Collier: Can things in the NFL get any worse?

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This was what I was writing while Adrian Peterson's 2-year-old son was dying.

Something like this:

With Pittsburgh's miraculous baseball season now dutifully framed and mounted, an obvious question leaps to the vacated confetti-splattered stage of our sports consciousness.

Or something.

Ladies and gentlemen, "Are you ready for some football?"

Uh-huh.

Do you think we'll get any?

Yuk-yuk, ok?

And then the Sunday column went on to lampoon the Steelers, even while pretending to cast their familiar difficulties as really quite benign when compared to the sordid story lines echoing around the NFL.

Mike Tomlin's winless wonders, it said, are practically the NFL's version of Good News Central, which is where I pointed out that at least with the Steelers, it has been more than four months since anyone has been stabbed.

It had already been a terrible week in pro football.

Three Tampa Bay Buccaneers had been diagnosed with MRSA, the center for the Detroit Lions had slurred members of the University of Wisconsin band, a linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers was slapped with two felony counts related to assault weapons.

That's an abridged list.

If ever a league needed Peyton Manning to throw for 10 touchdowns and then catch a little girl falling from the upper deck as he jogged off the field, this was the league and this was the week.

Instead, the toddler son of one of the game's biggest stars passed away in a South Dakota hospital Friday, the victim of sickening head injuries allegedly inflicted by a man said to be his mother's boyfriend, a man now in custody on appropriate charges.

Before the child's name was even released, football websites almost frantically tried to discern whether Peterson would play today against Carolina. He said that he would on Friday before learning of his son's death, but the need for definitive confirmation was urgent.

Not to mention grotesque.

Life and death is one thing, but fantasy football is apparently quite another.

On some of the same sites' message boards and comment sections, there was no shortage of fans hoping Peterson would somehow transfer the pain of the moment onto the sorry heads of the Panthers.

Honest to God.

"I would not want to be the Panthers right now," said one imbecile.

"Oh god right now I'd hate to be the Panthers. Crown of helmet rule (stupid rule anyways) is pretty much obsolete," brayed another.

Is everything that happens within the ever-expanding purview of the NFL's Bad News Bureau -- all the way up to and including the beating death of a 2-year-old -- relevant only in respect to how it might affect any given Sunday in this culture?

If that is so -- and frankly, it's less and less debatable -- then maybe that's where an oversized segment of footballers at every level get the idea that they can do and say just about anything to just about anybody so long as they deliver the wins (and the stats!) in the three hours of the week that feel like the only hours that matter.

Maybe that's why Detroit's Dominic Raiola believes that he, in his football uniform on the sideline before the game, need not treat anyone in a band uniform with basic human decency, much less refrain from barking about their sisters, their mothers and their sexuality.

It was only after a teammate, overhearing this spew, apologized for him, and only after the Lions president apologized for him, that Raiola apologized in a written statement, no doubt forced, that included this gem:

"I understand the standards to which we should conduct ourselves."

Uh, no, ya don't.

And neither do the 49ers' Aldon Smith nor the Tennessee Titans' Delanie Walker, both now charged with drunkenly firing hand guns at a 2012 party, the fallout of which is still being sorted. Some guests were shot. Smith was stabbed.

This week, Smith was charged with the unlawful possession of three assault weapons, so it was fortunate, in some sick way, that it was only the handguns Smith and Walker allegedly fired to signify that the party was over.

Isn't that the way you do it?

The district attorney in the case, one Jeff Rosen, explained why Smith, after his detox and subsequent NFL suspension for repeated DUI citations, could face more than four years in prison, eventually.

"The preamble to the [California] assault weapons law states that each assault weapon 'has such a high rate of fire and capacity for firepower that its function as a legitimate sports or recreational firearm is substantially outweighed by the danger that it can be used to kill and injure human beings,' " Rosen said. "California's prohibition of these powerful weapons is not about hunting or target practice. It is about interrupting the long history of death, carnage and grief assault weapons have inflicted on California communities."

Death, carnage and grief, huh?

Well thanks for that.

But I was just trying to write a football column.

Steelers - genecollier

Gene Collier: gcollier@post-gazette.com. First Published October 12, 2013 8:00 PM


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