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Sellner: A grab bag of this week’s hottest sports topics

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Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian

Here are some takeaways from a busy week in the sports world.

Let’s start with Peyton Manning, who was medically cleared to play on Monday after an examination of his neck, pointing toward another year of chess games at the line of scrimmage and an absurd amount of “Omaha’s.”

It’s a relief that Manning is coming back for another season. Hate him or love him, the NFL needs the drama that follows No. 18, the greatest statistical quarterback of all-time. What would talk shows, particularly those in the Boston market, have to discuss if Manning hung up his cleats? Not to mention, it’d be an anticlimactic end to a Hall of Fame career if the last memory we have of Manning is him chasing after a fumble at the start of an embarrassing effort in the Super Bowl.

Let’s also consider just how bad the AFC would be next year if Manning weren’t to play. Somewhere, Roger Goodell is smiling. And all NFL fans should be too …

Sticking with the NFL, there have been reports that the league is considering a rule where the use of the “N” word on the field would result in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty.

The proposed rule comes in light of some disturbing stories involving players using the word, including Washington Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams claiming that an official directed the slur at him during a game last season.

In theory, this rule change might sound like a good idea. I disagree.

I’m all for trying to rid the game of the racial slur. It’s a demoralizing word that symbolizes a horrific part of American history and doesn’t belong in our society. But this should be up to the players to police, not the officials. They have enough policing to do that monitoring the language being used makes the NFL look more like a high school classroom than a gridiron of grown men.

Be a man. Don’t use the word.

Fans are already outraged when their teams are flagged for hits to the helmet or any other ticky-tack penalties designed around player safety. Can you imagine the outrage if a game is decided in the fourth quarter because a drive was extended on a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for uttering the “N” word?

And say a player harasses an opponent for an entire game but doesn’t use the word, and finally the opponent reacts by uttering the word and gets flagged. Is the instigator not worthy of a flag as well for starting it? Pretty soon Goodell is going to have to put his principal hat on and field questions over who started it.

The NFL doesn’t need this potential controversy. The players have the power to stop it, and they should …

And it wouldn’t be a weekly column if we didn’t talk about the Massachusetts men’s basketball team, would it?

The Minutemen (22-6, 9-5 Atlantic 10) sit in fourth place in the conference, putting them in the driver’s seat for a bye into the quarterfinals of the A-10 Tournament in Brooklyn.
The bye is obviously a huge motivation for UMass, which didn’t have the bye last year and had to subject itself to a tough win over George Washington in the previous round before its upset over Temple in the quarterfinals. By the time the Minutemen got to the semifinals against Virginia Commonwealth, they looked like they ran out of gas, particularly in the closing minutes of the game where the team simply looked spent.

That extra day of rest is critical to UMass’ chances of advancing in the tournament, making its final two regular season games all the more important. The Minutemen travel to Duquesne on Wednesday night and host first place and No. 17 Saint Louis on Sunday afternoon.

George Washington (21-7, 9-5 A-10), Dayton (20-9, 8-6 A-10) and Richmond (18-11, 8-6) are still in a play for the fourth seed if UMass drops both games this week.

Stephen Sellner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Stephen_Sellner.

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