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Clinton Portis interview at Extreme Skins

Ginormous Clinton Portis interview available here at Extreme Skins and my hat is truly off to SkinsCast's Murph, who conducted it. Outstanding job.

Some of the answers Clinton provides I would criticize, but for the most part it is a positive interview. There's an enormous amount of wordage as it is an exhaustive interview, so I'm going to comment on just one of his answers which I felt was especially profound:

Last year you were injured while making a tackle during a meaningless preseason game. If you were commissioner for the day, how would you fix the current system? Would you shorten the preseason? Eliminate it completely?

Man, you know, if I was the commissioner I'd do a lot different. Like the individuality of the game - you want to sell that to the fans, but you're really not letting the players be individuals. I would change that first and let players go out and have fun. A lot of the things that separate players and show the individuality of players is taken away - like celebrations or the dress code. I understand you want to make everyone look the same, but everybody is not the same. The way they market the NFL they're making major money and that's what it all boils down to, making money. They gotta get their money, but how much money can you make?

I say let the people go out and have fun. And I think the preseason should be about letting the people who are coming in, looking for a shot, have that opportunity. A lot of teams don't do that. You don't get the opportunity to go out and showcase your talent. You might get to play in one game or you might not. If you don't even get into your first game then no one will ever know if you can play.

The brilliant thing here is that Murph asks CP a question about the preseason, specifically about a horrible injury that Portis suffered in a context we know he finds contentious, yet he avoids that completely. He takes no time to dwell on "meaningless preseason game"s and rather dives right into a subject I happen to kind-of-sort-of agree with him on.

The league does go towards enormous lengths to market individuals that it thinks will increase the market share of the league, and it has been compensated financially for that. Yet while it is encouraging players to act crazy and unique and drive those jersey sales, it simultaneously goes out of its way to punish precisely the kind of behavior which probably drives revenue, or at least drives discussion about the league/players, which fills air time on NFL Live or whatever show the league owns.

This might be revisionist history on my part, but I recall a short period not too many years ago when the big damage to the league's public perception was done by Terrell Owens on a star or Joe Horn on a cell phone or Chad Johnson on whatever. The watercooler discussion centered around on-field behavior and how that was hurting the league. Even then, even as I sometimes vindicated those positions by agreeing or conceding that pulling a cell phone out of the field goal padding was unnecessary to the game, I couldn't help but feel that the entire thing was a bit over-the-top. At the end of the day we're talking about players acting passionately about a game they love and harming no one in the process.

Fast forward a few years later and I'm sure the league wishes that the worst thing the players were doing was celebrating touchdowns and first downs (both conducive towards winning). Instead, the league has to explain why it isn't represented by Pacman Jones and Mike Vick. Circumstance tells us that you have bigger fish to fry now, but I suspect that was the case yesteryear as well.

We're mired in generalities so let's get specific. Recently the NFL outlawed spiking footballs after successful plays -- for instance a catch for a first down. The auspices of this rule were that it delayed the game, a laughable contention given the amount of footballs on the sideline. If the league feels that spiked footballs are killing the game that's their prerogative. At least be honest to the fans about it though and say, straight up, that you think spiked footballs are a sportsmanship issue.

I don't personally feel it is a sportsmanship issue. I only hate excessive celebration when performed by my opponents after they successfully move chains or score points against my beloved Redskins. But when Santana Moss bangs his chest and throws a first down arm forward, I'm leaping out of my chair shouting in his support. That's what makes him such a special player to me, that he expresses such a love for the game and on-field progress. There are such things as excessive celebrations, but let's make sure the rules target only the most ludicrous and unnecessary of gestures. Say, for instance, that props aren't allowed and be done with it.

Below is the intro to the movie Baseketball, where the writers brilliantly bemoan the decline of professional sports. Many of their criticisms are right on.

A "pure" time of sports (which later is shown not to be all that pure) is contrasted strongly against the modern day, represented first by an unsurprisingly Cowboys looking football team celebrating ridiculously: it starts with a high step before even scoring, then a jumping high five with two teammates (after a spiked football of course), then a coreographed dance by the three jumping high-fivers, and culminating with the entire team joining arms for a straight up Lord of the Dance remake. And here I am thinking the entire time simultaneously that it is totally over the top, but also that it is like the most awesome thing I've ever seen and were I cheering for the team that scored I would be dying with laughter while shouting support for the good guys -- and from a partisan perspective the good guys are only the ones I root for.

Of course, they do this celebration as one of the opposing players is carted off the field with what appears to be a neck injury. This is unsportsmanlike. It's also unsportsmanlike to do that when you are up by huge margins. And perhaps I'm willing to acknowledge that Lord of the Dance, no matter how awesome it would look, is a bit over the top, even for yours truly. But is it the death of football? Will the league's public relations be brought to its knees by spiked footballs or electrocuted dogs? Strippers with black eyes or a guy throwing the football forward in celebration of gasp accomplishing something of worth on the field?

I have enormous respect for a Barry Sanders who handed the ball to the ref knowing full well that his play on the field did all the talking. But that doesn't mean I have to ignore the flamboyant behavior of some other players who may be near and dear to my heart for precisely that flamboyancy. Yea, I really enjoyed Clinton's characters. I laugh at the entire Antwaan Randle-El vs. Jason Campbell diction battle. I'm entertained by the fact that Jon Jansen has an RV where secret ball-showings may or may not happen. Are any of these things more or less ridiculous than a grown man spiking a football in celebration of a game they love?

I anticipate taking a beating for this, as I think I'm relatively alone in support of ridiculous celebrations. But I honestly ask whether you would cheer any less if Santana Moss and Clinton Portis and Jason Campbell performed a choreographed dance in the endzone in the absence of a penalty? I've reached the point where my threshhold of appropriate behavior is whatever doesn't get us penalized, but if that's the case then we're just following the rules for the rules' sake. They exist to prevent deplorable behavior, not to create it. And spinning a football never killed anyone sport.