Thursday, 18 September 2014

Large in charge, Wide of mark

 Image result for adrian peterson images 

Being a huge sports fan has been a difficult hobby in the last week of so.  I live on the outskirts of London, I am a Tottenham Hotspur fan first, but a football fan in general. I adore the New England Patriots, but I love the NFL mostly.  This does not make me ignore other sports either, I am passionate about English rugby, praise Andy Murray and Mo Farah to the hilt; cannot wait for the Ryder Cup next weekend. And yet on numerous occasions of late, the people in charge of these sports are letting me and other sports fans down.

Starting with the NFL which has had two high profile suspensions of talented individuals due to off the field incidents. Firstly, last Wednesday, TMZ released the footage of Ray Rice punching his then fiancee (now wife) Janay Palmer in the elevator of an Atlantic City hotel in February.  In response, Rice's team the Baltimore Ravens suspended him and the NFL suspended him indefinitely subject to an appeal. 

The NFL let itself down in this because allegations came to light that the NFL head office, led by Roger Goodell, knew of the footage back in April and did not act upon it; hoping that the video would never surface. In my eyes, this would make Goodell's tenure as questionable at best or at least make him answerable to questions of integrity.

On Friday, another incident hit the NFL fan, when Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted by a court in Texas for child abuse on his own son, where his form of discipline - hitting him with a wooden stick - was apparently so brutal, ESPN has chosen not to air the pictures of the child due to the graphic nature of the imagery.

Whispers were that after Peterson gave himself out and was released on bail, that he would play for the Vikings on Sunday at home to the Patriots (a game they lost 31-7); and yet the Vikings took the correct decision to not play him.  He was then reinstated to team practices on Monday, but then the team late on Tuesday evening/early Wednesday morning chose to put Peterson on the exempt list meaning he cannot be involved in any team activity until the 'due process' has been resolved.

Nevermind due process, Peterson's actions warranted a termination of his contract and an indefinite suspension from the sport. In many ways, Peterson's actions are worse because it was against a defenceless individual in this case a minor; whereas Ms. Palmer is an adult who is capable of defending herself, although Rice did not give her the chance with his surprise attack.

This makes Goodell's position as NFL Commissioner untenable, he is not doing a good job if his players are being arrested for domestic violence, child abuse, drunk driving; and these are not big defensive linemen or special team operators, Rice and Peterson are franchise players in high profile positions with huge contracts of guaranteed money.  Peterson is assured of his income by being put on the exempt list, despite being indicted for child abuse, so he can put his feet up and still be paid; another bizarre twist in the story.
The unsavoury incidents leave a bad taste in the mouth, and the NFL needs to shake it up before they lose the trust of those who matter, the fans whose ticket prices and merchandise sales allow these players to have huge contracts and the belief they are above the law.

On this side of the Atlantice, the Rugby Football Union have made an almighty faux pas by inserting on the new England rugby shirt imagery or design of the Victoria Cross into the jersey worn by hookers.  Now, rugby more than any other sport has done the most for such charities as Help for Heroes; yet this misguided attempt at a tribute to our armed forces is wrong, because it sees the RFU profiting from those who have fallen, and it is worn in a competitive respect by those who may never get close to a battlefield.  Make tributes, praise the dead just do not profit from it.

And finally in cricket, you had the incident last week of Yorkshire Cricket captain Andrew Gale being told he could not celebrate with his team-mates as they celebrated clinching the County Championship last Thursday at Trent Bridge as he is serving a two-match suspension.  This narrow sighted edict marks the English Cricket Board (ECB) as stuffy and out of touch; Gale played in a majority of the games and made telling contributions, he is entitled to celebrate with his team.  If that was the case, why was John Terry allowed to celebrate with his Chelsea team in Munich 2012 even when he did not play; UEFA in that instance did the right thing.  And people think cricket is behind the times. 

All in all as a sports fan it has been a hard week, one of reflection and introspection about where does my loyalties lie.  I love the NFL and like most fans it will only diminish once Tom Brady retires and my Patriots are tanking for the No 1 pick in five years time; as a Tottenham fan I hope to visit the new stadium once it ever gets built and I hope to go to our temporary home be it Milton Keynes or Wembley. 

However, too often the men at the top of the tree are too often out of touch with the general consensus and wide of the mark with their attempts at contrition.  They hope to appeal to the everyman when not every man is going to be happy.

Follow me on twitter @JamieGarwood

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Make Us Dream

This entertaining book is somewhat of a revelation, the type of book that many a fan wishes they could write about their beloved football side. However, what strikes you most about the book is that it is ultimately one about belief and inspiration.

From the foreword by Ben Smith, the book is about how an unheralded Liverpool side came mightily close to winning the Premier League ahead of the eventual champions Manchester City; only succumbing in the last week of a tumultuous season.

Neil Atkinson and John Gibbons, are born and bred Red, and host a successful podcast entitled The Anfield Wrap, which has seen them host shows in Australia, USA and Ireland.  Whilst this reader has never heard that podcast, the wit and humour in the writing makes it one to seek out for a true unbiased view of the club.

The book takes on a chronological slant on the season, so you get a sense of the writing as the season progresses, with the match reports begin filed shortly after the game.  You get a sense of the smell of Anfield and of a city enjoying its return to the limelight.  The best writing comes from the more emphatic victories namely those at home against Everton (4-0) and Arsenal (5-1).

Also the glowing for one Luis Suarez, is telling in that you were witnessing one of the great single seasons in Football league history, and to think he couldn't play for the first 9 games of the season.

You even get a sense of when they cannot be at the game for work commitments such as when one writer is stuck on a plane while Liverpool play; the sense of helplessness at the situation and the frustration when 28 text messages arrive when you turn your phone back on.

It's quite right that a book about this specific Liverpool season should be chronicled, at times they were the best team in the land and much like those entertainers of Newcastle in 1994/95 who came up short for Kevin Keegan, there's is a side that will live longer in the memory than the actual champions. And thanks to this book the memory will never fade. 

Walk on dear reader 

Make Us Dream is published by DeCourbetin Press and is available at their website for £9.99 or from all good online retailers.

Follow the guys for more at the audiobook 
And on twitter @makeusdreambook