There are things in sports that become reference points, that either temporarily or permanently stand as a basis or standard for evaluation. If you watched the Cincinnati Reds of the 70s, all subsequent clubs - good or bad - are held up against those Big Red Machine teams that have been reference points around here for more than 40s years.
Michael Jordan is a reference point. Every great player that ascends to a certain level is evaluated against MJ's considerable legacy, sometimes at the cost of actual facts, often with history being revised for the sake of benefit of the person making the comparison.
The Cincinnati Bengals are a reference point.
By their own doing too. In deciding to keep their working relationship with Adam Jones while adding Joe Mixon to their team, they've become the NFL's ultimate reference point when juxtaposing the bad against the benign.
Which takes us to Bob Costas, who said this about the Bengals the other night on CNN...
"Domestic abusers - people guilty of various forms of misbehavior - find a place on NFL rosters. Pacman Jones was just suspended again - for a single game - for some run-in with the police several months ago. This guy's got a rap sheet a mile long, and collects millions of dollars for the Cincinnati Bengals, who at various times seem to have been running a halfway house for miscreants."
Like with any quote, context is needed. Costas wasn't appearing on CNN to specifically talk about the Bengals. Instead, he was on to discuss Colin Kaepernick's inability to find employment in the NFL as training camps begin. He elaborated to Paul Daugherty of Cincinnati.com...
“I was making a point about how Colin Kaepernick can’t even find a backup job or even an offer or an inquiry about a job,’’ Costas said Wednesday. “There’s no buzz. He’s off the board. That was the context.
“I wasn’t speaking about the Bengals in particular. I said people who have acted in objectionable and even criminal ways can find their way back into the league. A guy who makes a political statement can’t get a phone call. Pacman Jones popped into my head as an example because his suspension happened only a day or two before.’’
Pacman Jones popped into Costas' head, which means the Bengals also popped into his head. Then, of course, so did Joe Mixon, and fair or not, then too did every former Bengal that has played fast and loose with the law, many of whom were given second and third chances by the owner and the coach.
The Bengals were Bob Costas' reference point, a mechanism used in discussion to make a point about something else, in this case, the hypocrisy of NFL teams that will go to great lengths to forgive and often enable men guilty of horrific actions that hurt people while at the same time stiff-arming someone who, in Kaepernick's case is merely "guilty" of a gesture that offended. You might not want Colin Kaepernick to play in the NFL, and you may not believe that he's being blackballed from the league, but I don't think it's hard to understand the point that Costas was trying to make about Kaepernick's exclusion from the league by dragging into the conversation a team that's - by their own doing - associated giving opportunities to players who's acts are far more heinous and harmful than what many loathe Kaepernick for.
The Bengals are, of course, not the only NFL team willing to look the other way when players get in trouble. Had they not drafted Joe Mixon, surely someone else would have given him a chance to play for them, and I don't think it's a stretch to think that had the Bengals cut him loose, Adam Jones would be preparing for the season on another team's camp roster. And, by the way, moving forward, it does no one any good for either to fail.
But it was the Bengals who took Mixon, and it is the Bengals who've decided to give Adam Jones another second chance. It also was the Bengals that a decade ago became a national punchline for how many players made headlines for their off-field jackassery. When the Bengals chose not to get out of the Pacman Jones business and when they decided to send Anthony Munoz to the stage in Philadelphia holding a card with Joe Mixon's name on it, they chose to allow others to dredge up old stale takes about the Bengals and freshen them up with new particulars.
They chose to become a reference point.
Mike Brown is smart enough to know this. So is Marvin Lewis. Which is why it was comical when both bristled at Costas using the way they run their team to make a point about the league as a whole. The Bengals knew what they were doing, and they were aware of the collateral damage, when they make their most controversial offseason decisions. They invited any forthcoming references. They encouraged the comparisons.
All Bob Costas did was oblige them.
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