

Forty-five years ago, the Super Bowl … wasn’t even the Super Bowl. They called it the NFL-AFL Championship Game, until one of the founders renamed it after watching his grandson play with a “High Bouncing Ball” – a super ball. Super ball – Super Bowl. Get it? And thus, an artificial event was born.

Tickets were just fifteen bucks for that first game – and they barely sold half of those, leaving some 40,000 empty seats in the Los Angeles Coliseum.

A 30-second ad cost only $42,000 – and they weren’t any different than the ads they showed the previous weekend. The half-time show featured three college marching bands – including one you might have seen from the University of Michigan.

Over the next couple decades, of course, the event became a veritable national holiday. Tickets now sell for thousands of dollars, and ads for millions. The game attracts more than 100 million viewers in the U.S. alone. [Full Story]

Column: Only in America

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

The wonderfully named Zoltan Mesko was born and raised in Timisoara, Romania, right on the Hungarian border. Like his parents, Mihai and Elizabeta, Zoltan speaks both languages fluently.

When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, life improved dramatically for most people living behind the Iron Curtain – but not much for Romanians. His parents, both engineers, could not leave the country until they won Romania’s Green Card lottery – yes, they had one – in 1997, when Zoltan was ten.

They quickly discovered Hollywood’s depiction of America didn’t quite match their apartment in Queens. It was dirty and cramped – even for just three people – and too expensive, so they moved to Twinsburg, Ohio, right outside Cleveland.

Zoltan learned English in about two months. His parents took two years, but understanding American culture took a little longer. [Full Story]

Column: Beyond the Super Bowl Hype

John U. Bacon

John U. Bacon

It’s hard to think of too many endeavors that receive more overblown attention than do sports. And within sports, nothing’s more overblown than the Super Bowl.

This time around, we’re getting endless stories about President Obama picking the New Orleans Saints – because … that matters? – a preview of the ads scheduled to run during the game, and several hundred articles analyzing the recuperation of Dwight Freeney’s sprained right ankle, and how that might affect national security. Or some such.

But in the midst of this morass are two stories worth telling. [Full Story]