Melissa’s Monday Musings: Non-Deflategate Stories to Digest

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Many moons ago, Deflategate was about whether or not Tom Brady, abetted by a Patriots employee, intentionally altered footballs to a psi level that was below the NFL’s allowed minimum.

Today we have no freakin’ idea what this is about. I could sit here and run through the five million ever-changing possibilities or simply relay what John Dowd, the attorney who authorized the report which led to the banning of Pete Rose from baseball, told Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post in a blistering column last week: “Like ‘Seinfeld,’ this is about nothing.”

Yes, there are feuds, smokescreens, general shadiness, and there will be legacies to consider in the future. I’d be lying to smugly dismiss the D-word as irrelevant. But Dowd is right; what this is about is impossible to describe and therefore nothing. And while this nothingness permeates conversation, there has been a whole lot of something getting the shaft. Let’s focus on the something.

A Chief Among Chiefs

Eric Berry is cancer-free, just eight months after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, AND he’s back playing. You probably know that already, but think about what goes into playing football – the nutrition, the physicality, the studying, the gym time. Again, Eric Berry is playing professional football eight months removed from a cancer diagnosis. Let that simmer for a second.

Late last week, Sam Mellinger in the Kansas City Star had a powerful story on all the outreach Berry has made in the local cancer community. Being a star corner for the Chiefs, Berry already receives plenty of adulation. But being a peer who handled his diagnosis with enormous grace has taken the inspiration to another level.  The individual stories Mellinger shares are beautiful and worth your time.  Also interesting is the reason Berry is back so quickly. According to Mellinger, he took his IV treatments directly to his veins instead of through ports, which is the more customary and far less painful route.

Berry’s inspiration has been felt in the Chiefs locker room where quarterback Alex Smith said he was “undeserving” to be in the same room as Berry.  There are some teams opening training camp under a thick cloud of questionable conscience, be it the possibility of housing a domestic violence perpetrator or starting a known bully. The Chiefs are 180 degrees removed from that world. In Berry they have a figure to rally around.

Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs

An Important Rule Change

A word on the Hall of Fame’s announcement that it would reverse its decision and let Junior Seau’s daughter, Sydney, participate in a live Q&A following her father’s enshrinement this Saturday in Canton. First off, what strange yet strategic timing. The original New York Times story that Sydney would be, for lack of a better word, muzzled, was released late last Friday. And the reversal was news over the weekend. Obviously this is a situation the Hall and the league wish they weren’t dealing with.

Letting Sydney speak is the right move and everyone on social media, and especially those who expressed anger to the Hall directly, should took solace in knowing the pressure worked.

Admittedly it’s not hard to be an NFL conspiracy theorist these days.  So when the Hall of Fame touted a rule dating back to 2010 that presenters of posthumously inducted Hall of Famers would no longer be allowed to speak on the player’s behalf, I questioned the accuracy.

Last week I spoke with Anne Richter, the daughter of former Rams linebacker Les Richter, the only posthumously inducted Hall of Famer since the rule change.  We chatted both about her overall experience during the 2011 Hall of Fame weekend and what the deal was with her family not speaking.

Interestingly, Frank Gifford, who competed against Richter in high school, college and the NFL, was supposed to speak on Richter’s behalf. Gifford, in fact, arrived in Canton with prepared remarks. But Anne recalled that the Hall, at some point within 72 hours of the actual induction, told the family no one would speak and they would just appear onstage for the unveiling of the bust.

Anne, who says she was “treated regally” and that she and her brother, Jon, were really just grateful their father was finally inducted, holds no animosity.

After speaking with Anne I asked Joe Horrigan, a spokesman and historian for the Hall of Fame to explain the discrepancy. Horrigan did admit a little confusion surrounding the Richters and Frank Gifford possibly speaking after the new rule had been instituted. But he also cited an email sent to Jon Richter early in the Hall of Fame process explaining that presenters would not speak live at the enshrinement ceremony.

So while the Hall could have reversed the rule or made an exception for first-ballot Hall of Famer, there is no conspiracy. That said, it’s a really dumb rule that needs to go away. And when it does, give Anne and Jon Richter a minute to speak about their father to make up for their lost opportunity.

It’s Raining Women – Hallelujah.

So may great things are happening to my gender, it’s hard not to feel giddy. The Cardinals hiring Dr. Jen Welter as a training camp coach for the inside linebackers stole the headlines, and deservedly so.  I’ve met a plethora of women capable of coaching men; but the NFL coaching world just always seemed a impenetrable boy’s club. Kudos to Bruce Arians for doing some trailblazing of his own, and to Welter for handling her new role so professionally – and seemingly kicking ass!

But there’s been so much more cracking. The enormously talented broadcaster, Beth Mowins, was tapped to do play-by-play for Oakland Raiders’ preseason broadcasts. In a month Sarah Thomas will take the field as the first female permanent official. (Note: Thomas has been assigned to Pete Morelli’s crew, which is a step up from the roving official role instituted this season.) Over the weekend, the Jets promoted salary cap Jacqueline Davidson to Director of Football Administrations.

From a coverage perspective, just about every NFL franchise has at least one woman on its beat. Yahoo Sports and ESPN, which dominate fantasy coverage have recently added Liz Loza and Dr. Renee Miller, respectively, to their fantasy teams.

Then there’s Amy Trask, the former Raiders CEO and ultimate trailblazer, who is quickly rising as a top NFL analysts for CBS.

The common theme among all these women is they are not dancing around the magical box of x’s and o’s, merely an accessory to their more football savvy counterparts, No, these women are knee deep in the box and for once it feels like there’s ample space for more.

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Melissa Jacobs

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