Week 7: NFL commish needs me on speed dial

Commissioner Roger “Help me, Paul Tagliabue!” Goodell announced this week that he’s considering getting rid of the NFL’s biggest popularity contest (aka the Pro Bowl) if “play does not improve.” He even called last year’s game embarrassing. Goodell warns that if competition does not improve, he’ll discontinue the game but keep the voting “honors.”

My biggest issue with the Pro Bowl is, and always has been, fan voting. It’s great that fans have a say, but it’s really nothing more than picking all the big-named players off the teams that get the most national airtime. That’s why every year we get seven players from “Insert best team here” or an overload of players from teams like New England or Dallas, who are always discussed regardless of their records. Can you name five players on, say, the Rams? How about Carolina? Surely these teams have one really good player who deserves a look for the Pro Bowl. But since these teams aren’t nationally televised or covered in extreme detail on pre-game analysis shows like the more “popular” teams, fans might not know them. So the great player on the bad team gets left out of the Pro Bowl in favor of the good player on the popular team.

But hey! Pro Bowl voting officially started yesterday, so that means you can get online right now and vote Tom Brady “Most Popular” and Peyton Manning “Most Likely to Succeed.”

In other news:

– The land where French fries are “chips,” an elevator is a “lift” and football is “soccer.”

This Sunday, the Rams and Patriots face off in London’s Wembley Stadium. Next year, the NFL will hold two games in London for the first time ever. On Sept. 29, 2013, the Vikings host the Steelers and on Oct. 27, 2013, the Jaguars host the 49ers. Goodell added that at some point in the future, he could see having a team in London. Now that’s just crazy talk. The logistics alone would be a nightmare. Maybe the Brits love American football as much as the next guy, but let’s not go wild here. The NFL can continue to exploit our friends in England via the internet and television, the same way the NFL marketing geniuses exploit fans in all countries around the world.

– If we ignore it, maybe it will go away.

I’m talking, of course, about political ads. Oh, and also “Bountygate.” By this point, most of the players and coaches involved in the Saints “money for big hits” program have served or are serving their punishments for involvement. Except for Jonathan Vilma, who continues to kick this horse even though it’s merely a skeleton. Vilma’s original year-long suspension (which he tried to appeal but was rejected) was vacated on a technicality, but was re-issued, and Vilma appealed. Goodell ruled on the case last week and re-issued Vilma’s year-long suspension. Vilma appealed again, his new hearing set for Oct. 30. In the meantime, while his case is in appeals, he is technically allowed to play, which he did on Sunday. Since week 2, he’s been on the PUP list, so he wouldn’t have been playing anyway had he not been suspended. Now former commish Paul Tagliabue is getting pulled into the case because Vilma is whining about Goodell, and Goodell just wants to get this resolved, much like the rest of the NFL. This case has become nearly impossible to follow, and honestly, my brain has ceased all ability to care about it anymore. Jonathan Vilma, do us all a favor, serve your suspension (with pay) and go away off my TV and off my sports ticker. And please don’t bother us again for our sanity’s sake.

– Yes, Virginia, there is a Chris Johnson!

And, we have a Chris Johnson sighting, our first of the season. He put his helmet on with the opening facing front and hit the gas for 195 yards and two touchdowns, netting fantasy owners who were brave enough to start him an average of 35 points. Maurice Jones-Drew, however, spent half of his day on crutches. Word on the street is a sprained foot that will leave him out for multiple games, so you may wish to fill the RB slot on your fantasy roster with his back up, Rashad Jennings (but he’s already on your roster – right? – just like I suggested in my very first column of the season).

This Sunday, get ready for your first prime time look at Denver’s Peyton Manning! What? You’ve already seen him 12 times and it’s only week 8? Oh, well, in case you forgot what he looked like since his last TV commercial, you can tune in Sunday night and watch him try to outsling New Orleans’ Drew Brees. Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Houston are all taking the week off. And, well, since everyone else seems to be doing this week-off thing, I declare that next week I will also take a “bye week.” Yippee! Extra pajama time!

So until two weeks, my friends, enjoy the games!