If you follow sports, or even history, a common theme is “turning point.” We’re talking about a home run, or turnover or military mishap that changed the conflict/contest around.
That’s a convenient way to explain why things turned out the way they do, but is that really the truth? During Sunday’s season opener between the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Rams, one play drew the attention of the NBC announcing team.
The Cowboys, who trailed most of the game, completed a long pass on third down deep in Rams territory. But, whoa, out flies a yellow flag and the official on the spot signals offensive pass interference.
Watching the replay, Chris Collingsworth and Al Michaels had some fun with what they considered the performance of the defensive back – Jalen Ramsey – who was either pushed away by receiver Michael Gallup – or just pretended to be pushed away. At any rate, he “sold it,” as they said, and a big potential threat was averted.
So maybe it was a bad call by the official. But would that really be the turning point? How about the decision by Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy to go for it on a 4th and three at a crucial moment? Or, from the other side of the ball, the “clang” as the Rams’ new placekicker Sam Sloman’s short field goal attempt ricocheted off the left upright earlier in the game, taking away what should have been a gimme three points for the home team?
Our point here is that in any game between two reasonably well-matched opponents, there are many moments that could have had a crucial effect. A missed free throw, a foot out of bounds, a too-slow throw to first, etc., all could be blamed for a loss if all you’re interested in are easy answers to complicated questions. For a lot of people, “Who do we blame?” is almost as interesting a game as the event itself.
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Like almost everything we do today, there’s a political or social dimension to it. When Colin Kaepernick knelt during the playing “The Star Spangled Banner,” he was widely criticized and some say it cost him his career. Now, after the George Floyd incident, the NFL embraced K’s cause with both arms, leaving the apolitical among us to rub that crick in our neck from the whiplash.
The National Football League is not a social progress organization. It is not a charity. If it truly feels that black lives matter, it might want to consider something more that window-dressing to its very public stance. SoFi Stadium in Inglewood cost $5 billion to build. Nobody spends that kind of money unless they stand to make as much back, sooner or later. Or as Vito Corleone said, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”
If the NFL sincerely wants to follow its proclaimed path to greater racial harmony, it might want to shave off a few hundred million bucks – or as NFL owners and players refer to it: chicken feed – toward academic counseling, day care, community development and better health care in distressed areas, that would be an indication that it could pair personal profit with true commitment.
How likely is that to happen? Well, how likely do you think it is for the Cleveland Browns to win a Super Bowl?
Yeah, we think so, too.
“Wild World of Sports” is posted on Mondays.