Readers of this site know I have taken a very low-key approach to the news of the New Orleans Saints‘ “Bountygate” situation. I have taken the position you would be naive to think this hasn’t been going on elsewhere for ages…it just happened someone actually brought it to light with the wrong guy in charge…or the right guy, depending on your stance.
We can argue about the tentacles of this activity and how far it went “up” the ladder from the locker room to the coaches’ room…how elaborate this “system” was.
But the stunning, historic penalties Roger Goodell announced today…in deciding the Saints crossed a very important line in his mind…cross a much more important one in mine.
Suspensions of this nature have a collateral effect on the innocent as well as the guilty. These decisions affect an entire franchise and its fans. They have a domino effect that will impact the upcoming NFL season in a number of ways.
This Commissioner’s body of work has, with lightning-fast speed, proven beyond all doubt he wants his legacy to be the man who sanitized professional football. He is not just happy with rewriting the eternal rules of hitting and tackling, working to remove the very essence of what most of us enjoy about the game…putting your opponent on the ground as hard, as effectively…and as quickly as possible.
Now he’s reaching into the backrooms of the sport, trying to decide how players can and cannot “get up” for games. How they get motivated…to do exactly what we like them to do…hit people hard and often. Violent men play a violent game. At least that’s how it used to be…
The league has rules about this sort of thing. So you decide a violation has occurred and make a reasonable ruling. You do not simultaneously alter the competitiveness of an organization and also set a massive precedent that…God forbid these rules be broken again…demand a greater penalty. Suspend a franchise from the league?
Next, he will start trying to fine the NFL’s broadcast partners when one of their announcers suggests opponents “go after” an injured…or simply a star…player. Perhaps the first time a television analyst suggests a defense hit Peyton Manning high to take advantage of his neck injury, Goodell will look to take them off the air for a year.
How far is he going to go unchecked making tackle football into flag football? Am I the only one who sees a full-on dictator invoking his unique agenda which runs counter to how his sport is actively packaged, sold and consumed?
Be careful what you wish for Roger.