I went through my meager collection of football cards the other day to see if I had any cards of Ray Rice or Adrian Peterson so I could rip them up.
It turns out I didn't.
But I do have plenty of other law-breakers (or people who were charged but not necessarily convicted, we do still have a justice system that's called innocent until proven guilty, correct?) in the less than 200 football cards that I own.
The one thing that has bothered me regarding the criticism of the NFL regarding these recent cases, is that people are behaving like this is something new, like the NFL suddenly just allowed a couple of ne'er-do-wells to slip into the league and SHAME ON THEM for being so careless and callous.
Well, people who just happened to stumble into the ways of the NFL last week, this is well-trampled ground. With the exception of a beating being filmed for all to see, none of this -- absolutely none -- is new. The NFL has been a sanctuary for lawless behavior for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it wasn't that way when I was a kid, but definitely through the '80s and '90s and 2000s, the NFL has glorified violence and attracted those who enjoy violence.
I don't know how you separate that. It's a violent sport. It will always appeal to a certain kind of player. Not that all NFL players are violent lawbreakers, but I don't know how you wipe clean that segment of society from your league given what you market. I think it will always be there.
So, even though I couldn't find a Ray Rice card, I went through about half of the NFL cards that I do have -- most of them Bills -- and this is what I found:
I had to stop before I got through the whole stack of 170-something cards. That was the result after maybe two-thirds of the pile.
You can argue that some of those incidents are worse than others, that some maybe resulted in nothing more than costing a few bucks or didn't result in a conviction, that some happened when the player was young and didn't know any better. But it still remains that it is incredibly easy to find an NFL player with a criminal record.
Sure, the news of the last couple of weeks has been terrible and maybe the outcry will finally help improve things somewhat in the NFL.
But Ray Rice isn't new. Neither is Adrian Peterson. The NFL isn't any more evil than it's ever been.
My viewing of NFL games began to diminish in the '90s because of this very topic -- criminals running rampant through the league. As the cases piled up, I watched the league less and less (I was once a big NFL follower in the late 1980s). I just couldn't take all of the bad behavior. This is a league with O.J. Simpson and Ray Lewis as alumni. Lawrence Taylor, Michael Irvin, Mark Chmura, Ryan Leaf.
So if you're just getting outraged now?
Either you just discovered pro football about a month ago ... or you've had your head in the sand for, oh, about two decades.