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NFL blitz has some ugly twists

Stay tuned for the next episode of NFL Gone Wild.

It soon will appear in cities and establishments near you, and you don't have a choice. You're wedded to the NFL though more than a week has passed since the Super Bowl.

See, the NFL never stops. It's 24-7 from the NFL Network to the sports pages, from the NFL Combine to the NFL Draft to the mini-camps to — here we go again — preseason camp in July.

But there's a seedy side to all this attention. The games may end for a few months, but the NFL organizations and their players continue to conduct business.

And much of it is bad business but, as we've noticed, not bad at all for business.

We refer to at least 35 NFL players who were arrested during the past year. They've been booked for battery, aggravated assault, vandalism, burglary and other nasty offenses. Nine members of the Cincinnati Bengals alone have been entered onto police blotters. The authorities may have to build a new jail, a separate Bengals wing.

The so-called off-season has been filled with various ugliness. Ex-New England Patriot Teddy Johnson said he suffered close to 30 concussions during his career and alleges his coach Bill Belichick forced him to play through the injuries. New NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wouldn't go so far — no surprise there — but affirmed there are growing problems with concussions.

Goodell talks a good game. Steroids are a no-no, he insists, but then he launches into a series of muddled thoughts about human growth hormone, which is the big elephant in the NFL room. Until the league and its players association addresses HGH, they're wearing blinders so big they would dwarf 49ers lineman Larry Allen.

But guess what: You, the fan, do not care about performance-enhancing drugs, players behind bars and ex-players who can barely walk. You only live for those 17 golden weeks during the fall and early winter. Give us the season, the playoffs and the Roman Numeral Game, you demand, and you'll accept the unsavory aftertaste that comes with it.

The evidence suggests nothing else.

The average NFL game attendance more than 67,000. Many teams can't print enough tickets. About 93 million around the world watched the Bears and Colts in the Super Bowl. People who didn't know Peyton Manning from Tony Soprano told their friends Rex Grossman was the worst quarterback they ever saw.

Never mind that they may have been right. Fact is, the NFL is teflon-coated. Embarrassments slide off its king-sized surface and vaporize into the clouds. The league can do no wrong. The fan base is addicted to the legalized violence on Sundays. It needs the fix and so what if the needle has been used.

Worse, the addiction has spread to the collegiate game. Rational thought has been replaced by greed and, well, more greed.

Alabama, a program saddled with NCAA penalties and a program in turmoil, hired ex-Crimson Tide quarterback Mike Shula in 2003. Two years later, Shula's Tide went 10-2 and the coach was rewarded with a lucrative new contract. One 6-6 season later, Shula was fired. Alabama, which hasn't won a national championship in more than two decades, apparently believes it's illegal for the Crimson Tide to lose.

Wonder where it got that idea.

This week, we witnessed a variation on the same theme when Marty Schottenheimer was fired as coach of the San Diego Chargers. His biggest crime was going 14-2 and losing a winnable game in the playoffs, as though he was the first coach of a good team to flop in the postseason.

Let's pause and make sure we've received the correct message from San Diego. In the eyes of the Chargers, winning 14 of 16 games means you have zero margin for error. It's the height of silliness. If you stretch such an idea to its logical extension, 31 of 32 NFL coaches will be fired after each season. Why? Because they didn't win the Super Bowl.

Granted, there were other circumstances that figured into the Chargers' decision. Schottenheimer and general manager A.J. Smith disliked each other and hadn't spoken in months. Fine, but their feud apparently didn't bother their most important commodity — the team on the field.

The Chargers argued that the loss of the offensive and defensive coordinators, along with other coaches, eventually forced their hand regarding Schottenheimer. That's rubbish. Successful teams always are raided for their coaches. The Chargers botched this one from start to finish.

"In the plainest possible language," summarized Chargers owner Dean Spanos, "we have a dysfunctional situation here."

That also can be said for an entire league and, sadly, an entire culture.

To comment, click on the link with this story at modbee.com. Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at 578-2302 or ragostini@modbee.com.

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