- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2003

Paul Tagliabue is the spineless commissioner who has issued a $200,000 fine in honor of Johnnie Cochran and the Rev. Shakedown Artist, the bean-counting poets who have been threatening to rhyme the NFL out of existence if it does not go along with their racial blackmail.

Matt Millen has been ordered to pay the $200,000 gesture, which is the penalty of love at first sight.

Millen was unable to adhere to the NFL’s new hiring procedures, as implemented last December, after becoming infatuated with Steve Mariucci following another dismal season. This was an open secret at the time.

As the president of the sad-sack football operation in Detroit, Millen was in a hurry to ease the sense of doom that has come to envelop the franchise. Mariucci, by way of the 49ers, was just the person to lift the mood.

Except for his pale hue, Mariucci was almost the perfect candidate, with a 60-43 record in six seasons with the 49ers and four playoff berths.

Millen attempted to follow the NFL’s new edict, which requires each of the 32 teams to interview at least one minority candidate, preferably a black, when on a quest to land a new head coach.

Millen put out a number of calls to the racially qualified, one specifically to Dennis Green, but no one was interested in being part of a sham.

You couldn’t blame anyone. Why play the game? Why waste everyone’s time?

The Mariucci hire was a done deal almost from the outset, and that was that.

But this is not about what might be best for the Lions. This is about appearances. This is about placating the artists whose rhymes terrify the NFL, as well as corporate America, because if it does not fit, you must acquit.

In this upside-down environment, a good move is possibly bad, a bad move is possibly good, and O.J. Simpson remains on a never-ending search to find the “real killers” in Colombia.

Green, God bless him, actually played the game in Dallas, with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who always had his eyes on Bill Parcells. Green also interviewed with the Jaguars, meeting their plausible deniability needs.

Green, alas, did not provide Millen with this cover, and so Millen is now having to come up with $200,000 because of his failure to find someone, anyone, to play the game.

The Rev. Shakedown Artist, in a way, addressed the hopelessness of Millen’s dilemma after investigating the quality of Mariucci’s complexion.

“Would you interview for a job you already know is going to someone else?” the Rev. Shakedown Artist said. “Would you allow yourself to be used by the Lions so they could get around the policy? These men are not fools and shouldn’t be treated that way.”

So what was Millen supposed to do? He had his man, the best man available, a coup of sorts for a franchise still recovering from the premature retirement of Barry Sanders.

Perhaps Millen should have borrowed the get-out-the-vote tactic of the Rev. Shakedown Artist, hitting the streets of Detroit with sandwiches, hot coffee and free transportation to persuade the disenfranchised to come to his office for an interview.

All this borders on the trite and silly, indicative of nothing, really, unless someone can explain the power of 32 statistically negligible positions in the NFL in a country of 283 million.

There is no genuine explanation, of course, just a convenient entity that appeals to the massive egos of Cochran and the Rev. Shakedown Artist.

If they were truly interested in serving their community, they could hold poetry readings in the District, where 67,000 mostly minority students are sentenced to one of the worst public school systems in America.

Consider the numbers: 67,000 students vs. 32 NFL head coaches. Consider all the good that possibly could come about if Cochran and the Rev. Shakedown Artist dumped their rhymes on the system.

Unfortunately, one lousy public-school system lacks the NFL’s panache.

With Cochran and the Rev. Shakedown Artist, it is about television air time and going to those with deep pockets.

At least we have a price tag for what qualifies as adversity in the NFL.

Before Marvin Lewis became the head coach of the Bengals, he was the lowly $1 million-a-year defensive coordinator of the Redskins who was struggling to cope with the NFL’s discriminatory ways.

Although Lewis was living considerably better than most Americans, we were instructed to feel the uniqueness of his pain.

Most Americans made one inquiry: “Where does the line form to receive some of that pain?”

As you know, $1 million a year can buy a person plenty of pain relievers.


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