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August 17, 2009

NAFL too big a joke to hold Balogun back

Mike Balogun made a career ending decision by playing semi-professional football past the age of 21. That appears to be the determination of the NCAA after it was announced OU's starting linebacker in last year's BCS National Championship was de-certified last Friday.

So let's get this straight NCAA, a young man who had no foreseeable future as a potential major college football player decided to have a little fun.

A young man who was working a construction job during the week, supporting a daughter - a man who had scarce prospects for the future decided to join up with some of his buddies in the North American Football League and play a little football on the weekends - that man is now in your target sites…

I mean, this young man was past the age of 21. He was playing in a fancy, almost professional football league. The team was semi-professional. Money was exchanging hands, gate receipts were being collected.

That's professional football, right?

Right!?

Well, a look at the North American Football League's website would tell a completely different story about how professional that league really is.

You don't have to look any further than Commissioner Robin Williams' blog, which delivers her weekly messages to the teams comprising the league.

But unlike the problems faced by Roger Goodell, this commissioner appears to be more concerned with a brawling, disorganized, non-standard uniform wearing bunch of misfits.

In her most recent blog dated Aug. 12th, the commissioner starts with an apology for being on vacation over the last two weeks.

Never mind her vacation took place as the league was in the middle of its season.

The first order of business on her return was as if the warden had just returned to the penitentiary. Apparently the inmates were running the joint.

"Over the past two weeks, I have had several emails and phone calls regarding various issues," wrote Commissioner Williams.

Williams then puts out five bullet points regarding the flood of emails and phone calls she had received while on vacation. The main points addressed were players leaving drink bottles scattered across the high school fields they play on, chiding teams for not allowing their players to move to other teams, the excessive practice of forfeits, and teams not complying with uniform standards or having enough referees for games.

But continue through the blog posts by Commissioner Williams, and you realize that Electric Football might be more organized than the North American Football League.

"I also had a report of players after the game going up into the stands and fighting with fans," wrote Commissioner Williams in her blog dated July 28th. "This is unsportsmanlike conduct in my opinion."

Oh boy! Where do you go with that one? In her opinion it's unsportsmanlike conduct? That's unsportsmanlike conduct in the opinion of Jason Vorhees!

Commissioner Williams also addresses the condition of teams and the fields they play on in a blog post dated Aug. 12th.

"Everyone says they want to be in the best league around, but looking unprofessional and playing on fields that are no better than sand lots is not the way to do it," she wrote.

Another gem from the Commissioners blog dated July 21st:

"I heard that players were consuming alcohol on high school property after games. Okay, we all like the occasional frosty beverage, especially after playing a game and being hot and sweaty. However, school premises are under a no alcohol policy, and having and consuming alcohol of any kind is AGAINST the LAW," wrote Commissioner Williams. "The NAFL does NOT condone any activity that breaks the law."

Well, hey, at least they have some standards.

I think we've proved our point. Most players that play in the North American Football League have to be over 21 because they drink beer in the high school parking lot after games.

Okay, maybe that wasn't our point.

The real point is that the North American Football League is a total joke. How the NCAA can let Mike Balogun's eligibility be affected by this joke of a league is beyond me.

What Mike Balogun is doing now is beyond this mockery of football. He's bettering his life and the life of his daughter. He's gone from swinging a sledgehammer to slamming into Tim Tebow on national television with millions of football fans watching.

And he's doing it in the same color uniform as his teammates!

I will admit, I have a soft spot for Mike Balogun. He's a great young man. Every time he walks past me, he gives me a head nod. And I'm pretty sure he does that because I was the first guy to tell his story way back when.

But he appreciates where he is, and where he's come from, more than any other player in college football.

He gets it.

Mike Balogun's life was changed by the NCAA. I truly believe that, and I know Balogun does too.

I just hope they don't try and tear down everything he's been able to overcome, all because he played some football in a train-wreck-wanna-be-football-league. Mike Balogun has become so much bigger than that.

Here's to hoping the NCAA proves they are bigger than that too.


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