Hey guys, welcome to my new weekly column. Every Monday I'll tell you if I think the week's sports stories are good or if I think they're ungood.
Most of the time, I'll try to be funny (your call as to whether I succeed), but this one got a little serious there towards the end. Just a head's up.
Ok, let's figure out if the NFL Draft was good or not!
Is the NFL Draft good in general? I really couldn't tell you. It is what it is. But what I can do is tell you what was good about it this year. Also what wasn't good.
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Because this is EPIC. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/cUIMfl7ikD
— NFL (@NFL) April 29, 2017
First of all, the atmosphere in Philadelphia was unreal, as Trey Wingo was fond of saying about once every three picks. But he was right, having 100,000 people booing Roger Goodell at once does make for some decent dinner theatre. No wonder he didn't show his face on day three. But I digress. The alcohol-fueled passion fans of every team expressed in that massive crowd is what's cool about sports.
Normally I'm not a huge fan of the ESPN broadcast, mostly because the only thing I can pay attention to is Mel Kiper's jello mold like hair, but this year I was a fan. I thought Wingo did a great job weaving the personal stories of the players and some good old fashioned silliness into Mel and Todd's X's and O's analysis, which kept things interesting in hour seven of watching.
I particularly enjoyed the story of Amara Darboh, the wide receiver out of Michigan who left a civil war in Sierra Leone to come to the US when he was seven years old and became a citizen in 2015. I wasn't crying during that piece, you were.
Trey himself also did a pretty good job of handling the parade of (alleged) woman batterers who were drafted this weekend. He handled the stories as fairly as you can while expressing his displeasure at the horrific nature of some of the (alleged) crimes.
The same cannot be said of Louis Riddick. He was fairly forgettable on the football side of things, but his framing of every guy with "off the field issues" as someone who just needed to work on decision making and not their entire world view was fairly representative of the culture that doesn't make it clear that hitting a woman isn't ok, ever.
Verdict: Mostly Good[divider]
The Bears, Chiefs, and Texans traded up in the first round to get quarterbacks Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson, respectively. That was a hell of a sentence. Anyway, it remains to be seen whether or not they'll actually be good, but as someone sitting on his couch who knows much less than an NFL GM, none of these three guys were worth it. Especially for the Bears.
Chicago gave up a two third-round and a fourth to move up ONE spot and draft a player with only 13 college starts under his belt. Of course, GM Ryan Pace gets paid to make these decisions — instead of me — for a reason, but I'd much rather have my team generally managed by John Lynch at this point.
Verdict: Probably Not Good, but Too Soon to Tell[divider]
I'll still watch football because it's awesome, but the culture of and around the NFL is making me cringe more and more. It started out this weekend when Goodell went on Mike and Mike and said that he has no plans to relax the NFL's marijuana testing policy because "there are a lot of compounds in marijuana that may not be healthy for the players long-term."
Are you kidding me? First of all, these guys are playing football. You know, the sport where you get hit in the head (among other places) a lot and prematurely develop dementia and are unable to walk when you're 40.
We know playing football is bad for the players, but they do it anyway because money and Goodell is fine with that because money. It's incredibly disingenuous for the same organization that swept evidence about the harmful effects of concussions under the rug to pretend to care about the long-term health of players.
The NFL is also a league that hands out painkiller prescriptions like candy. In a Washington University study, 52 percent of players said they were prescribed pain medication while they played, and 71 percent of those players reported misuse of those painkillers.
Former players like Kyle Turley have said that marijuana saved their lives when they were addicted to painkillers after their playing days were over. For the commissioner to be anti-marijuana because it's "bad for players" is willfully ignorant at best and malevolent at worst.
But drug policy isn't what really made me cringe this weekend, violence against women is. Joe Mixon (punched a woman in a bar on video), Caleb Brantley (also allegedly punched a woman in a bar), and Dede Westbrook (repeatedly abused the mother of his children — allegedly — though the charges were dropped) were all drafted anyway. Mixon was drafted in the second freaking round.
Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report wrote a story you should read (right after reading this, of course) about how the NFL is still clueless about domestic violence, referencing how GMs (Jacksonville's in particular – they drafted Westbrook) downplayed the issue by saying "I think we all have been accused of things," and "The charges were dropped."
That's obviously a huge problem, but there's also a problem with people like Riddick, who aren't cravenly trying to defend a decision based purely on playing ability, talk about incidents of violence against women, as I said above, as bad decisions. I don't think Riddick is a bad person or doesn't care about these women, but his framing of the issue reflects a football culture that absolutely doesn't care.
Treating instances of domestic violence or sexual assault like they're bad decisions made in a vacuum, like taking the slower route home from work or buying an extra pastry when you go get a sandwich (definitely don't have personal experience with that one) hides the fact that this is an issue that's far more systematic.
We keep seeing these stories again and again. Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, and Joe Mixon aren't just misguided people making bad decisions at a single moment in time, they're symptoms of a football culture that clearly cares more about its own bottom line than any real person, one that says the line "it's never ok to hit a woman," but doesn't truly care about why.
Verdict: Extremely Ungood[divider]
Remote Pick Announcements
You've seen him on @GameofThrones.
Now watch @ThorBjornsson_ help make a @Vikings pick! #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/TGcwRUZ5Px
— NFL (@NFL) April 29, 2017
I only put this here because I wanted to end on a slightly happier note and also because the ESPN version of this (I don't get NFL Network, in case you couldn't deduce that already) had the Mountain from Game of Thrones announce a pick, which was awesome and I can't wait for season 7. That is all.
Verdict: I Demand a Trial By Combat (aka Good)[divider]
Non-Sports Is It Good? of the Week
The Handmaid's Tale
If you like well done TV and are up for a dystopian future, you should watch this. The first three episodes are on Hulu. If you'd like to escape from real life with a smile on your face, I would watch literally anything else. It's good, but man is it depressing.
Verdict: Good (*Sad Voice)