Hear Me Out: Russell's watch has ended, and the NFL is on a bender
August 4, 2022
I’ve recently taken up learning French. That sounds grander than it is. All I did was download Duolingo on my phone.
But it’s time to flex what I’ve learned by writing a poem in French to honor the passing of NBA legend Bill Russell.
Il s’appelle Bill Russell.
Je suis Alex.
Alright, so it’s mostly nonsense and not even close to honoring Russell. I just started learning and only know like 30 words.
Nonsense aside, I remember watching a “Sports Century” piece on Russell when I was in high school. I was about to turn the channel when there was a clip of Russell talking about playing defense. I decided to stay on it and maybe pick up some pointers. I was completely blown away by Russell’s level of detail on the defensive end. He made playing defense and team defense at that sound like poetry.
I talked about it a month or so ago when I put together my NBA top 12 players list, but I’ll never tire of Russell speaking about how he used to block shots to his teammates to get the fastbreak started. Sending a shot into the stands is cool, but buckets are coolers, and that’s all that mattered to him.
Russell’s desire to be the ultimate winner has been talked about and celebrated as everyone offers up their tribute to the legend. Beyond the basketball, what impressed me the most about Russell was his willpower.
If you’ve read anything about Russell, how he didn’t become a cynical and resentful person is remarkable. Especially when most of us would have taken that dark turn had we gone through a similar experience. During his playing days, he was never treated right by the city of Boston or his government, but he kept to his convictions. Standing tall against those who viewed him as a menace to society when justice and equality were all he sought.
We’re short on decent role models in this time (Elon Musk is considered a role model for reasons beyond me), and we lost a great one in Russell. To borrow from Albus Dumbledore, “…there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” For Russell, he stood by what was right and didn’t waiver.
THE NFL’S BENDER
The Deshaun Watson six-game suspension is light, and everything about it sucks. Watson sucks for never taking accountability and being an outright creep. The Browns suck for pretending to care and structuring his contract so that Watson doesn’t lose any money from his upcoming suspension.
The Watson-stans are out in full force, repeating the same talking points about him not being found guilty of a crime and yada, yada, yada. This was never about Watson deserving jail time or whatnot. This was about a conduct policy, and if you don’t think you can be punished at work for acting a fool, give it a try at your job.
And at no point would any of these Watson-stans allow any woman in their life that they love to be in a room alone with Watson. Even the arbiter, Judge Sue L. Robinson, who decided on the six-game suspension, thought as much. Robinson put in her ruling that once Watson is reinstated after his suspension, the Browns, or any team he plays for, will be responsible for scheduling his massages for the rest of his career. If he hires a private masseuse, he’ll be suspended again.
And that’s the dude people are riding for.
Remember when I talked about that crazy NFL story that flew under the radar in the spring? It involved the Dolphins owner Stephen Ross convincing Tom Brady to retire, bring him into the Dolphins as a front office executive, have him unretire and play QB for the ‘Fins. Brady and Ross also worked on getting then Saints coach Sean Payton on board as the ‘Fins new coach. But the plan never came to fruition because former Dolphins coach Brian Flores sued the NFL for discrimination causing Brady to back out.
It seemed farfetched, or at least a story tethered to a slim truth and exaggerated.
Well, it turns out that it was true. All of it.
It was so true that the NFL fined Ross $1.5 million and stripped the Dolphins of their 2023 first-round draft pick and a 2024 third-round pick. Ross has also been suspended for a chunk of the NFL season, as has another Dolphin executive.
This. Is. WILD.
How does Ross still own this team? He’s a menace to the league.
The league punishing Ross and the Dolphins and dropping that news at the peak of the Watson news cycle is what the NFL is really good at. No one is better at burying and handwaving the real threats to the league.
But wait! There’s more!
On top of punishing Ross for tampering, the league let everyone know that they just couldn’t find enough evidence that Ross ordered his team to tank for higher draft picks in the 2019 season. Shucks! So frustrating!
The league couldn’t prove that Ross wanted his team to tank, even though he offered Flores a $100k bonus for each loss; Ross constantly talked with his front office and coaches about wanting a higher pick in the draft; and the Dolphins that season had a fire sale on any blue-chip player they had. Trading away anyone they could for draft picks. However, the league commended Flores for his integrity and not taking Ross’s $100k loss bounty, which they claim could have been taken out of context.
That’s not to suppress rage but hysterical laughter. The same happens when I hear Harriett Hageman talk; she can’t go 90 seconds without mentioning Trump. I have no idea what her actual positions are. The league is patting Flores on the back for showing remarkable integrity but won’t outright say what they’re commending him for. It’s complete nonsense.
Here is what’s frustrating. The NFL rightfully suspended Falcons WR Calvin Ridley for an entire season for gambling on a game. It was a legit threat to the integrity of their product. However, Ross can be out here acting reckless, tampering like no one has tampered before and offering bonuses for his coach to throw games.
And the league office shrugs its shoulders.