Stay Away Marshawn, Stay Away. Please.

By Will Stevenson

*Stay away Marshawn. They don’t love you like you think. As soon as your yards per carry is 2.5, and you haven’t broken 70 yards in a game and your hamstring just won’t act right, they’ll boo you. I saw the ovation Lance Stephenson received when he returned to Indiana. Maybe that’s the allure?*

What names do you think of when you hear, “Famous NFL Athlete”? If we are going old-school, we can rattle off plenty of names, positions, and moments that would constitute a famous athlete. Unlike the NBA, the NFL has no problem marketing their franchises over the individual player. The NBA has a few teams that survive off name alone, but most NBA fans are paying ticket prices and watching for a specific player, regardless if the team is home or away. Helmets and a 53-man roster keep most athletes faceless to the public, even with the bursting of the social media age and interviews during the week, and after the game.

Over the past few seasons, we’ve seen prominent player leave the game due to injury, avoiding more injury, or fear of concussions. When Patrick Willis left the 49ers, would you have been able to pick him out in a portrait? Jordan Cameron? NFL players come and go by the hundreds, and we as fans know some of them. If we play fantasy, Madden, or if we work for a team, then we would know who these players are, and what they actually look like. With the ever-changing roster, I get lost in shuffle of who’s starting, who’s better, who’s injured, who retired, who switched teams and so on. We’ve also been able to watch certain positions be devalued by the new NFL and it’s emphasis on passing, offense, and “safety”. Linebackers have been phased down with 4 and 5 wide receiver sets on offense. Shutdown corners have be phased down as the contact penalties get stricter every year. Special Teams players are almost extinct when it involves the punt and kick return team, with the advancement of the touchback and emphasis on field position with punts. As the passing game has risen, only with completions, the receiver has been devalued. No longer will teams go after the top receiver in free agency, they’ll just wait for the draft, or sign a #3 guy instead of a #2.

And then we have the running back. I miss the running back, but not as much as I thought. I miss the 300/350 carries and 1800 yard seasons. I missed it up until I watched former NFL players limp around the office, join the concussion suit, and give personal stories on their injury struggles after football. So when I see a running back retire at 27 years old, I don’t think twice about it. I don’t get outraged and say he’s a quitter or devalue his character. I now empathize with these individuals. The running back has been spread thin, as teams live by the “running back by committee”, which was once on the banned list of NFL jargon. When I see a running back retire, or any other player, I do not want them to return, because I fear they will not return healthy, leave healthy, have a productive season, and then have the fans turn on them.

This is why I don’t want to see Marshawn Lynch return to the NFL. Selfishly, I want him to stay retired. From an outside-objective point of view, it seems as if Lynch has won after football. We literally saw him decline due to age and injury, have his job taken by a rookie, and that’s a year after watching him watch the Seahawks throw the Super Bowl away. He’s a Cal legend, a Seattle legend, an internet legend, a running back legend, an interview legend, a skittles legend, and he’ll probably never touch the hall of fame: And the HOF wouldn’t even matter. To me, Lynch has been even more popular off the field as his marketing and philanthropy  have soared after his absence from the NFL. What more could a guy want? More, obviously.

The Raiders need somebody to run the ball, and they don’t want to pay Lynch, just as the didn’t want to pay Murray. They want the Seahawks to cut him so they can sign him to a lower salary. I hope Lynch doesn’t come back at all, but if he does, I hope it’s not for pennies. There aren’t many famous NFL players that flourish after they are done playing outside of commentary, or working with ESPN, NFL Network or a pre-game show. some players leave the game and are never heard from again, but not Lynch. Lynch has the clout that most players dream of after they stop playing. Most need Espn and other industries to keep them relevant, or they need to do a little dance with a facemask filled with chicken: To each his own.

I wish you nothing but the best Beast Mode.

Fear And Loathing To Las Vegas: 31-1, the Raiders are leaving Oakland

By Will Stevenson

Welcome to the NFL where business is booming. As a North Carolinian, I have watched professional teams come and go, and I’ve often wondered why this state hasn’t been a part of the events that go on in our professional leagues. We haven’t had a baseball team, so watching the Braves on TBS or the White Sox and Cubs on WGN were the regional options.  Our basketball team was here, then went to New Orleans with our good players and ultimately drafting Chris Paul, then leaving us with an expansion team called the Bobcats. Oddly enough the HB-2 sent the 2017 NBA All-Star Game to New Orleans, so yet again New Orleans was there to take our karma (Somehow I feel David Stern is behind this, but I digress). Our football team came in 1996, I was there when they played their home games at Clemson Stadium. The Carolina Hurricanes are our hockey, which they were relocated from Hartford.

With North Carolina being more famous for their collegiate sports, our history as a professional sports state pails in comparison to places such as Cleveland, Green Bay, New York, Los Angeles, and St. Louis. Although I don’t have a long-standing connection with the Carolina Panthers or the newest version of the Charlotte Hornets, I still have an understanding of how it feels to know the team you invest your time and money into is leaving to another city. With today’s 31-1 vote to move the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas, those feelings of betrayal and emptiness were connected once again. We’ve all seen this coming for the past couple years and we should have know it was going to happen when the Rams moved to LA, and then subsequently the Chargers. The Raiders stayed in Oakland, but most knew it wouldn’t be for long, as Las Vegas was ramping up their proposal. With that 31-1 vote, Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins voiced his concern with the Palm Beach Post, “My position today was that we as owners and as a League owe it to the fans to do everything we can to stay in the communities that have supported us.” Is that a general concern of the fans, or is Stephen Ross looking at his mid-dumpster fire of a money-making franchise and seeing what is to come on the horizon?

All Las Vegas needed was a team, any professional team to get the NFL on board. Baseball wasn’t budging, the MLS isn’t in the Big Four as far as major sports are concerned here in the states, and the NBA wasn’t ready to test those waters after the debacle of a weekend with their All-Star game (Shoutout PacMan Jones). That leaves one left: Hockey. That’s right, the NHL, a league that has undergone major construction with their relocation over the years through their rebranding after work stoppages and the loss of network sponsorships, has paved the way for professional sports in Las Vegas.

The NFL has continuously noted the conflicting interest of gambling and a possible move to Las Vegas, but it’s 2017, and with the world being so technologically advanced, there’s no need to refuse uncharted territory that can be seen as financial gain. A fan base is key to the business of relocation, but the Raiders won’t see Las Vegas for another 2-3 years with the opening marked for 2020. For the NFL, that’s plenty of time to decide on PSLs (Personal Seat Licenses), sponsorships, parking, traffic, and promotional tactics: And Hotels. Let us not forget this is a business, and when a new sports franchise is coming to town, there are business partnerships that must be forged: Restaurants, Hotel Chains, Flights, Ticket Packages, “Ambassadors”, Spokesmen, Commercials, etc.

Enough of the business aspect, let’s get back to the fans in Oakland. The Oakland fan base has once again suffered. Their team is leaving, and their team is actually good with a promising offense running the show. You know what that means: The Raiders have two years to go for it all. I know stacking rosters to win isn’t the most efficient way of building a championship contender, but the Raiders have only one chance to do it. With the Patriots maybe-slowing-down but not probably, the Raiders need to win the Superbowl with the team they currently have. They need to win before the fans have to choose between going to Las Vegas or possibly rooting for either of the teams in LA. Help us all if any Raider fans have to cheer for the Rams.

This is a day when all Raider Nation collectively post on social media to grieve. Every meme, picture, comment section, Twitter think-piece and Facebook Group is already feasting at the Vegas trough. Just as Kendrick Lamar said to rappers about his upcoming album, Oakland has two years to get their sh*t together. In two years you will only have the Warriors to cheer for, and I’m sure that traveling package for Las Vegas won’t be cheap. Your significant other will only allow so many “football trips” to see the Raiders play in Vegas, and I’m sure some of you are already planning to fail two years in advance.

Happy Monday Oakland, Happy Monday.

PS: Who will be the next “Purple” in Las Vegas? Ask for a friend.