When John Nisby was born in 1936, the state of California did not yet realize a true leader was now amongst their midst. When he went to college at Pacific, after going to high school in Stockton, he stood out on the gridiron enough to be drafted in the sixth round of the 1957 draft by the Green Bay Packers.
Nisby was cut by the Packers, but quickly signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the rookie was soon starting on an offensive line where Pro Bowler Fran Varrichione was the veteran in his second year. Nisby held onto his job at right guard his entire five seasons with Pittsburgh.
After making his first Pro Bowl in 1959, Nisby duplicated the feat again in 1961. He wasn't only a top blocker for the team, but he was a community leader as well. His stance for equal rights became legendary and the city is still indebted to him to this day.
While with the team, he worked closely with the Pittsburgh Courier, a famous black newspaper, to insure that all companies that had business with the Steelers have a firm equal employment policy.
Nisby also successfully lobbied the Rooney family to insist that a local beer distributor end their segregation policy. These type of selfless efforts set Nisby apart from others.
Yet it did not prevent Pittsburgh from dealing the Pro Bowler to the Washington Redskins just before the 1962 season. He was joining the last NFL to integrate, only doing to because they were ordered to by the administration of President John F. Kennedy.
"We'll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites." Washington Redskins owner George Preston Marshall had once said. "Why Negroes particularly? Why not make us hire a player from any other race?" Why not a woman? Of course we have had players who played like girls, but never an actual girl player."
Marshall never did say why he took the stance he did. Explanations ranged from the Redskins were the only team of the South, theorizing their fans would not support an integrated team, to some saying Marshall was raised that way.
This type of bigotry upset many. Chicago Cardinal running back Ollie Matson, a future Hall of Famer, stated that blacks "try a little harder when we play the Washington team."
Yet Marshall, a frugal man called "the last of the small-time spenders", was a showman who was a Washington D.C. native that brought the Redskins in from Boston. He invented the Pro Bowl and created the halftime show by having organized a 110-piece band and outfitted it with $25,000 worth of burgundy and gold uniforms.
The Hall of Fame owner also proposed splitting the league into two divisions with a season-ending championship game. He suggested the player draft and roster limitations. Marshall also suggested to standardize the schedule so that each team played the same number of games, and that game gate receipts be split between the home team and the visitor.
He also helped bring several rule changes. One moved the goalposts from the end zone to the goal line to encourage field-goal attempts. Another permitted passing from any spot behind the line of scrimmage. Another tapered the ball to facilitate passing. Still another allowed unlimited substitutions.
His wife even co-authored the famous team song "Hail To The Redskins". Marshall, as one writer aptly stated, ""took a dull game and made it irresistible." He was the first NFL owner to go to the television screen. Marshall created the first network appearances for any NFL team, and built a network to broadcast his teams games across the South.
Marshall once rented a train and brought 10,000 Redskins fans to New York for a big game against the Giants. Many credit him for creating one of professional sports most loyal fan bases.
The Redskins had moved into a brand new stadium in 1961, but the property was owned by the Interior Department and Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall told Marshall the team would have their 30-year lease revoked unless the Redskins integrated.
Forced to integrate, Washington drafted three black men that year. 1961 Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis was the first pick of the draft, while wide receiver Joe Hernandez was the Redskins second round draft pick.
It was their third black player, an eighth-round draft pick by the name of Ron Hatcher, who became the first black player ever sign a contract with the Redskins. The fullback lasted one year in the NFL, appearing in three games for Washington.
The Redskins soon traded Davis to the Cleveland Browns for Leroy Jackson, Cleveland's first draft pick that year, and Pro Bowler Bobby Mitchell. While Jackson rarely played, Mitchell became a star and would end his playing career being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He would later become a key member of the Redskins front office in a career that lasted over 40 years with the club.
While Mitchell admitted to being hurt by racial slurs hurled at him by fans, Nisby said he saw "little difference playing with the Redskins and playing with the Steelers." Nisby did say the team itself was close, recalling a time where several Redskins went to a nightclub. When they found out that the nightclub refused to admit the black players, Nisby's white teammates left with him.
Mitchell and Nisby had different views of Marshall. Mitchell said he never encountered any bigotry with the owner, but Nisby recalled that "I never appreciated the man at all, because of the stand that he took on blacks prior to my arrival here. My relationship with the front office wasn't really that great."
The Redskins had won five total games the previous three years, yet won five and tied two when Mitchell and Nisby joined the team in 1962. Not only was their play on the field a key reason for the improvement, but their leadership was crucial in getting the team headed in the right direction.
Nisby and Mitchell became the first black players in Redskins history to be named to the Pro Bowl that year. The impact they had on the team still reverberates today. While Washington had been struggling, their fortunes changed once Nisby and Mitchell came on board.
Marshall suffered a stroke in 1963 and handed control of the team over to Edward Bennett Williams and Jack Kent Cooke. Washington then drafted Hall of Famers like Chris Hanburger, Paul Krause, and Charley Taylor a few years later, while acquiring Hall of Famers like Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff in trades.
This improvement led to a winning season in 1969, their first since 1955, in the one season Hall of Famer Vince Lombardi guided the squad. Hall of Famer George Allen took over in 1971 and the Redskins had five years of 10 or more wins that decade, including a Super Bowl appearance.
Nisby started every game at left guard in the three years he spent with Washington, but was released as a 28-years old in his eighth year at the conclusion of 1964. He decided to hang up his cleats and return home in California and became Director of San Joaquin Delta College's "College Readiness Program", He also became heavily involved in the Stockton community.
A music lover who organized jazz festivals, Nisby also was District 6 Stockton City Councilman and involved in real estate. He is also a member of the Stockton Black Sports Hall of Fame.
He often told people, "If you are going to do something, you have to do it 100 percent. What is 100 percent? It is giving every ounce of energy that you have in your body and using that to achieve the ultimate in every aspect that you compete in. It may be in the classroom, in sports, in family related activities. But, whatever it is, you have to give 100 percent. In the arena of work you have to give 100 percent also. As a result, there is a high probability that you will be successful."
This is the effort Nisby gave in everything he did. From educating himself to being a pro athlete, he took that and became a leader of equality and justice for all human beings. He asked for no spotlight upon himself, only wishing people would realize the abnormalities he was trying to help.
Making the Pro Bowl three times in eight years in an era of bigotry was a tremendous accomplishment, but his helping end segregation might be what Nisby prefers to be remembered for. There may be fewer Steelers and Redskins fans alive who recall his athletic prowess today, but you can look everywhere in society to see how much impact John Nisby had.
Thoughts from an Island Girl
You DARE to come to me for a heart, do you? You clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk!
So it went for the Tinman, as he stood before ‘The Great and Powerful Oz.’ Did you know that the first Tin Man was Buddy Ebsen? Yes that same guy who starred in that old TV series, the Beverly Hillbillies. Did you know what he nearly died from the silver dust they sprayed on him and he was never compensated?
He wanted a heart afterall. So what was wrong with that, right? Why did the ‘The Great and Powerful Oz’ (as it were) resort to such an attack? Did he experience love at some point and lost it?
Remember when as the Fortune Teller he told Dorothy in effect that she was breaking Auntie Em’s heart? I mean he knew what love was. Dorothy knew he was right. We all have special people in our lives and Valentines Day is all about hearts.
In the same way, the St. Louis Cardinals organization has been known a fan and player friendly place and was a perfect fit for Albert Pujols. The Cardinals were saying goodbye to Mark McGwire and hello to a future. Who could have known the greatness of this man and what he would achieve and he is only 31 years old!!
For ten years now, not only has Albert averaged .331 with over 400 homeruns but he has also endeared himself to his fans. A player who selected in the 13th round of the baseball draft that year.
Never was this more in evidence than two years ago, when a fan fell out of the stands along the first base line. Mr. Pujols stayed there until EMT came along to help this man. At the same time attending to a young man with Down’s Syndrome and the son of the man lying on the field.
But Albert has a reason to do this. His wife’s own child has Down’s Syndrome and Albert accept that child and acts as a spokesman for this cause. He wasn’t cussing out a father in front of his child, but actually being human.
In 1988, well before Albert was known to anyone but his own family, a song came out by, ‘Boy Meets Girl’. I was called, ‘Waiting For A Star To Fall’. This may be the ulimate Valentine’s Day song. There is something magical to this song, even though it came out before I was even born. Sadly though, they are no longer together but we have all felt this kind of love, at some time in our lives.
But now just like Boy Meets Girl, there seems to be a problem. Apparently Albert has taken notes from Derek Jeter and how contract negotiations went with Jeter and the New York Yankees. I believe Albert is not willing to let this play out in the press and made it clear to everyone, that this will not happen with him.
The good ole boys in the media makes it all about them. Ever watch the NFL Network? They will do their 10 best in a given category and you will have sports individuals (mainly media) give their impressions of what happened. The ones who were not players seem to be the most bizarre. What they could not do on the field they try to do in the press and other media. Anyway, who is selecting who is number one of their lists? And why should we agree?
The point is, they need to shut up. They need to stop spreading rumors and dischord. Trust me, if Tiger was being Tiger, Albert’s signing would be a secondary issue. The media are like vultures waiting for the cars to pass so they can disembowel their prey. But instead of being useful like a vulture is, they actually create controversy only so they can editorialize on it.
This last song summarizes the kind of pain their tabloidism evokes. As wrong as Brett Favre and Tiger Wood was and the pain it caused the wives of these men, media are just as guilty. As a girl this song touches me, in that we are regarded as some kind of trophy (eye candy) without even considering what we feel and how we feel. This is not feminism per se, but about how much we love and how that hurt can never be healed sometimes. I pray for Brett and Tiger. As a girl, I don’t want some middle-aged buffoon getting into my personal business.
All that said, Happy Valentines to everyone. Please don't let love slip through your hands and out of your reach. Don't forget we love, those who ever did.
The difference is that media loves themselves while the irreparable damage done to lovers may never be. These athletes are not perfect, even Albert Pujols, but all of us should be left alone to deal with our problems.
In the case of athletes, there is a bond between players and fans and because media wants to report the story first, the love affair can be destroyed.
Well hello there, Gabbers. Been a while since I showed my face around here... so I figured I'd get a few months worth of rantage off my chest on this fine Saturday evening.
Hope you all have been well. I've been trying to come around as often as possible, reading up on the best damned sports blogging available anywhere. It's been a crazy couple of months for yours truly. Working at least 50 hours a week on what they call a "swing shift"... meaning, I tell you what hours to work, and you swing from my nads, type of shift. Basically, I'm lucky to see daylight, before or after work anymore (unless I'm on a delivery, of course)! Aside from the whole "complete and total lack of time" thing, everything's been pretty well normal. No more car thefts, attempted car thefts, or disasters with the new house, although the new house pretty much sits exactly as it did before Christmas!
As for sports, I've been trying to pay as much attention as possible... but after the Lions' season was over, there just wasn't much interest for me. Watched a little bit of the playoffs, and the Super Bowl for sure, and a few bowl games. As for the BCS bowls, I stayed true to my word and didn't watch a single minute of any BCS bowl game... that is, untill the National Championship game! Just couldn't help myself, and no matter who you were rooting for, that was a hell of a game to watch. I guess the saddest part of Super Bowl Sunday is the fact that after the final gun sounds, there is no more football until late August... and no more football that actually matters until September. What can I say, I'm just a sucker for that game.
Which brings me to the thing that has really been pissing me off lately, all the talk of a lockout in the NFL. We've all said it before, it's millionaires vs. billionaires, expecting a world full of thousandaire fans to give a rat's ass who gets a bigger piece of the multi-billion dollar pie that is hanging out there. The way I look at it, the owners are, well, owners, the players are simply employees. They sign multi-million dollar contracts to play a game, which turns them into "investments" by these owners. When the investment pays off, would you expect to have to give the company you invested into a bigger cut of your earnings, just because they felt they were entitled to it? Hell no.
I usually don't like to be the type to agree with a bunch of stuffy, douchebag billionaires, but I think the NFL owners are in the right here, no matter what way you look at it. NFL players are handsomely rewarded for their efforts on the field, ownership already invests quite a bit of money into "player retirement" and health benefit programs. If the NFL owners and players can't get it together, I can see a MLB-style backlash coming their way from fans who simply just want to see some football games.
As for the other "hot button issue" in labor negotiations, the two additional games for the NFL regular season, I say fuck the players on that one, too. Hey, I didn't want to work Saturday this week, but my BOSS told me to, so I did. Like it or not, NFL players, the owners are your bosses. If they want you to work 18 instead of 16 weeks out of the year, shut the fuck up, strap 'em up, and go to work.
Yet another area that I agree with ownership on is putting a cap on rookie salaries, and this really is something NFL players should be on board with as well. The fact of the matter is, teams are really loosing their asses on terrible draft picks. Just ask any Raiders' fan... and, yes, even we Lions fans know a thing or two about terrible draft picks making shit-tons of money without contributing a single positive thing to the franchise, right Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, Mike Williams, Roy Williams, Jeff Backus, Godser Cherilus, etc...? Newsflash to the other 80% of the league, the less owners are paying rookies, the more cap room they have to pay you. Guess that poly-sci/general studies degree you never bothered completing at whatever college whose academic standards you discredit every time you open your mouth isn't doing much for you, is it?
But, on the plus side as our good friend Harvey Dakota pointed out in his earlier post today, baseball is right around the corner. Notice how I just skipped right over the NBA there? Honestly, I have as much respect for that league as a whole as I do for the "face" of the league, LeBron James. But with pitchers and catchers reporting, spring training is afoot! It's that time of year when everybody has a chance, everyone thinks this could be "the year". I for one have always fancied myself a realist... I'm fairly sure this won't be "the year" for my Tigers, but I think we've got a damn decent shot at winning the AL Central and maybe even knocking off one of the "big guns" out East in the first round.
The spots that worry me the most for this year's edition are the middle infield, both 2B and SS. With guys like Jorge Cantu out there and available on the cheap, I'm suprised the Tigers didn't take a shot at bringing in a solid utility player to fill in at either position. For now, I'll hold out hope that the Rangers will trade Michael Young, and that the Tigers have somebody somewhere that would interest them enough to be able to bring him to Detroit. Also, another veteran outfielder wouldn't have hurt, especially since Johnny Damon is taking his retirement tour of Tampa Bay this year. No matter what happens, I'll be rooting for my Tigers, and hoping I get a day off somewhere, sometime, so I can make it out to a game or two this year.
That's it for me tonight folks, I'm all out of ammo and the 12 friends who reside in my fridge are calling my name. Best of luck to all of your teams out there as baseball begins, and let's all hope there will be some football next fall on Sundays. Great to be back again, and hopefully I'll make it back again before two months pass! And, thanks, as always, for reading and for any comments you leave on the way out.
The time grows short, my apologies for the late posting and some of the key games may already be in progress when this is posted. But the games are crucial nonetheless. Every win bigger and every loss that much more painful.
Solid: Duke, North Carolina
Needs Work: Va. Tech, Boston College, Florida State,
Skinny on the ACC: Duke rallied smartly to knock off their hated rival, the game was more a bragging rights game than anything that will have any kind of impact on either teams tourney chances. But from the top two teams, the drop off is noticeable. BC has to stop taking house job losses but by and large are still in decent shape Florida State and Va Tech are damn near mirror images of one another, but the Noles have something that the Hokies don’t, a resume boosting win. The Noles win over Duke last month will make their resume shine a little better should the decision come down to those two teams. The Terps have awful numbers and nothing resembling any kind of a marquee win but they have a better record than BC and that will keep them in the conversation for now…
Key Game: Maryland at Boston College Saturday 1p If the Terps win, they will stay on the sheet. If they lose they may have to run the table and get deep into the ACC tourney to get back into consideration.
Needs Work: Duquesne, Temple, Richmond
The A-10 Spec is: Only a Louganis type dive is keeping Xavier out of the tourney now, winning at a tough non-con venue in Georgia. The Dukes are needing a signature win to solidfy their resume. The Owls have wins over Georgetown, Georgia and Maryland wins that will keep them in the conversation as long as they continue to stay within shouting distance of the A-10 The Spiders continue to hang around on the fringes but their uneven resume (Good wins against Purdue and Colonial leader VCU but ugly losses to ACC whipping boy Georgia Tech as well as inexcusable losses to Bucknell and Iona) will hamper them
Key Game: Xavier at Duquesne Sun 2p The Muskies and Dukes are tied for the A-10 lead with the loser being in a tie with Richmond and Temple
Solid: Pitt, UConn, Louisville, Villanova, Syracuse, Georgetown, Notre Dame
Needs Work: Cincy, West Virginia, St. John’s,
Big East Skinny: UConn is top ten but why do they look so vunerable as of late, they took an ill-timed blowout loss to St. John’s. The Red Storm have an enviable profile (A top 25, RPI and a to die for Strength of Schedule of 2) But they are 14-9 and may still need to get a few more wins to get back into the conversation. The solid teams are not going to change, though West Virginia keeps blowing chance after chance to solidify its chance. Cincy is just a big a mystery 19-5, but aside from a win over Xavier that is looking more and more like it could be their signature win, they have no real eyecatching wins and the naysayers continue to say that the Bearcats lofty record is all flash and no substance.
Key Games: Pitt at Villanova 9p Saturday (ESPN) Villanova has won 47 straight at home but is coming off a shocking upset loss at Rutgers. Pitt is looking more and more like they will be the Big East shotcaller
St. John’s at Cincinnati Noon Sunday The Storm lost a heartbreaker to the Bearcats last month, the Bearcats need every win they can get the deeper we get into February.
Solid: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Needs Work: Michigan State, Minnesota, Illinois, Penn St
The word on the Big Ten is: The Bucks, Boilers and Badgers…we know this. Below these three is a hot mess. Illinois went to the Barn and got a badly needed win. This loss was bad news for the Gophers, their continuing struggles to get consistent offense is hurting their chances. They have a favorable schedule down the stretch but they need to get a couple more wins. Michigan State is not the feared team that they used to be and are very close to getting booted off. Penn State is on the fringes of contention but their tendency to fold against stronger teams will be their eventual bugaboo
Key Game: Ohio State at Wisconsin Saturday 2p (ESPN) A trip to Madison is never a fun one for Big Ten foes, an unbeaten Buckeye team visiting will have a rowdy Kohl Center crowd extra amped.
Solid: Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M
Needs Work: Mizzou, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Kansas State
Skinny from the heartland: The Jayhawks and Longhorns are still the closest things to spot on locks right now. The Aggies were in some kind of trouble but after thrashing Colorado are ok. If the Tigers could win away from Columbia I wouldn’t hesitate to move them to solid. Baylor is ok for now, but it would bode well for them not to get housed in Austin
Key Game: Baylor at Texas Sat 2p As was stated before as long as the Bears don’t get straight housed, they will still be ok
Needs Work: Memphis, Tulsa, UTEP, UAB, Southern Miss, Southern Methodist
Oh Say can You C-USA Spec: The Tigers are trying desperately to prove that they are tourney worthy auto bid or no, but escaping with close wins over downtrodden teams (witness the Tigers one point win over UCF) wont help and the Golden Eagles are coming on strong
Key Game: Southern Miss at Memphis Sat 6p If the Golden Eagles can knock off the Tigers at the formidable FedEx Forum, they will have the look of a legit contender for a berth.
Solid George Mason, VCU
Needs Work Old Dominion
Since the Horizon has only one real contender, I’ve decided to replace them with the wide open Colonial. George Mason only five years removed from their stirring final four run is in the mix and with a super strong profile (25 RPI/85 SOS) they have the chops for an at-large if they don’t continue their hot ways. Old Dominion is a strong case too, with their only losses in conference being to Mason and VCU.
Key Game: Old Dominion at VCU today 2p Old Dominion could make its case stronger by avenging a previous loss to the Rams. If the Rams sweep they could be golden.
Solid: Northern Iowa, Wichita State
Needs Work: Missouri State
Missouri Valley Skinny: I tried to tell people that the Shockers had to be careful, but they took a needless loss to an also ran Southern Illinois team. Now the MVC race is wide open. UNI and Mo State are stalking and the jockeying for the top spot in Arch Madness is getting more pronounced.
Key Game: Wichita State at Northern Iowa Tonight 10p A primetime Saturday showdown in the MVC is on tap here.
Solid: BYU, San Diego State
Needs Work: UNLV, Colorado State
Spec from the Mountains: Jimmer Fredette is getting close to folk hero status and the Cougars are getting that locked up bid look. The Aztecs are too though they face a hungry UNLV squad in Thomas & Mack. The Rams are trying to stay relevant but have a hard charging Lobo squad that has forced its way into consideration. Could the MWC send five??? I doubt that, but four is very realistic
Key Game: San Diego State at UNLV 8p Tonight The Rebels could give their so-so resume a super huge boost by knocking off the one loss Aztecs.
Needs Work: Arizona, UCLA, Washington State
Skinny from the Left Coast: This conference is still anyones to win, but Arizona is still leader of the ummm pack. They are as about as unglamourous as they come but they do have 20 wins and few if any bad losses. UCLA still has to prove that they can beat Arizona, but they do have a couple marquee wins on their ledger which should go a long way Washington is tottering badly but will stay for now but let ‘em get beat by Stanford (a reason why their in-state brethren isn’t on the sheet no more) and they will get the boot
Key Game: Stanford at Washington tonight 8:30p The Huskies had better not have happen to them what happened to Wazzu or they are in trouble.
Solid: UK, Vanderbilt, Florida
Work To Do: Tennessee, Alabama
Word is Down South: Wildcat fans yap at me constantly, so I enjoy telling them to go sit in a corner and hang their head in shame after yet another galling road loss this time at Ole Miss. When the Wildcats are in doubt, the bring the Vols out to Rupp. The Wildcats are still in no danger. Nor are the Gators. Im moving the Commodores to the Solid line after a thrilling win over Bama
Key Game: SEC Kentucky at Vanderbilt 1p Today UK’s road woes are something to seriously consider as they take on the Commodores in their unique venue. The Commodores go a long way towards further solidifying their resume
Solid: Saint Mary’s
Needs Work: Gonzaga
West Coast Spec: Saint Mary’s seems to like being the hunted team, they turned back a strong challenge from Santa Clara at their notoriously rowdy Leavey Center. They continue to hold fast to that top spot. Sad to say Gonzaga is more than likely done
Key Game: Saint Mary’s at San Francisco Sat 9p The Gaels tour of their bay area brethren continues with a trip into a tough War Memorial Gym
Solid: Utah State
Word on the WAC: Just when you thought the Aggies were all sorts of home free, they run into an ambush at Idaho for their first conference loss. Their resume is way too soft for an at-large berth, so if they want to make sure that they have nothing to worry about in a possible one bid league they had better bounce back strong
Key Game: Fresno State at Utah State Sat 9p The Aggies try to bounce back against a subpar Bulldog squad
There are others in the mix to be sure. Champions from the following conferences also get an automatic bid: Amer. East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Horizon, Ivy, MAC, MAAC, MEAC, Northeast, Ohio Valley, Patriot, Southland, Southern, Summit, Sun Belt and SWAC
Remember its still way early in the spec, this list can change quickly and of course we haven't even brought up the possibilty of upsets. But those never happen, right?
Next Spec Sheet Feb. 15th in the Musings from the Hoodwood...Until Next Post Fellow Sports Fans!
The muckerism known as the Roger Goodell Era began in the National Football League when he barely won the job as commissioner by two votes in 2006. Though he tried to push this image of being a strict disciplinarian since then, but he has mostly shown to be a watered down version of his mentor and predecessor Paul Tagliabue.
Goodell began working with the NFL as an intern thanks to the fact his dad was a Senator in the same state that NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle lived in. When Tagliabue replaced a retired Rozelle in 1989, Goodell was taken under the wing of a former college basketball player who knew very little about the game of football.
His role increased as the rules began to heavily favor the offenses and the quarterback position especially. Goodell has even taken this many steps further to sickening proportions since 2006 to the point even touching a quarterback results in a penalty and fine.
The 2011 season has been his worse, yet it may be a blessing for the NFL. It is quite evident Goodell is the wrong man for the job more than ever and replacing him would benefit the league. The league has made mistakes here before, so admitting they made the wrong hire would be nothing new for the NFL.
Jim Thorpe was the first NFL Commissioner ever from 1920 to 1921. He was an obvious figurehead much like Goodell is. Thorpe was a Hall of Fame football player who won two Gold Medals in the 1921 Olympics, played Major League Baseball, and basically excelled in any athletic endeavor.
Carl Stork, a co-founder of the NFL, was commissioner for two years until stepping down due to illness. Austin Gunsel stepped in when Bert Bell died in 1959, but was replaced by Rozelle four months later. Elmer Layden, one of the famous "Four Horsemen" from Notre Dame University, held the job for five year before being replaced by Bell because owners thought him too much a gentleman and not forceful enough for the job.
While Goodell has tried to pretend his was forceful regime, it has been severely tainted with hypocrisy. He reduced a suspension of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger by two games this year, but then proceeded to tell people, right before the quarterback was to play Super Bowl XLV, that at least two dozen Steelers did not support Roethlisberger.
The reporter, Peter King, tried to back peddle soon after, but most likely because he was ordered to by Goodell. Still, the damage was done and the timing could not have been more inappropriate. The Super Bowl is the biggest game the league has, one where billions of dollars are involved and where more viewers from other parts of the world tune in.
Not only was the big game marred by Goodell's boorish behavior, but perhaps the worst pre-game and halftime entertainment shows in Super Bowl history followed in a game where hundreds of fans were displaced because Goodell's people did a poor job preparing Cowboys Stadium for the event. These fans are now suing the league.
These debacles took place on the eve of a players strike that is almost certainly going to occur. Players strikes are nothing new in the NFL, having occurred in 1968, 1970, 1982, and 1987. Yet each strike dealt with different issues.
When the players threatened a strike in 1968, the owners countered by declaring a lockout. Since players salaries were low in that era, which caused them to hold second hobs, this strike was brief. There was another brief strike during training camp in 1970.
Just nine regular season games were played in 1982 because of the strike. When the 1987 strike went down, players missed a month of the regular season but the games were still played.
Owners hired replacement players, which was largely a group of players who had been cut in training camps. Many unionized players, including Hall of Famers like Joe Montana, Steve Largent, and Randy White, crossed the picket lines to play.
This strike may be different because NFL players see how Major League Baseball players get paid. The NFL is the king of professional sports right now and players want a bigger piece of the pie. Considering an average career lasts less than two years, their request doesn't seem ridiculous.
The players today are afforded luxuries like never before. Though the game still contains hard hitting at times, the rules today make it a much less violent game. Goodell is now saying the league cares about players suffering concussions, an issue they ignored since their beginnings.
Past players suffer today, ignored by their own brethren who are enjoying the path paved for them. Yet the players see how the legends are doing today and are trying to prevent repeating that in their own future. Goodell's recent claims of caring are generally considered just lip service by most so he can resolve the impending strike sooner.
Besides continuing Tagliabue's mission to pamper quarterbacks and offenses while castrating defenses, there are many other things about Goodell that anger players. Many feel he is out of touch, sitting in an ivory tower with a blind eye as his wallet fills up at a rapid pace.
Many players lately have been echoing the same sentiment in regards to their commissioner. They feel he has too much power and control over the game while maintaining a constant predilection of making wrong decisions ultimately. He once was referred to as an obtuse fascist who has ruined the integrity of the game in favor of money.
Though it is unknown if things would be much better or worse now if Goodell did not retain those two votes in 2006, the question if he is the right man for the job gets louder each day. Whether the owners are listening or even caring is the question.
Bell and Rozelle, generally considered the best commissioners in NFL history, never uttered such ramblings like Goodell has while holding the office over 30 years combined. Neither besmirched their players like Goodell has. Though it is doubtful a person as good as Bell or Rozelle is out there right now, it would behoove the NFL to try and find out while firing Goodell.
If the league stays complacent behind his questionable leadership, the United Football League could very well find success the the American Football League did in the 1960's, forcing the NFL to allow all 10 of their teams to merge. Before that, the All-American Football Conference had the NFL take in three teams in 1950.
Though the game of football needs the upstart UFL, now entering their third season, to compete with the NFL to make their product better, the NFL learned 41 years ago from the AFL that it can take a long time to get back on top after being the only game in town several years. A game that has been eroding under the direction of Roger Goodell.