Sports

Keidel: NFL Testy Over Testing

Roger Goodell (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Roger Goodell (credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

By Jason Keidel
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Four words I never thought I’d utter: Thank you, Boomer Esiason.

This week, Boomer climbed and straddled the largest elephant in the football galaxy: PEDs.

Specifically, Esiason chatted HGH, for which there is not test but is clearly taken by an ample portion of NFL players. If you don’t think pro football players are taking drugs, perhaps you are.

When pondering the loss of Darrelle Revis to a knee injury, the all too common and cringing ACL tear, Boomer boomed that Revis’s injury requires nearly nine months of rehab. Then he asserted that if the Jets’ star defender returned in less than six months we could bet our bottom dollar that he used HGH. He ended his monologue by declaring that upwards of 70 percent of NFL players are indulging.

That’s a bold statement, making it stunning that no one is commenting on his comments.

And whether we like the southpaw’s South Park approach to sports since he joined Craig Carton, he’s not a shill for the NFL, never a front man in the galling, Goodell refrain. If Mr. Esiason knows anything, it’s football. As a former NFL MVP who came within a Joe Montana dagger of a Super Bowl ring, few sports commentators are more hardwired into the machinations of pro football.

If you’ll notice, no one in baseball has sniffed Roger Maris’s record since MLB has tightened its PED grip. We’re seeing a plurality of perfect games, significantly lower home run totals – Miguel Cabrera could win a triple crown with about 45 homers – and just better overall baseball. Lebron James aside, there aren’t too many physical freaks in the NBA who have you scrambling for your biology textbooks.

Of the three major team sports in America, only in the NFL are we seeing a haunting spike in size and skill, men who are way too big and strong to be so fast and nimble. Men built like Evander Holyfield are now running like Carl Lewis, and it’s troubling, dangerous, and deadly.

Frankly, I haven’t a clue why we, as fans, writers, broadcasters, and pundits don’t talk about human growth hormone. We are alarmingly apathetic while these beasts torpedo each other headfirst, putting exponentially more miles on stretchers and ambulances.

The NFL has skated on this issue because, well, they’re the NFL. Football is framed perfectly by television, is a cornucopia for gambling, fantasy leagues, and bromances across the globe. And it was way ahead of baseball in terms of testing for PEDs. The sport’s brilliant marketing and bold drug testing has cloaked this potentially fatal flaw.

Consider the records shattered recently. Out of nowhere, Dan Marino’s monolithic marks of 5,000 yards and 48 touchdowns were torched, not just by one quarterback, but a phalanx of signal-callers, from Brees to Brady to Stafford. Recent history has proved that shredded record books are synthetic record books, backed by shady chemistry.

This has been a brutal year for the NFL. Between the Saints “Pay for Pain” scandal, the disastrous decision to poach high schools and obscure colleges for referees, and the epic lawsuit filed by former players against the league, asserting that the employer never warned the employees about the hazards of head trauma, you could argue that the NFL hasn’t had a worse year since Pete Rozelle put the sport on America’s radar 50 years ago.

With the league and the players crying foul every few days, affronted for myriad, specious reasons, we now have dueling, duplicitous factions who point the finger at everyone but themselves.

The owners belch the bromides about being proactive to protect its product (the players) yet they’ve implored the players union to stretch the regular season to 18 games. They tried to convince you that the locked out officials were just greedy, lazy, overpaid bores who got fat on the NFL’s success and largesse. Then the substitute refs royally screwed up, literally costing the Packers – America’s signature franchise – a football game on national television, sending the owners and their puppet (Roger Goodell) back to the negotiating table, tail nestled neatly between their legs. A league that makes $10 billion per year was willing to risk player safety over $3.5 million in referee benefit packages. The league finally caved, and now it’s time to revisit the table for some HGH chatter.

You could not find a player who weighed 300lbs. in 1980. Now you’re too small to play on the line if you don’t weigh at least three bills. What changed? The average height of an NBA player has been about 6’8” for decades. Baseball players have now shrunk to believable bulk, and even the smaller ballparks and dilapidated pitching staffs aren’t enough to break Maris’s real record.

You get the occasional LeBron man-child, imbued with obscene size, strength, and sound barrier speed, drawn straight from a Stan Lee outline. But the average NBA player looks much like his father, sans the Daisy Duke shorts and headbands.

The NFL doesn’t give a damn about player safety, no matter their newfound mantras. We can go back to Butkus on that, when the Chicago Bears lied to him about his crumbling knees, shot him up with ungodly potions, while he played savagely with bone-on-bone joints. The two parties settled out of court, but for 40 years Butkus has been walking like Rip Torn after a night of tequila.

The use of HGH not only contradicts every vowel of their stated desire to rid the game of avoidable hazards, it also creates the very problem it supposedly wants to erase. The basic physics of football – obscenely large men crashing into each other at full speed – is the biggest problem. And if you make the men synthetically bigger, faster, stronger (to paraphrase Steve Austin) then it makes the game inherently more dangerous, if not deadly. So don’t gripe about elongated seasons and replacement refs if you wink and nod while the next locker is stocked with HGH.

The game, teflon at its base and its best, is alive, but not so well. But if you kill the head and the body will die, not matter how enhanced it is.

Feel free to email me: Keidel.Jason@gmail.com

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What percentage of NFL players do you think are using HGH and do you think the NFL will ever test for it? Let us know in the comment section below.