Alex Rodriguez’s reward, Myles Garrett hypocrisy: This is TV’s kid problem

It’s easy to pontificate about the street brawl near the end of Thursday’s Steelers-Browns. That’s the problem. It’s too easy.

The NFL has again arrived at where it has been headed. It’s a blood sport played by far too many who demand unconditional respect in return for none. Every game seems barely balanced on the edge of such unbalanced explosions.

Commissioner Roger Goodell, a panderer with no stomach to offend the most offensive — at $40 million per, he prefers to be considered a populist rather than a firm, genuine leader — continues to kick the can of slime down the road while taking for granted the time and money of folks who once enjoyed football as a team sport.

In large part those patrons have been replaced by drunks, those mindlessly and relentlessly displayed on TV for your perceived viewing approval. All others are encouraged to have bets on every game so the NFL can rake its cut.

But mostly hidden from view or ignored is an inevitable nationwide plague that threatens to ruin all of our sports, starting with the first time a kid joins a team or rec league.

From Little League and Pop Warner through high school — girls sports, too — adults no longer want to officiate games. The abuse, verbal and physical, is too much. It’s no longer worth their time, paltry pay and devotion to suffer the escalating incivilities of TV-raised coaches, parents, families, friends and players.

Consequently, the games are increasingly placed in the hands of unqualified or untrained refs and umpires, exacerbating the disrespect and hassles during and after games.

As these stories are delivered from sports officiating organizations all over the country, TV shrugs. Sports that once had a good chance of helping turn a bad kid into a good one now stand a better chance of turning a good one petulant and selfish.

And the same media folks who applaud those who play with “swagger” today lament another eruption such as Thursday’s. Gee, ya don’t say?

No entity is more responsible for this destruction than TV, which does all it can to remove the sport from our sports and for no good reasons.

From rewarding the worst acts with on-air jobs to rewarding the worst on-field acts with extra attention — often in slow-motion replays to ensure emphasis — TV execs seem eager to do to our kids what they’d never do to theirs.

Last week, the single NFL “highlight” witnessed over and over — including on the NFL Network — was of Steeler safety Minkah Fitzpatrick’s TD run off a Rams’ fumble. But what made this play singularly appealing to TV’s shot-callers was the close-up of Fitzpatrick running toward the end zone, then slowing and turning to wave bye-bye to his pursuers.

Fitzpatrick should’ve been flagged for taunting, for unsportsmanlike conduct, but even that would have not discouraged TV from making him the video Star of the Day. Got that, kids? That’s how you play the game!

Since Bill Henel packed it in, things have only grown worse. Henel was a Brick, N.J., Little League umpire for 20 years and a member of its board of directors for 25. His words to me in 2017 still echo: “This is my last year. I’m tired of trying to tell kids about sportsmanship. It’s hopeless, and TV shows the worst as funny and cool. A sad state.”

He’s not alone. Hardly.

Late last week on “SportsCenter,” Alex Rodriguez — who drug-cheated and lied his way to fame, fortune and two prominent national TV baseball gigs including ESPN’s lead MLB analyst — checked in on what he thinks of these Astros’ sign-stealing stories. Yep, as per ESPN’s and Fox’s standards, he’s Mr. Credibility.

This is the bag TV has placed sports in. Now to find an ump or ref — a sucker — willing to suffer the abuse.

MLB’s 3-batter rule will be a swing-and-miss

Seems that every significant rule change — especially replay additives — are born of knee-jerks, too late for foresight while loaded with totally unintended realities.

MLB is ready to enact a rule that compels every pitcher to face at least three batters before he’s replaced. It’s a planned means to speed the pace of games.

But will it?

One of countless scenarios: Team A is up, 5-1, in the sixth when the manager, with two Team B players on base, brings in a reliever. That reliever is shelled. He allows a home run, then a double. But must still pitch to one more batter. So the pitching coach walks slowly to the mound to give the next reliever time to warm. Then walks slowly back to the dugout.

The next batter singles in the tying run, and the reliever, too late, is replaced. So not only hasn’t the game been accelerated, the new rule, not the game, determines its outcome. That’s crazy.

One wonders if that and many more unintended variables even crossed MLB’s collective minds.

Of course, games could be tightened if warm-up pitches were reduced from eight to three. But that would improve the game at a cost of TV commercial money, thus no chance.

Before the Steelers-Browns ended in a riot Thursday, Mavericks-Knicks on TNT was not much easier on the better senses.

Throughout, play-by-play man Hollerin’ Kevin Harlan couldn’t have been louder and easier to excite than if he’d been seated on a cattle prod. But loud is his apparently his primary term of engagement with CBS and Turner.

Then analyst Reggie Miller tried to blame the Knicks’ continuing ineptitude on “the New York media” — as if the Knicks are victims of exaggeration.

Finally, to hear what’s supposed to be a sophisticated, NYC basketball crowd expend such profane, relentless hatred on Kristaps Porzingis was disturbing.

But if you enjoy reading large, wordy graphics in the middle of the screen during live play, it was a terrific telecast.

Tankers take over

Last week’s “tanking” NFL teams included the Dolphins, who tanked their way to a second straight win, and the Falcons, who tanked their way to a 2-7 record with a 26-7 win over — and at — the Saints, now 7-2.

Giants defensive back Jabrill Peppers, a three-year full scholarship enrollee at academically demanding Michigan, after the Giants’ loss to the Jets: “I ain’t really care about how ya’ll feel or how nobody feel.”

No matter how many more tens of millions of dollars Rutgers throws at its football program and on buyouts of coaches and ADs, N.J. taxpayers are on the hook for 22 percent of it.

Reader David Oniffrey: “According to TV, Myles Garrett had a 64.3 percent contact probability with Mason Rudolph’s head with Mason Rudolph’s helmet.”

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