James Brown for NFL commissioner. Anyone got a problem with this?
Sure, maybe it’s too much to expect a broadcaster, in this case the host of CBS’s NFL studio programming, to immediately ascend to arguably the most prominent executive role in professional sports.
Maybe such a suggestion falls somewhere between hyperbole and reverie. But this much is the indisputable truth:
During CBS’s inaugural “Thursday Night Football” broadcast, Brown did what embattled commissioner Roger Goodell still has not in the aftermath of the Ray Rice mess. He rose to the occasion.
With a brief, powerful essay in the first 30 minutes of the 55-minute pregame show, Brown addressed the Rice situation — the now ex-Ravens running back was caught on camera punching out his then-fiancée on an elevator in February — with sympathy, intelligence, grace, and well-placed outrage.
“Now let’s be clear: this problem is bigger than football,’’ said Brown, who was joined at the desk by Bill Cowher and Deion Sanders. “There has been, appropriately so, intense and wide-spread outrage following this video showing what happened in the elevator at the casino. Now wouldn’t it be productive if this collective outrage could be channeled to truly hear and address the long-suffering cries for help from so many women, and do something about it?”
Brown, who made a similar plea after Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend in a murder-suicide two years ago, said men must be educated — and must be willing to be educated — about how they treat and view women.
“Our language is important, for example,’’ said Brown. “When a guy says you throw a ball like a girl or you’re a sissy, it reflects an attitude that devalues women and attitudes that will eventually manifest in some fashion.”
He noted that domestic violence experts estimate that three women a day lose their lives at the hands of their partners. Then he provided viewers with the heartbreaking math.
“That means since the night of February 15 in Atlantic City [when Rice was caught on video punching Janay Palmer], more than 600 women have died. So this is yet another call to men to stand up and take responsibility for their thoughts, their words, their deeds, and to get help. Because our silence is deafening and deadly.”
Now, I’m not certain of Brown’s annual salary. But I do know CBS paid $275 million to air seven Thursday night games this season. They can afford to give the man a raise to go with the praise.
He earned it and then some on a night in which CBS was unveiling its pricey new bauble under immense scrutiny, enhanced by the coincidence of the Ravens, Rice’s former employer and apparent enabler, being one of the teams involved.
The network, which has well-documented tangled partnerships and interests with the league, has had some missteps of its own, including an inappropriately fawning interview with Patriots owner Robert Kraft regarding Goodell’s handling of the Rice situation on the network morning show Tuesday.
It did not go unnoticed that at the conclusion of Brown’s essay, the camera cut to a shot of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who probably wasn’t the ideal player to be focusing on at that particular moment.
Roethlisberger was suspended six games (reduced to four) in 2010 by Goodell for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after he was alleged to have committed sexual assault in Georgia.
But the awkward juxtaposition of Roethlisberger’s image and Brown’s words did not sully the moment. On one crucial night, Brown was the caring face, a man with gravitas delivering the right words the right way. He was proof that compassion is masculine.
Fans — male and female — needed to hear this. The NFL needed this. James Brown delivered where the commissioner of the entire league could not.
Curt Schilling returned to ESPN Thursday night after an eight-month battle with mouth cancer, appearing on the 10 p.m. edition of “Baseball Tonight.” It was a welcome sight and sound, foremost because it’s an encouraging confirmation of his recovery, but also because, since joining ESPN in 2010, he was becoming one of the best baseball analysts around, especially from the ex-player genre.
Schilling actually made his return appearance Tuesday, sitting for an interview about his ordeal with “Baseball Tonight” colleague Karl Ravech on the day his return was announced. Eighty pounds lighter and as candid as ever, Schilling discussed in detail what he endured.
“There were times in this treatment when I thought, if I get it again, I’m not sure I’d do the treatment again,’’ he said. “I looked at pictures of my kids and my wife to [get me through].
“The amount of pain that I was in for the length of time that I was doing this, I realized why some people will take their own lives if they don’t have families.
“I was in pain 24 hours a day for four months. And not just aching pain. From the chemotherapy, I was throwing up through a throat that was being radiated.”
Schilling said he has no doubt that the cancer was caused by his longtime addition to chewing tobacco. But he’d feel like a hypocrite in suggesting it be banned.
“Mentally, physically, [it was] the most difficult eight months of my life, and certainly the most painful,’’ he said. “It’s my fault. I chewed tobacco for 30-some years. It happens. And I was warned and warned year after year after year, and I just didn’t pay attention.”
Schilling was slated to join Dan Shulman and John Kruk in the “Sunday Night Baseball” booth this season, but he will serve in a studio analyst role for now while he continues his recovery. Good to have him back in any role.
Dan Koppen earned a reputation as a cerebral player during his 11-year NFL career, the first 10 spent as the Patriots’ center. It’s early in his second career, but that knowledge — and more important, the ability to articulate it concisely — is already evident in his new field.
Koppen, who retired after spending last season on the Broncos’ injured reserve list, has joined Comcast SportsNet New England as a pregame and postgame analyst, as well as a co-host with Mike Giardi of the new “Monday Night Patriots” program.
His presence proved fortuitous for CSNNE following the first game of the season, when the offensive and defensive lines struggled in the Patriots’ 33-20 loss to the Dolphins Sunday.
Unlike many recently retired players who still have friends in the locker room, Koppen didn’t shy away from criticism, noting that the defensive line looked particularly slow.
The 2014 Patriots didn’t impress in their debut. In discussing them frankly, Koppen did.
Ordway on the air
Glenn Ordway soon will be back on terrestrial radio (in layman’s terms, that one in your car with a dial), at least if you live in New Hampshire.
Ordway, who in March revived his longtime WEEI program “The Big Show” — now called the “Big Show Unfiltered,” the unfiltered part accounting for an occasional four-letter word — on the sportstalkboston.com, will debut on ESPN New Hampshire (900 AM and 1250 AM) Monday.
It will essentially be a simulcast from 3-6 p.m. of his current program, which also airs on satellite radio at XM 206 and Sirius 222. According to the station’s website, Ordway will also contribute a blog.Chad Finn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.