Is it just me, or is there a serious double-standard in the way the public perceives the NFL versus the public perception of other professional sports? Maybe I'm imagining things, but I still feel as if the NBA is the league with the most perceived problems -- despite the undeniable fact that NFL players are making the most headlines for the wrong reasons. The NBA has been widely acclaimed the "thug" league ever since the brawl at the Palace, despite Stern's tireless efforts to clean out the cobwebs. Meanwhile, NFL players are filling court rooms and prison cells year-in and year-out and we barely bat an eye. In 2006 alone, at least 35 NFL players were arrested on various charges.
Shawn Merriman gets busted for roids, and we have already forgiven and forgotten. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are accused of taking roids (and rightfully so), and their careers will forever be tainted in the public eye. Ron Artest has been arrested, what, once? That's four times less than Chris Henry or Adam "Don't Call me PacMan" Jones, yet he is portrayed as just as big of a villain in most sports circles. NFL guys like Jones and Henry are getting second, third, fourth, even fifth chances to "change," and (many of us) are okay with it. Don't get me wrong -- it's us fans (myself included) who are waiting with open arms when these prodigal children come home. We're the ones who excuse the behavior and fill the stands chanting their names their first game back from suspension.
So why do we examine this league and its players under a different light than other sports? Is it because football is a violent sport, and we assume violence off the field is an inevitable by-product of productivity on it? Is it because we truly love the game of football more than any other sport and we're willing to turn a blind eye on its imperfections? Maybe it's a combination of both.
I know that I, for one, will be watching Week 1 intently and won't be dwelling on any of the questionable behavior we've become so accustomed to. I'll probably forget about PacMan's five arrests if he takes a punt to the house. Does this mean I don't care? Should I care?