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Commentary: NFL shooting self in foot

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By Mike Forster

Meet the new NFL. It is the old NBA.

The National Football League seems destined to wind up as the NBA did a decade ago: unloved because of coddled bad characters. Let’s take a little peek at history. The NBA thrived during the Magic-Larry-Michael years. It had rich, national television contracts with the likes of NBC.

Then, with the arrival and antics of players like Allen Iverson, the league started to lose its popularity. Fights and guns and bling and trash caused America to collectively turn away from the show. Soon the league found itself holding a television contract with TNT (otherwise known as the “We know drama” station).

People refused to tune into the NBA, because its players were turning them off.

The NFL seems to be heading down the same path, and it is a bad one. And that’s bad with a “B” and that rhymes with “C” and that stands for “Crime.”

Here’s a sampler of some of the shenanigans that went on in the month of July.

—Jacksonville Jaguar Matt Jones was arrested for alleged possession of cocaine and marijuana. He faces a felony and hard time.

—New England Patriot defensive back Willie Andrews was arrested for allegedly pointing a gun at his girlfriend’s head. That should get him a stint breaking big rocks into little ones.

—New York Giant running back Ahmad Bradshaw was sentenced to another 30-day sentence for violating probation terms.

—Seattle Seahawk linebacker Lofa Tatupu pleaded guilty to a DUI charge.

The above examples are just a few from the blotter report. Print space precludes me from detailing the full list. During the same period, to the best of my knowledge, there have been no criminal incidents involving NBA players.

Now, one month is not a significant measure of time to call today’s NBA players a bunch of saints. And, true, hoopster Paul Pierce ran into a bit o’ trouble this week. Nevertheless, NBA Commissioner David Stern has worked mightily to bring the league back from the dead. He has cracked down hard on the smallest infraction, both on and off the court of play.

In the meantime, football’s Dallas Cowboys have signed not one, but two of the biggest black eyes in all of sports. America’s team followed up its acquisition of Tank Johnson by trading for the rights to Adam “Pacman” Jones.

Tank could be a poster child for the anti-gun movement. Pacman could be a poster child for the anti-strip club movement.

I guess the Cowboys wanted to deflect some of the attention away from Terrell Owens who, given his newest teammates, seems like Donny Osmond by comparison. By the way, Owens has always been a showboat, but his antics have always been legal.

Mark my words, fans are not going to stand by as the NFL swirls around the drain, its players appearing in police lineups on a daily basis. They are just as apt to turn their backs on the league as the basketball fans did in the 1990s.

It’s axiomatic in business that it costs 10 times as much to create a new customer as it does to keep one.

The powers of the NFL, led by commissioner Roger Goodell, had best start spending a bit of their capital on cleaning up the mess in the league. Otherwise, they’ll have to spend a whole lot of it to try and win back lost fans.

Goodell should check with Stern about what that’s like.