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Sunday, March 4, 2012

When the Saints Go Marching In...Watch Your Knees

One of our sixth-grade sons dreams of playing for the Dallas Cowboys someday. He says he would also play for the Patriots or the Lions, if he couldn't play for the Cowboys, because he knows the Cowboys might not need him right when he comes out of college.

Of course, he's as skinny as a rail. If he plays a college sport, it will probably be cross country, or golf, or maybe soccer, but I'll let him find that out in the teaching process that is middle school football.

There's a lot of press out there about the dangers of life in the NFL right now. You know, the wrongful death lawsuit that Dave Duerson's family filed against the league, because his team's doctors made him play right after concussions and overlooked symptoms of trouble. You know, the concussion problems in the league right now, with the players getting stronger and bigger and faster each year, leading to collisions that are more and more painful. You know, the fact that 352 players (an average of more than 11 for each team) went on injured reserve in 2010.

You know, the fact that the average career in the NFL lasts 3.5 seasons. But it takes 4 seasons of active service to qualify for a pension.

But this isn't about the dangers of fair play. Football players know what is facing them, and they still do it, thinking that they will beat the odds. As adults, that's their decision.

But what about teams that have coaches paying players to injure opponents? With different rewards for knockouts and for trips on the cart that carries off players who are unable to walk?

This is what the New Orleans Saints have been doing. In fact, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who now works for the Rams but who apparently set up this plan for the Saints and ran it, did it when he worked for the Redskins too. Saints owner Tom Benson has issued a public apology for the "findings" and says the Saints want to move past this as quickly as possible.

Most news reports indicate that Williams has also apologized, even though he has now done this with two teams. Likely punishments indicate that suspensions and fines are likely.

Saints coach Sean Payton apparently knew about this and did nothing to stop it. The Saints' general manager and others in the front office did too.

Here's a question. Why do these people still have jobs?

Pete Rose is banned from baseball FOR LIFE for betting on his own team. It is true that this could have affected his decision-making, and was clearly taboo.

What about bounties? They certainly affect player decision-making. They constitute premeditation -- which, in the investigation of crimes, adds to prison time. With murder, it adds the possibility of the death penalty.

So betting gets you kicked out for life. Offering people money to possibly end the careers of their colleagues, though, doesn't mean anything. Even if Gregg Williams is suspended, he's apologized, right?

Why are the St. Louis Rams even waiting five minutes to fire Gregg Williams? Why isn't this conduct grounds for termination? Why does Sean Payton still have a job? Why does anyone in the Saints' front office still have a job, if they knew about this?

Where is the outrage from the Saints' competition? Brett Favre, who was the likely target of many of the bounties, just shrugged the whole story off.

The only explanation that makes sense to Onlooker Slowdown is that every team has bounties, that payouts are part of the deal in every locker room. If it weren't, then the outcry would be harsh, and the firings would be swift.

The only question I have is, if this is what the NFL is, then why would my son even want to play? Give me Contador's tainted meat, Rose's betting slips, even Kermit Washington's punch. Don't give me a meat grinder in which players either get hurt too quickly to make their preparation worthwhile, or in which players "make it," only to retire with injuries that make the rest of their lives too painful, or too short, for them and their families to bear.

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