That Time the Cleveland Browns Marketing Department Wanted Employees to See How Fans Were Interacting With the Team on Social Media

ESPN’s Seth Wickersham has an excellent look at the inside workings of the worst team in football and, apparently, one of the most poorly run organizations in sports–the Cleveland Browns.

The version of the Browns that emerges from Wickersham’s profile is the mother of all train wrecks, and this is typical of the sort of “can’t quite get anything right” nature of the organization.

Marketing executives wanted employees to see how fans were engaging with the Browns on social media, so they projected the Browns feed onto a giant wall at the facility. It was like broadcasting talk radio over the entire building, and one day in particular, it was worse than that. One of the marketing staffers entered a search for #dp — for Dawg Pound. The problem was, that hashtag carried a few different meanings, one of which triggered an array of porn to be broadcast onto a wall for the entire office to see for more than 20 minutes, until a tech employee killed the feed.

Johnny Manziel and the Moral Turpitude of Sports Writers

Johnny Manziel, for those who don’t follow American sports teams, is a quarterback for the National Football League’s Cleveland Browns. Well, he is until March 2016 when the Browns will almost certainly cut him from the team.

Manziel achieved a great deal of fame in 2012 when, as a freshman, he broke a number of NCAA Division I football records. He played so well that year, that Manziel won the Heisman Trophy–college football’s most prestigious award and one that no freshman had ever won.

After playing two years of college football, he entered the NFL draft and was selected as the 22nd pick by the Cleveland Browns. That was a bit of a letdown for Manziel as he had been projected to go as high as a top-5 pick by NFL commentators. Numerous off-the-field incident–including apparent alcohol and anger management issues–made a lot of teams unwilling to take a chance on him.

So far, his NFL career has validated the concerns of those teams who passed on him. Manziel has been in one controversy after another. He appears to have a substance abuse problem, and has had several disturbing domestic violence-related run-ins with police. As Slate summarizes Manziel’s latest off-field incident,

NFL quarterback Johnny Manziel’s personal and professional problems took a turn for the (more) serious on Thursday with a Forth Worth police report alleging the Heisman winner assaulted and threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend over the weekend. Colleen Crowley, who dated the quarterback for two years before splitting in December, outlined to police an alleged assault that began after a dispute in a Dallas hotel room and ended at her Ft. Worth apartment. Crowley told police she feared for her life and that Manziel pulled her hair, hit her, and said he would kill them both.

This and similar incidents this year indicate Manziel is a danger to himself and others. And yet, there are craven sports writers such as Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel who put the blinders on and calculate the costs of Manziel’s ongoing breakdown solely in football terms. Wetzel describes Crowley telling police that Manziel threatened to kill himself and her and then writes (emphasis added),

Even if this latest incident didn’t happen, as Manziel contends, he’s almost assuredly not “stable,” “safe” or “secure.” Manziel, in desperate need of calm in his life, continues to find himself in the middle of drama, whether it’s pictures of him partying or despicable allegations showing up on police reports.

“I know I’ve been having fun,” he told TMZ, “but I just need to get my body right. I’m 100 percent committed to playing football.”

Manziel can only hope there is still an NFL team out there that sees enough in him that they are willing to spend time, money and resources to chase the witnesses and video footage, and sign a guy to a camp contract while covering their eyes and hoping next week doesn’t bring another incident.

Wow. Are you kidding, Dan? What Manziel should hope for is that he can find another NFL team to overlook his off-field unraveling so he can keep playing football? Does Manziel have to actually follow through on his threat to kill Crowley before it might occur to Wetzel that NFL should back away from Manziel entirely and stop enabling his behavior?

Here, lets rewrite Wetzel’s last paragraph as if a human being had written it,

Manziel can only hope there are no NFL teams willing to continue spending time, money and resources to enable his self-destructive behavior. Instead of covering their eyes and hoping Manziel’s problems just go away, the NFL should make it clear that if he ever intends on playing professional football again, he needs to make dealing with his personal problems his only priority.

NFL Doctors Stayed In A Holiday Inn Last Night

Back in March the Washington Post published an in-depth look of “medicine” as practiced by NFL doctors. As the article title aptly summed it up, NFL medical standards, practices are different than almost anywhere else. Despite the nonsense spewed by NFL apparatchiks about how player safety always comes first, there is little resemblance between NFL medicine and the way real doctor’s actually perform their duties.

For example (emphasis added),

. . . an ordinary citizen would receive a shot of the powerful painkiller Toradol for acute pain only after undergoing surgery, and typically for no more than five days. But in the NFL, doctors administer it weekly despite dangerous side effects that include renal failure, and its ability to mask pain to such a degree that a player injured during a game may not even be aware of the extent of his injury.

In a 2002 academic paper, 28 NFL physicians reported administering Toradol every game day, injecting up to 35 players per club. Though NFL doctors say use has declined in recent years, several current and recently retired players said the drug continues to be administered freely — and the NFL Physicians Society felt compelled to issue guidelines on its usage last season. “It is not a legitimate thing to offer a player on a weekly basis without a proper indication,” said Andrew Bishop, an orthopedist who for 11 years was the Atlanta Falcons’ team physician.

I suspect in the long-term these medical problems and potential liability they create will drive the NFL out of business.

Dave Pear on the NFL’s Indifference to Former Players

Awhile ago I mentioned I had stopped watching the NFL because of the league’s indifference and denial of the very real neurological and other problems caused by participating in professional football. Sports Illustrated’s Jeff Perlman ran a profile of former NFL defensive lineman Dave Pear who is quite blunt about how he views his playing experience now,

I wish I never played football. I wish that more than anything. Every single day, I want to take back those years of my life . . .

Pear was a Pro Bowl defensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then won a Super Bowl with the Oakland Raiders in 1981. After 5 years of playing, however, he was out of the league and starting on a lifetime of surgeries and pain. He tells Pearlman he spent his final two seasons at Oakland in constant pain which the team encouraged him to simply play through,

Those last two years in Oakland were very, very difficult times. I was in pain 24 hours per day, and my employers failed to acknowledge my injury. Sure, I won a Super Bowl ring. But was it worth giving up my health for a piece of jewelry? No way. Those diamonds have lost their luster.

Pear has a fascinating blog where he discusses the league’s idiocy and various attempts by retired players to try to get the NFL to own up to its responsibilities.

Why I Stopped Watching the NFL

After reading this New York Times story, I stopped watching National Football League games.

The gist of the story is that for years the National Football League has ridiculed studies done by outside researchers trying to determine what, if any, affect playing in the NFL has on cognitive behavior. Do all those hits and concussions lead to Alzheimer’s-like diseases and other mental problems for players?

At least one survey of retired NFL players conducted by the University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of Retired Athletes found a correlation between playing in the NFL and a number of cognitive impairments. Not to worry, though, as an NFL official helpfully dismissed the study as “virtually worthless.”

So the NFL commissioned its own studies, including a recently completed survey of retired NFL Players. That study found NFL players were much more likely than men who didn’t play in the NFL to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or similar problems.

The NFL’s response? Mostly to highlight the shortcomings of the study. And make no mistake, this survey is not perfect. For example, the survey asked players whether or not they had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a similar memory problem, but it didn’t directly diagnose them — some of the players could be mistaken. Of course NFL players were asked the same questions that the National Health Interview Survey asks of the general public which was used as the baseline rate of incidence to compare the NFL rate to.

Similarly, it could be that the correlation is not due to dangers on the field, but rather the access that elite athletes have to health care off the field: former NFL athletes might be diagnosed with dementia at a higher rate because they have access to better medical care and their physicians are more likely to look for dementia given the violent nature of the sport.

Certainly this study calls for more rigorous follow-ups. But in general the comments of the NFL spokesmen and their hired guns make it clear that the NFL doesn’t really want to know whether or not playing football causes cognitive problems unless the answer is “no.” The fact that the NFL has only begun looking at the problem in the last few years and then resorted to trashing one of the few completed studies it actually bothered to fund, suggests a business that genuinely sees its employees as disposable cogs.

I’m not saying you should stop watching the NFL, just that I can’t stomach the spectacle anymore given the league’s obvious indifference to the legitimate health concerns of its players. That’s far more offensive television than Janet Jackson’s exposed nipple.