Recently a person associated with the NFL uttered a sentence so flawed in reality, logic and fact, so egotistical in nature that it begs for rebuttal.
The boldly worded statement: “The NFL would fall apart without me.”
The words came from the mouth of a sports agent during a “60 Minutes” segment recently aired on Sunday night on CBS.
The NFL has proven over the past half century that it is bigger than any one individual, that it will outlast all mortals blessed to be associated with it, and will continue to prosper long after all the warriors and foot soldiers who contributed to its success are gone.
The NFL’s success is due to the greatness of the game, the integrity of its trailblazers and the selfless sacrifices of its greatest assets, the players. The league is certainly not dependent upon the efforts of any single person. The game continues to reach new and epic heights year after year and hasn’t fallen apart when bonafide “giants” of the game like Pete Rozelle, Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi, Joe Namath, George Allen, Barry Sanders and George Young have left the game.
Early in my career, while completing a rookie contract for a highly drafted player in the league, I came to realize how fleeting a player’s career can be. At the time, I realized how the game and league will always trump the individual. The client/player in question had missed a few early days of training camp in a normal and simple contract dispute. The player eventually signed his contract after the team’s lunch on the third day of camp. Upon his signing, the team was required by roster limits to release a player to make room for this draft choice on its 80 man squad. The newly signed player found in his locker the recently-released player’s practice jersey and number hanging, freshly washed, in his locker after lunch. This jersey and number had been worn less than three hours prior, at that morning’s practice, by the now-released player. The game moves forward after each player’s career ends, whether superstar or falling star.
Certainly the football-loving public never worried what would happen to the future of the league when historic, trailblazing individuals ceased to play. Players such as Sammy Baugh (the inventor of the forward pass), Johnny Unitas (the QB of the greatest game ever and the modernizer of the forward pass), “Broadway” Joe “Willie – White shoes” Namath (the PT Barnum of players in the league), Fritz Pollard (the first African-American player in the NFL in 1921), Barry Sanders (the most electrifying and dynamic player ever), Joe Montana and Dan Marino (the most prolific passers ever), Reggie White (The Minister of Defense), Lawrence Taylor (the greatest defensive player ever), John Mackey (whose playing talents were only surpassed by his visions of the NFLPA), Dick Butkus (the meanest player ever), and even Brian Piccolo (whose untimely loss to a battle with cancer is forever memorialized in the great movie “Brian Song”). Each time one of these individuals retired, the league continued to find new talent and flourish.
The same can be said for the legions of legends who have graced the halls of the front offices, league offices and ancillary offices of the NFL. Legends with names like Rozelle (the great commissioner who created the Super Bowl and merged the AFL-NFL), Paul Brown (the coach and owner who modernized the game), Vince Lombardi (the greatest coach ever), George Halas (of the legendary Chicago Bears), Wellington Mara (who selflessly gave up individual team TV rights fees for the good and growth of the league), George Allen (coach of the “over the hill gang”), Gene Upshaw (the man who shepherded the NFLPA and players into the era of free agency), Bob Wolf (the first real agent in the NFL), and tragically and most recently the late Al Davis (the great innovator, antagonist, and contrarian who almost single-handedly willed the Raiders to a commitment to excellence ).
Last time I checked “we,” and by “we” I mean everyone from players to coaches to front office people to media to employees and even to the player agents should realize how blessed “we” all are to be part of such a wonderful, enjoyable, successful and fantastic game. People who are fortunate enough to make their livings being associated with the game are all incredibly lucky to be a very small part of the greatest game on the planet. The reality and truth is that game will survive and succeed well and long past when “we” are gone, as long as everyone remembers to appreciate their endowments and understand that it is a privilege and not a right to be associated with the NFL.
The problem arises when people whose egos and morality have run amuck utter ignorant, arrogant and groundless statements. Statements like the game will falter and disintegrate without the benefit of any one person. This only serves to tear down the fabric of a great game that was built on the vision, backs, sweat, and tears of the great people who truly worked together to create the game in its present form. But then again, any person who has truly influenced the game as it is known today would undoubtedly realize this truism and never even consider uttering such a statement.
By Peter Schaffer | 05:09 PM ET, 10/12/2011