By TYLER DASWICK
College Contributor Network
As the 2014 NFL season kicks off, the Land of Pigskin is full of hope and optimism. Fireworks explode in the evening sky, commentators warm up their broadcast voices and quiet murmurs of championship expectations and rising stars drift into the air. It is a beautiful time in the realm, and yet, off beyond the horizon, a dark shadow looms.
The official council has tried repeatedly to stave off the growing evil, with Commissioner Roger Goodell applying numerous penalties and punishments to wrongdoers. Yet, despite the demands of the one they call the Most Powerful Man in Sports, rumors continue to spread of seedy performance-enhancing drug-trades, violent on-field displays of unspeakable brutality, and disgusting acts of goalpost-dunking, throat-clasping, and bird-flipping blasphemy. As the rest of the football universe becomes bloated with fanfare and celebration, the blackness swells in kind, and at its current epidemic rate, it threatens to infect the rest of the joyous continent.
The latest antics of the National Football League have seemingly reached greater extremes than ever before. The league plays dirtier, parties harder, and is the subject of more what-the-hell headlines than anything else in the world of sports, and the margin appears to grow wider every year.
Consider this: during the 2013 season (from the beginning of the offseason to the end of Super Bowl 48), the NFL issued a grand total of $10,619,855 in fines, according to spotrac.com. That counts everything from personal fouls, to taunting, to substance abuse, to PED penalties. It also includes withheld salaries from suspensions and the like.
Now, take that number, a little over $10 million, and consider this: for the current 2014 season (again, from the beginning of the offseason to the time of this writing on September 2), the league has already issued $15,123,030 in fines. Already a whopping 42-percent increase over last year. In games suspended, there were 167 total games missed in 2013, and there will already be at least 151 in 2014.
Now, the obvious question: what the hell happened?
If we look at the headlines, we might be inclined to say that this is a matter of a few problem kids ruining it for the whole class and inflating the numbers, and if we look back, we see that this is only half-true. By this point in 2013 (that is, before Week 1), there were 45 unique incidents of fines and penalties in the NFL, and this year, that number is about the same, with 43 incidents so far. So there is a definite case of more money-per-player in 2014, but the total is not as concentrated as you might think.
A lot of people want to point toward the Daryl Washingtons, Josh Gordons and Aldon Smiths as scapegoats for this season's crowd of rule-breakers, and yes, while the Big Three have amassed a whopping $6,812,691 in fines between them (which would make up a ridiculous 64-percent of the 2013 total all by itself), there is still over $8 million to be accounted for. The rest of the evildoers have not exactly been angels by comparison.
So far in 2014, there have been 24 different players landed with fines greater than $100,000. In 2013, there were 27 players total who exceeded that amount, and no one broke the million-dollar mark (closest was Von Miller at $806,161). So the coin falls both ways. There have certainly been some problem-kids, but by and large we are looking at some league-wide behavior issues.
The next obvious question is: what can we do about it? Fortunately (or unfortunately), that is up to Goodell. The current system clearly has some holes. There is no consistency -- he only worked out a domestic violence policy this past offseason -- and the policies already in place are full of sneaky language. The fines that are levied often carry controversy, and the NFL has only vaguely described where the money from these fines go (the consensus is charity, presumably for the care of retired NFL players). With the NFL behaving the way it is this year, it might be time for the Ruler of the Land of Pigskin to be a little more transparent about this because, if the preseason was any indication, we are going to be hearing a lot about this over the next four months.
It is another season in the National Football League, and though it looks to be our darkest yet, it certainly doesn't mean it won't be fun. Let the battles begin.
Tyler Daswick is a junior at Northwestern University. He is a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers, Indiana Jones, and writing stories about cowboys and banditos. Follow him on Twitter: @AccordingtoDazz