How the mighty have fallen.
Once the NFL's feel-good story of the year and the team everyone was rooting for, the New Orleans Saints have taken it on the chin. Story here.
One would be hard to pressed to defend the idea of placing a bounty on opposing teams' players--especially if they were carted off the field due to injury. One would be hard pressed to defend lying to the NFL. Such things are quite inexcusable in my opinion.
I played football. I had a lot of fun doing so. Did I absolutely try to knock the snot out of players on the other team? Yep. Did I say some oohs and aaahs when watching film and seeing tremendous hits doled out by my teammates? Yep. Did I laugh when players of the other team took a massive shot from one of my teammates? Yep again. Did I or any of my teammates ever intentionally try to hurt an opposing player? Nope. Did we ever discuss trying to hurt another player? Nope. There was something not very sportsman-like about such things.
I mean, I can't necessarily speak for all my teammates, but I always wanted to play the other team at full strength. I didn't ever want to win a game because another player got injured. I wanted to win a game because we deserved to win. I wanted to win a game because we outplayed the other team. If I knocked someone down, I was always willing to give them a hand up. I tried to play by the rules and didn't try to do things illegally. I wanted to be a good sport. It wasn't win at all costs.
The bounty scandal and punishment handed down to the Saints is just a symptom of a larger problem with the NFL. The league is in league with money and winning--not sportsmanship; not player safety; not entertainment. In many ways, football has become a religion for the masses who follow it, and you only need to go to a game to see the true fanatics and followers of the religion.
When something gets taken so seriously; when winning at all costs becomes the chief motivation to get money, things like bounty scandals happen. Things like Spygate happen. Players place themselves in harm's way more often to satisfy the masses and the owners. Sportsmanship becomes secondary or tertiary. Love of the game becomes a business.
Of course, Roger Goodell has to try and give some semblance to making the game about the right things, but does anyone seriously believe this will make a dent? You don't treat an ingrown toe nail with amputation (which is what I believe the Saint's punishment is). You have to treat the real problem. The NFL is in serious need of a heart transplant. Yes, I believe it needs a change of heart.
Unfortunately, there is not much in our society which is geared toward such things. We clamor for money, for power, for fame and fortune. We don't clamor for being good people. We don't clamor for character and honesty and decency. We give lip service to such things, but in reality we're more concerned with making sure we are comfortable and then telling everyone else how to live. In short, we're not very saintly.