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Grip on Sports: Seahawks’ Richard Sherman has his views on the NFL today

Seahawks’ Richard Sherman, right, and Earl Thomas (obscured) break up a pass intended for wide receiver Julio Jones that ensured Seattle’s victory in October. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Seahawks’ Richard Sherman, right, and Earl Thomas (obscured) break up a pass intended for wide receiver Julio Jones that ensured Seattle’s victory in October. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Professional sports on Nov. 4: Baseball is in bed for the year. Basketball isn’t really in full swing yet, though there was an interesting matchup in the Bay Area last night. Hockey is going but it isn’t playoff time. Which leaves the stage pretty empty for football. But is the NFL still fun to watch? Read on.

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• Richard Sherman doesn’t think so. And he blamed his bête noire, Roger Goodell, yesterday. The NFL commissioner can take it. His dad was a U.S. Senator, he makes about a gazillion dollars a year and he’s got the owners’ support. So he can take it.

And Sherman isn’t completely right anyway. It’s not all Roger Goodell’s fault the NFL’s ratings are declining and the game doesn’t seem as much fun anymore.

For that we have to go all Ronald Reagan on you and blame the bureaucrats. Not the ones in Washington, D.C., but the ones in the New York league office.

Any organization that gets as bloated as the NFL has a tendency to get bloated in its thinking as well. Obtuse is how Andy Dufresne would describe it. Or maybe distended.

The NFL has grown immensely since it was founded in 1920, staying a small, mostly regional league until the late 1950s. Then it exploded. And has been growing ever since. Last year, the league split more than $7 billion – that’s with a “b” folks – of revenue between its teams. I don’t know about you, but that’s seems like a lot of money. And a lot of people are needed to keep the money-machine purring.

So everything has grown, except forward thinking.

For years, maybe ever since Goodell became commissioner in 2006, the league has been in protection mode. Protect the brand, protect the league, protect the revenue stream.

The folks who work for Goodell, behind the scenes in New York and Los Angeles, and those on the front lines in each game – the referees – are compensated well. They are charged with controlling the game off and on the field. They do what the Goodell-directed league wants. That’s what all major corporations do.

So everyone understands their role and they strive to do what their supervisors demand. That’s how they keep their jobs.

Which is why what Sherman said yesterday may be accurate in a roundabout sort of way.

The veteran defensive back, to paraphrase and summarize, accused the league of being out to get the Hawks. Of calling penalties on them and ignoring what their opponents do. Of a conspiracy of sorts.

That seems a bit too X-Files-like for most folks. There isn’t some guy with a cigarette dangling from his lips in the hallway at CenturyLink telling Ed Hochuli to call holding on Sherman in the fourth quarter. Nope.

But what does happen is crews are graded after games and given instructions before. That can influence how a game is called. For example, if a pass-first team meets a physical pass-defense group and the point of emphasis for the officials is on illegal contact, which team do you think that helps? How about if offensive holding is emphasized? Yes, all rules are supposed to be enforced but if you know your superiors are interested in a certain area, you have to focus on it, right? It’s no different than the guy in the office putting an emphasis on closing the sale. No one wants steak knives.

And Sherman is right in one other regard. The NFL rulebook is too big for anyone to really understand. A simple thing as a catch takes a Dan Brown novel to explain. But such things are just a reflection of the league as a whole. The NFL has gotten so big, so powerful, so Jabba the Hutt-like, it’s strangling itself.

The Hawks – and fun – are just collateral damage.

•••

• WSU: If you want to understand what this week’s game with Arizona means for Luke Falk, all you have to do is read Jacob Thorpe’s story on the quarterback today, then follow up with this story in the Tucson Daily Star and you have the picture. … Jacob picks Washington State to win easily this week. … The school presented a response to Robert Barber’s court filing. … It’s been a long time since Washington has defeated the Cougars in women’s soccer. It didn’t happen yesterday.

Elsewhere in Pac-12 football, Colorado and UCLA combined for a lot more penalty yardage than they did rushing yards, which led to an ugly, but important, 20-10 Colorado win in Boulder. … Stanford and Oregon State each have goals for Saturday. … Washington’s goal is to not look past a California team that can score from anywhere. … USC will travel north next week but must take care of Oregon before it leaves town. … Arizona State and Utah have byes. … There are more picks from around the league. … This is just plain sad.

• Gonzaga: Just a week ago Mark Few was marveling at the Zags’ depth and how much better it was this season. As Jim Meehan notes in today’s story, that depth is already being tested. … The Zags announced another big scheduling coup for down the road. … The women open the season tonight with an exhibition game. Jim Allen has a preview.

• EWU: It’s been a long journey for Eastern’s senior roverback, a journey Jim Allen chronicles today. … Jim held a live chat yesterday. He also posted the transcript on SportsLink. … Around the Big Sky in football, Idaho State is struggling again. But there is a bright spot. … Montana State is trying to rebuild. … North Dakota did not make the FCS top 10 this week. … Southern Utah's home season ends this weekend.

• Chiefs: A long road trip may not only have pulled the Chiefs together, it may have turned the season around. Tom Clouse looks at where they stand as Spokane prepares for a home game against Red Deer tonight.

• Preps: The Washington state playoffs roll on and we round up the action. … Greg Lee also has a feature on the international flavor of North Central’s cross country team this season.

• Seahawks: Besides Sherman’s pronouncements from the podium yesterday, there was some news from the league office. Yes, the offensive pass interference penalties were missed. … The running game needs to run over people. Now. Is George Fant the answer? … Will Percy Harvin play Monday?

• Mariners: The day after the World Series ends means roster movement among major league teams. The one free agent Seattle will keep: outfielder Seth Smith.

• Sounders: As the playoffs roll on for some teams, others who are done begin to make changes.

•••

• It rained constantly in October, the wettest month ever around these parts. But November has started out quite nicely. That’s just odd. Until later …

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