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You have to hand it to the National Football League. No other organization has such a gift for turning a molehill into Mount Vesuvius.

Currently, the league is wrestling with two points of contention.

First is the ongoing fuss over what to do during a three-minute, patriotic musical interlude before games. Second is curbing violent, brain-damaging blows to the head with the helmet.

Pretty straightforward, right? And yet, does anyone get what we are doing?

The national anthem flap is inexcusable. This is a controversy that we saw coming from miles down the track, bells ringing, whistle blowing and lights flashing. And yet, NFL owners managed to be surprised.

In October, Commissioner Roger Goodell sent out a memo saying, “We need to move past this controversy.”

The problem is, as we’ve learned, nobody listens to Goodell. President Donald Trump cranked up his Tweeter and doubled down on his “get those SOBs off the field.”

Now Trump says players should be suspended for the season if they kneel during the anthem. But that’s just what he does — sends out a scattershot dog whistle and moves on.

The problem was the NFL owners, who showed all the restraint and decorum of toddlers at a birthday party — after the ice cream.

For starters, in May the owners voted “unanimously” to create an anthem policy out of thin air, requiring players to stand if they are on the field, or stay in the locker room if they disagree with the policy.

First, it wasn’t unanimous because 49ers owner Jed York abstained (well done, Jed). And second, they call it a collective bargaining agreement for a reason. You are supposed to negotiate this stuff.

Then some owners went rogue in support of their players. New York Jets co-owner Christopher Johnson said his team would pay any player fines. Atlanta owner Arthur Blank chimed in to say, correctly, that players have the right to speak up against social injustice.

On the other side, the Miami Dolphins issued a policy that appeared to support suspending kneeling players. And that was followed by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, a $1 million donor to the Trump campaign, thundering that his team would be standing, “toes on the line.” And Jerry’s son, Stephen, implied kneeling players would be off the team.

In reply, the NFL did take one positive step. It sent Jones a message. I believe the exact legal phrase was, “Jerry, shut your pie hole.” Until further notice, Jones is no longer commenting on the anthem.

Amid the confusion, the “unanimous” anthem policy is on hold. Some owners are supporting the players. But the majority are taking the kind of our-way-or-the-highway, tone-deaf line that reinforces the idea that they think they own their team and the players. It’s not just dumb. It’s ugly.

And here’s the deal. This was well on the way to being solved last year. Some players knelt, some didn’t. The moment was given quick pre-game coverage on TV and then we went on to kickoff. The point was made by protesters and the Republic did not crumble.

And then a couple of grandstanders — Trump and Jones — rekindled this whole dumpster fire. And now it may be worse than ever.

Then there is the helmet rule controversy. Even when the NFL tries to do the right thing, it can’t get its act together.

No one disagrees that these violent head shots are crippling and disabling NFL players. And we’d like to get them out of the game.

So the new rule, making it a foul to contact another player head-first, should be applauded. If only we could figure out what it is.

Is this really meant to apply to the line of scrimmage, where helmets clash on every play? And what about running backs plunging into the line on a short yardage? Are they expected to keep their heads up?

We’re already hearing from gridiron Chicken Littles who say this is the beginning of the end of football.

Which is silly. Except ...

As you may have noticed, NFL rules officials tend to be pinch-faced, hair-splitting pendants, who can spend hours reviewing video of elbow angle and ball security.

Remember the endless debate on what is and is not a catch? At one point a team of astrophysicists was sent in to clear things up with the rules committee. After three hours they ran out of the room screaming, “We don’t know what a catch is and we can’t talk about it any more.”

OK, that may not have happened. But it could have.

The point is the helmet rule is going to be tricky. And if every tackle turns into a debate on helmet metrics, the battle is lost.

We all know what we want to stop. It is the unprotected wide receiver getting blindsided, helmet to helmet, by a hit that makes everyone a little sick to their stomach.

That’s the new rule and that’s what should be called. And if flagrant, it should result in ejection. Immediately.

Yet there are already howls — and expect more — from old-school mossbacks who think that ruins the game.

It’s a funny league, the NFL. They want to suspend a player for kneeling but not for causing a brain injury.

But don’t worry. Plenty of time to discuss this. It’s the NFL. This could drag on all year.

Contact C.W. Nevius at cw.nevius@pressdemocrat.com. Twitter: @cwnevius

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