Why the Associated Press voting panel's "Cushing 18" needs to be over-hauled

I agree with Peter King's quote 100%:

The Associated Press, the news agency that oversees the balloting, has to make some hard-and-fast rules for future all-pro teams and awards. This voting shows that too many of the 50 men and women who vote want rules and don't want to have to unilaterally decide whether to vote for suspended players or not. I was comfortable in drawing a line in the sand from this day forward, saying I'd never vote for another performance-enhancer. But obviously some of my peers were not. My feeling is we shouldn't be able to vote for any player or coach who has been suspended for performance-enhancing drugs or for masking agents for performance-enhancers.

Why a voter would knowingly and willingly vote for a player who is a cheater is beyond my comprehension. Maybe someone else can explain this seemingly obvious hypocrisy to me; rewarding a player for cheating. I kind of doubt that hard-working families living on fixed incomes who purchase expensive team jersies for their kids who want to, one day, grow up and play football in school agree with the notion that people who juice should be awarded with Rookie of the Year honors.

But hey, that's just me.

I applaud Peter for taking a stand, and I spit in the faces of these 18 schmucks who seem to make a mockery of what player awards truly represent to the most important faction in this equation: The fans. From here on out, the 18 voters who re-awarded the disgrace known as Brian Cushing are known at "The Cushing 18."

Why am I still bringing this crap back up?

Well, we fans care about this stuff. We care when our players are rewarded for great play. Look no further than this site and how excited we all got when Peyton Manning won his fourth MVP. Obviously, he didn't "need" it to prove he was a great player, but for us it was important because it further cemented what we fans have been screaming at everyone else since 1999: Peyton is the best, ever.

Now, if tomorrow we all found out that Peyton tested positive for HCG, a fertility drug that is on the NFL's banned substance list, that is known to be used by many steroid users, then pretty much everything Peyton has ever accomplished in his entire career goes straight down the toilet. He'd be the poster boy for "disgrace," and in the end his contributions to the NFL, from a fan's point of view, would be no different than that of Ryan Leaf's.

THAT is how important "fair play" is to us fans.

To the 18 people who said it was OK for Brian Cushing to cheat (and make no mistake press apologists, that is exactly the message those idiots conveyed to the public when they re-voted, or changed their votes, for Cushing), they totally deserve the backlash they are getting for their cowardly, hypocritical decision to reward cheating.

However, for me, the AP voting panel fiasco highlights a much bigger issue than just 18 people making a bad decision. It shows that, for many of these voters, they are simply out-of-touch with what their readers think their responsibilities are as members of that panel. I'll re-highlight a quote from King to provide a bit of set-up:

My feeling is we shouldn't be able to vote for any player or coach who has been suspended for performance-enhancing drugs or for masking agents for performance-enhancers.

I'd take that one step further Peter. Anyone who votes for for any player or coach who has been suspended for performance-enhancing drugs or for masking agents for performance-enhancers should have his or her voting rights stripped, and they should be kicked off the voting panel. Replacing them should be someone who actually has some kind of standard, and who better represents what sports fans expect from a voting body that rewards player and coaching performance.

Naturally, this means that the 18 people who re-voted for Cushing should go. A lot of these people are the same, old, out-of-touch gasbags you see people rip time and time again. Replace them with better, more competent voters. And hey, maybe some of those voters could actually be... GASP!... fan bloggers. They are the face of new media" anyway. Out with the old, in with the new!

My suggestions are after the jump because I am absolutely positive you care what I think on this subject.

THE CUSHING 18

So, without question, the following people have disgraced themselves as members of the media and need to be kicked from the AP voting panel:

Don Banks, Sports Illustrated.com
Bob Berger, Sporting News Radio
Chris Berman, ESPN
Steve Cohen, Sirius Satellite Radio
Frank Cooney, SportsXChange
Mark Craig, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Tom Curran, Comcast Sportsnet
Vinny Ditrani, The Record
Rick Gosselin, Dallas Morning News
Paul Gutierrez, Sacramento Bee
Clark Judge, CBSSports.com
John McClain, Houston Chronicle
Gary Myers, New York Daily News
Danny O'Neil, Seattle Times
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com
Adam Teicher, Kansas City Star
Charean Williams Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (changed to Cushing)

Chris Berman with a vote is an absolute head-scratcher. The guy is a running joke in most media circles. He recently got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which I think is appropriate. Berman was always more of a clownish entertainer than a real member of the journalistic community.

And John McClain should have not voted. He's the f*cking beat writer that covers the Houston Texans. Anyone who tells me that "real" media people aren't homers will get a swift kick to the nuts by me after seeing McClain pull this stunt. Other people like Prisco, Banks, Gosselin, and Banks are all old farts who need to be put out to pasture. They've clearly lost touch with what readers feel is "right" and "honorable" with these awards, and it reflects in their pathetic non-attempts to justify the voting.

So, that's 18 people who need replacing. Below are my suggested replacements, with some of them coming form the blog ranks. I feel this is justified because, in reality, more people read blogs like Deadspin and the like than they do crappy articles written by deadbeats like "The Cushing 18."

 

THE REPLACEMENTS

A.J. Daulerio, Deadspin: This one is obvious. Deadspin has a lot of douchy writers and has recently transformed itself from a once good on-line sports blog into little more than a TMZ rip-off, but there is no denying the power Deadspin has in the sports world. Lots of people read it. Lots of people care about it. It has the pulse of several sports fans. It should be represented.

Jason McIntyre, The Big Lead: Again, like Deadspin, lots of people read it. Lots of people care about it. Jason can sometimes act like an out-of-touch New Yorker, and he is also an insufferable Jets fan, but he has a background in sports journalism and he has the pulse of several East-coast-based sports fans. Plus, more people read him than they read Don friggin Banks.

David "Fooch" Fucillo, Niners Nation: David is one of a few SB Nation-related people I'm going to suggest because, quite honestly, more people read SB Nation-associated blogs than anything else. David is also based on the West Coast, and, if you noticed, the list of the Cushing 18 has many voters based on the East Coast. David's a young, intelligent guy who understands the ins-and-outs of the NFL.

Mike Chappell, The Indianapolis Star: Our first non-blogger. The Cushing 18 features Paul Gutierrez of the friggin Sacramento Bee. Sacramento has only one major sports team: The Kings. How a major city like Indianapolis, which features two huge sports teams and is the center of several other sports gi-normous sporting entities (racing, NCAA), does not have a vote on the AP panel is ridiculous. Chris Berman over Mike Chappell? Get the f*ck out of here. Chap all the way here.

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk: It's fairly obvious why he should have a vote. No one is more read within NFL circles than Florio. Pro teams literally have hired communications staff who read PFT on an hourly basis hoping that information on something they are doing does not get leaked. Coaches like Eric Mangini regularly read PFT. I'm willing to bet serious money that one of the Polians reads PFT daily. Mike should have a vote. And please, don't call him a "blogger." The dude does regular TV spots on NBC now.

Joel Thorman, Arrowhead Pride: Another SB Nation blogger. However, unlike many of the names I've submitted, Joel is based in Kansas City; smack dab in the heart of "middle America." His blog is one of the highest viewed team-based blogs on the Internets, and he very much has the pulse of average, working-class folks who love sports because it represents something semi-holy to them. I would not be shocked if more people read Joel than they do Adam Teicher of the KC Star. Plus, unlike Teicher, Joel doesn't believe in rewarding cheaters.

Doug Farrar, Shutdown Corner: Doug writes for Yahoo's Shutdown Corner and, in my not-so-humble-opinion, he's less of a douche than Shutdown's editor, the "mighty" MJD (aka, Matthew J. Darnell). If Darnell got a vote, I wouldn't be upset or anything. I just think Farrar did a better job covering the Cushing suspension, and is better at covering the NFL in general. I also agree with this line from Farrar: "That the AP feels the need to take matters into its own hands with a new DROY vote, is one more indication that the league needs to step up its pattern of action against such violators." 

Ed Thompson, Scout.com: Ed is the Senior NFL analyst for Scout.com. Scout.com is not a blog. Scout.com is not a newspaper with a web component. It is just a good, old-fashioned website that employs passionate people who care about sports. I disagree with their silly pay-to-read service, but Ed is a knowledgeable guy on football; more so than Gary Myers, or the like.

Scott Wright, NFL Draft Countdown: Scott spends a lot of time looking at college players, but he does so with a keen eye for how they will work out in the NFL. This means he knows the NFL, and is smart enough to vote on player awards. There might be a conflict issue with Scott potentially voting for a rookie he highly touted on his site, but I don't think he'd do that. He's been scouting players for a long time (since 1993).

Jason Brewer, Bleeding Green Nation: Hey look! Another SB Nation team blogger! Again, more people read our blogs than anyone else, and no one is more connected to team fans than bloggers like JasonB. He covers a big market team that seems to be finally waking up to the idea that new media will soon replace the old, tired newspaper industry. Jason has a background in radio, and writes for a very high traffic team blog.

Loren Casuto, Bolt Talk: Not enough women on this voting panel, especially when you look at the Cushing 18. Bolt Talk's writing often annoys me because they seem to have this rather dated notion that Peyton Manning is a choker. Based on how the chargers performed in the playoffs against the Jets last year, I'd reserve the "choke" talk for the QB who ain't never won nothing, but likes to talk trash as if he has (ahem, Philip Rivers). That said, Bolt Talk is an outstanding fan site with a strong readership of Chargers fans, and Loren is a big reason for that.

Stephanie Stadley, Texans Chick: Again, more women. I think the world of Stephanie even though she is a rather annoying and, oftentimes, overly apologetic Texans fan. That said, she's a good writer. I don't necessarily agree with all her commentary on the Cushing situation, but she has written some damn good stuff on the subject; much better than John McClain, who, like Stadley, writes for the Houston Chronicle. Stadley would just simply replace McClain, who disgraced himself when he re-voted for Cushing even though he knows Cushing is a cheater. It is my hope that Stephanie would simply abstain from a vote like that, or vote for another person; like, perhaps, Texans defensive end Connor Barwin. He had 18 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2009. Not bad. Oh, and unlike Cushing, he wasn't juiced.

Tony Dungy, NBC Sports: OK, if you kick Chris Berman and his fat , obnoxious, sweaty self off the AP voting panel, it stands to reason that you should replace him with another TV personality. However, unlike Berman, who is not respected by anyone in the industry and is often made fun of openly on a regular basis for his on-set tirades and his well-documented horn-doggery, Tony Dungy is one of the most well-respected men in America. You may not agree with his politics, but there is no denying that when Tony Dungy stops to talk about something, people care enough to listen. His long career as a player and coach in the NFL gives him tremendous knowledge of the game, and his connections at both NBA and the NFL coaching and player circles make him one of the most well-informed media professionals in the business. Also, Coach Dungy wouldn't vote for a cheater.

Steve Sabol, NFL Films: One question... why? Why isn't one of the best NFL media people in the history of the business not given the right to vote on this panel? How many Emmy awards has Sabol and NFL Films won? It's, like, a gazillion. OK, it's actually 100, but that's still an OMG! amount of TV awards for excellence. The man, and his family business, are as much a part of the NFL as the logo and the pig-skinned ball are. And please, don't give me this crap about him being associated with NFL Films, and how that disqualifies him, or something. NFL Films broadcasts its material on television, not in movie theaters. Also, once again, I stress that Chris friggin Berman is currently on the voting panel. It's a disgrace to have him there and not Sabol.

James Brown, CBS Sports: Brown is one of the best TV men in the business, and unlike silly personalities like Terry Bradshaw or Stuart Scott, Brown still does some very good journalistic pieces for shows like Showtime's Inside the NFL. also, just a few years ago, he did some damn fine work on HBO's Real Sports. He's thoughtful, intelligent, and has a resume a mile long. It only makes sense that he have a vote. If Howie Long has a vote, why doesn't James Brown?

Scott Brown, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Current AP panel voter Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the dubious honor of being the only voter to change his decision from another player to Brian Cushing during the re-vote process. Bouchette did so out of protest for the re-vote process; an arrogant, immature gesture that simply cut off the AP voting panel's nose to spite its face. By enabling cheating, Bouchette's new name is Ed Douchette, and in a just world his voting rights should be stripped and given to Scott Brown, who writes for the Post-Gazette's rival, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. While Ed Douchette is, without question, a complete moron and a disgrace to his profession, I don't think the city of Pittsburgh should be punished for his screw-up. Thus, Brown replaces Douchette.

Troy Aikman, FOX Sports: Eagles, Redskins, and Giants fans might not like Troy Aikman as an announcer, but the reality is he is one of the smartest, most astute broadcasters in the business. There are a lot of former-players out there who simply have no idea WTF they are talking about when they get in front of a camera as an "expert" on some of these NFL shows. Aikman is the exception. His custom Aikman efficiency rating system to judge QB play was excellent, and in some cases a better barometer of QB play than the current passer rating system the NFL uses.

Aaron Schaltz, Football Outsiders: Aaron is the Editor-in-Chief of Football Outsiders, which boasts on of the most interesting and revolutionary statistical methods to hit the NFL in a long time. The "DVOA" method is used by many fans and media folks to judge who is good and who sucks. You cannot read anything today without someone in the comments sections talking about Team X's DVOA. Aaron and Football Outsiders should have a vote, and unlike many others currently on the AP Voting panel, that vote would be backed up by some serious statistical analysis.


CONCLUSION

And thus, you have 18 very capable replacements for the dishonored, disgraced Cushing 18. Unlike the 18 schmucks who think cheating should be rewarded, it is my personal belief that these 18 potential replacements would have a better sense of what these rewards mean to the people who really care about them: The fans. I also think that these people would follow Peter King's suggested mandate: The no one should vote for a player or coach who has been suspended for performance-enhancing drugs or for masking agents for performance-enhancers.

Unlike baseball and basketball, football is truly America's Game. The reason more people watch football than any other sport is because people believe the game is "on the level." For the most part, they feel the outcome of the games happens solely on the field. It's not tilted one way or another because of things like steroids, a poor free agency system, inept league management, silly rules, etc.

To keep things that way, the people who cover the NFL, and who vote on player and coaching awards, must have standards that are in-line with what paying fans expect. If not, then fans will simply dismiss and disregard the sport, finding other things to spend their time and money on. Hopefully, the Associate Press sees the utter disaster caused by The Cushing 18, and understands it as a big red flag for the gentlemen who enabled and encouraged cheating in America's Game.

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