Around the Dorm 8/28: ESPN’s ethics, the Devils’ offseason, steroids in football

In this week’s Around the Dorm the “Ref,” Chris Molicki, asks our panel three questions: whether ESPN’s recent decision to cancel a concussion-related documentary under pressure from the NFL is something we should all care about, how the New Jersey Devils’ offseason has gone, and if there needs to be more steroids regulations in football and if so, should Congress be the organization to make sure that happens?

 

1. Should ESPN reportedly cancelling a concussion documentary under pressure from the NFL be something the average sports fan cares about?

Peter: This is something that should be in the minds of every sports fan, whether they care about this particular case or not, because it’s indicative of a larger problem in the industry. Sports journalism outlets like ESPN are between a rock and a hard place. They want to offer a top-tier product by being objective and informative, but at the same time possess a strong incentive to appease their partners by portraying them in a positive light. This is particularly true for football, ESPN’s big cash cow. If an investigative story turns some people off the sport for good, or even just upsets the NCAA or NFL, it’s bad for business. If it’s bad enough, ESPN might lose their partners and will certainly lose ratings. This particular story might be untrue, which is very possible — let’s all not crucify ESPN over an uncertainty — but as a story, it sends the message that it’s important everyone trying to be an intelligent sports fan has a healthy skepticism of what they see on TV. In sports particularly, there’s often another story behind what’s being reported.

Mike: They should care very, very much. First of all, average fans care about their players as human beings. Concussions are far more serious than even the horror story reports so far have shown — even a mild concussion can last more than six full months and result in all kinds of long-lasting brain damage. If a player sustains a second concussion during that time period, even when the symptoms aren’t prevalent, it can result in death. The fact that the NFL wants the documentary buried at all is highly alarming. And why would ESPN kowtow to the NFL’s demands anyway? Here’s why I think they did — ESPN isn’t the only big-time 24-hour sports channel anymore. They lost their monopoly to Fox Sports One and NBC Sports Channel, which means that now, instead of the leagues needing them, they need the leagues. That means that all three sports networks have to do what the leagues tell them to do in order to get what they need reliably, which means the subjects of the stories are driving them rather than the reporters. Ask any journalism major — that’s ALWAYS a bad thing for anyone who wants to know the full story (like the average sports fan).

Andrew: Sports fans should be very concerned because this is a classic example of industries being controlled by money. It is up to ESPN to report the news accurately, and not to succumb to the pressure of the NFL.  Understandably, the NFL does not like bad press. However, the media outlets should write whatever they seem fit. Concussions are a major issue and should not be taken lightly. If the NFL is not interested in researching this serious injury, it could have a major effect on minors. In a recent study by the New York Times, they wrote that since 1997, 50 youth football players have either died or sustained critical head injuries on the field. If the NFL wants to ignore the effects of concussions, then they are setting a bad example for football players of all ages.

Peter wins for pointing out how important football is moneywise, Mike gets 2 points for bringing up ESPN’s competition & Andrew gets 1 point for saying how industries are controlled.

 

2. Grade the New Jersey Devils’ offseason.

Peter: I’ll give the Devils’ offseason a B. Flipping the no. 9 pick in a terrible draft for the goalie of tomorrow was a sneakily great move by GM Lou Lamoriello, while adding the likes of Michael Ryder and Jaromir Jagr will help boost the offense in the short-term (even if they aren’t answers for what this team will look like down the line). Getting billionaire new owners inspires financial confidence for the future, and even losing Ilya Kovalchuk and his gargantuan contract can only help the franchise’s future, considering how much salary cap space the Devils were on the hook for in 10 years’ time. But losing Kovalchuk, in addition to Clarkson, will hurt regardless of how bad the former’s contract was. Those two combined for 93 goals in the past two seasons while building valuable chemistry with their teammates, and I don’t think Lamoriello was able to replace them with players of equal quality. It was a difficult window to acquire anyone more significant than the likes of Ryder and a concussion-riddled Ryan Clowe, but that doesn’t change how lacking this offense could be this year. Without serious scoring punch, the Devils are going to continue hovering in a near-rebuilding phase for another season — good enough on defense and in possession to beat anyone, but without the consistency necessary to contend.

Mike: B+. When the Devils first lost Kovalchuk, the general reaction was obviously negative (unless you count Patrik Elias, who has said Kovalchuk occasionally made some amateur mistakes on the ice), but they’ve since added Ryane Clowe and Michael Ryder, which should keep their offense strong. They also picked up Jaromir Jagr, who might be older but is still considered to be a very solid player, especially given his well-known rigorous training routine. And don’t undersell that Schneider trade. The new goalie was sent to the Olympic training camp, and potential Olympians tend not to be slouches. They’ve also got a new owner, Josh Harris, and so far the change looks like one for the better. The Devils may not be a true contender for the Stanley Cup this season, but with fan favorites like Jagr and Martin Brodeur likely playing their last season’s they’ll at least be entertaining. And really, for a team that missed the playoffs last season, being an entertaining group with a potentially bright future is pretty darn good.

Andrew: Despite losing their top scorer in Ilya Kovalchuk, I would give the New Jersey Devils an A-. After struggling last season, where his goal production significantly dropped from 37 goals to 11 goals, it was time for Kovalchuk to go. This move helped the Devils free up enough cap space to receive the up-and-comer Cory Schneider. Schneider will help to relieve the injury-proned goalie Martin Brodeur, and will gain experience to help him for years to come. The additions of Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder were also great pick-ups for the Devils who were ranked 28th last season in goals scored. These two acquisitions will help New Jersey to make up for the loss of losing Kovalchuk.

Peter wins for highlighting the Schneider trade, Mike gets 2 points for saying N.J. moved past losing Kovy & Andrew gets 1 because a team that lost its best scorer doesn’t deserve an A-.

 

3. Should HGH regulations increase in football, and should Congress get involved?

Peter: While there’s a new steroids-related MLB controversy that shakes baseball to its core every other week, steroids in football have long been a problem everyone is willing to slide under the rug. This seems backwards — steroids in football are more dangerous than they are in other sports because of how much violence there is. These players are already taking enough collateral damage for their profession that will kill them, often literally, down the line — they don’t need help from banned substances to tear each other apart, or put themselves in the line of fire for early heart attacks and self-destructive behavior. I believe there should definitely be more HGH regulations in football then, and don’t have a huge problem with Congress trying to force the sport into it. This is partly because I believe Roger Goodell’s NFL will never make the right decision on its own, and partly because Congress has already set precedent with the MLB. Pro sports are interstate commerce, aka fair game for Congress, and if regulations help crack down on HGH use in the NFL, then that’s a blessing in disguise.

Mike: Well, I’m confused as to why Congress is taking time to look at the NFL for steroids when they could be, you know, trying to solve all those giant problems I keep hearing about, like starving children. Obviously the NFL should do a better job of steroid testing, as should the NBA, the NHL and probably every other sports organization. Steroids are a huge problem in sports, and some of the biggest leagues are currently ignoring them. No one can think that steroids, which increase a person’s physical abilities, are a problem limited to just baseball and cycling. Is not one person in the NFL just a little curious as to how 300+ pound men run just so stinking fast? In the NBA, does everyone just agree that Dwight Howard’s Hulk-like shoulders are the result of squats, LeBron’s ever-enlarging head is due to his inflating ego, and Kobe’s knees just have magical healing properties? The steroids issue is one that’s been largely ignored by too many pro sports for a while now (BioGenesis links to NFL and NBA players, anyone?), so yes, they should crack down on it. As for Congress being involved, I think they have bigger fish to fry (for those starving children, maybe).

Andrew: There is no reason why Congress should force the NFL to create a stricter HGH testing policy. Although forbidden in sports, taking steroids is not an illegal crime. While Lance Armstrong or Alex Rodriguez may have been in the news lately for using these substances, neither of them were arrested for their “crimes.” Although cheating is severely frowned upon, there is no reason for Congress to get involved. This especially holds true because Congress must deal with much larger issues at hand. I understand that they want to preserve the integrity of football, but that role should be up to the NFL and not our United States government.

Andrew wins for pointing out steroids are legal,  Mike gets 2 points for saying sports should look into using steroids, Peter gets 1 point for saying Goodell may not agree with Congress.

Peter wins Around the Dorm, 7-6-5