May 20th, 2012
Bounties…Concussions…Suicides…Suspensions…Investigations…Charges…Counter charges…Lawsuits…Threats…Allegations…Dogs and cats living together.
You are a fan. No, scratch that. You are a rabid, loyal, frothing-at-the mouth faithful follower of the National Football League. And you have spent the last several weeks bottling up a myriad of emotions.
Exasperation…Indignation…Anger…Betrayal. They’re all at the forefront, pointed in the direction of those who are undoubtedly seeking to destroy what is more than a mere game, rather an integral part of existence itself.
For some unfathomable reason, those charged with the care and growth of the NFL are seemingly on a destructive path to changing this passion into something only Momma’s boys and politically correct, non-violent, thumb-suckers would enjoy.
In light of the New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, you are steadfast in certain conclusions and convictions.
Beginning with the undeniable fact that Roger Goodell must be a blithering idiot. After all, is it not obvious, what with all the wildly questionable and undoubtedly mentally unstable decisions he’s made recently?
Goodell is at the forefront of the single biggest individual and collective manhunt in professional sports history. Based solely and obviously on flawed third- and fourth-party hearsay, he has laid waste to the careers of several notable veteran players and coaches.
We know this all to be true because, as several of the players themselves have told us, Goodell and the NFL don’t have nearly enough evidence to press their punishments for the New Orleans Saints bounty system. All they’re relying on is rumor, rumbles, disgruntled coaches, liars, cheats, gypsies, tramps and thieves.
First, there’s this “Bountygate” nonsense. Everyone knows NFL players have been placing cash on the heads of opponents for years. In the 50s and 60s, it might have been what kept most of the players from having to cash in food stamps during the offseason. Goodell knows it, and he only got involved as a way to cover his assets, keep the PC-cautious sponsors happy and insure neither he nor any of the ownership cabal lose a single fat paycheck.
That audio tape purportedly featuring Gregg Williams demanding the dismemberment of opposing players? Taken completely out of context and in every stretch by those who have never played the game, or at the very least, weren’t very good at it. That was nothing more than motivation designed to stoke the Saints to a victory. It happens before every game and at every level of sports.
As for the so-called “case” against Vilma, where is all this evidence he was the leader of that bounty program in the Saints locker room? Why hasn’t the NFL turned over this mysteriously missing evidence to the players union? The answers are simple. The evidence is flimsy, at best, and Goodell knows the only way for this witch hunt to succeed is to keep those accused swinging in the wind.
All of the video and audio evidence released thus far is either not germane to the case, is taken out of context or could have (and likely was) edited to make it seem certain people were guilty. Every investigation, story and comment from any member of the media has no merit because they’ve all been bought off by the NFL.
OK. Step back for a moment. Sit down. Close your eyes. Breathe.
Feel better? You should. After all, there’s nothing more cathartic than a good verbal and mental venting.
Even if it does no substantive good because it’s not even close to reality.
While there is no doubt Jonathan Vilma is an excellent football player, the filing of a lawsuit against Goodell and the NFL reveals his prowess, and his sense of smarts leaves much to be desired. In other words, Vilma is the kind of person a legal hack seeking to make a name for himself fantasizes about walking into the office:
The client that can be manipulated into believing they have an actual case. Who can not only win, but at the end of the day, be seen as a shining example of one who can slay the mighty corporate overlord and become a beacon of hope to fellow downtrodden and exploited workers.
You’re a solid fan of the NFL, maybe the New Orleans Saints, and perhaps, even Vilma. But seriously, you’re not falling for this.
Roger Goodell leads the NFL—one of the most powerful sports conglomerations on the third rock from the sun. As such, they have the financial wherewithal to hire the best investigators to look into the tiniest nook and cranny of every life.
Their army of attorneys are the finest money, and a few well-placed Super Bowl tickets, can buy. These are the kind of lawyers that powerful men and women listen to without pause. The type of barristers insuring that a client rarely, if ever, would go public with punishment unless they knew every legal phrase and syllable had been accounted for and could be proved with rock-hard evidence.
Because they are the people in charge of the greatest sports cash-printing machine America has ever known. And there’s absolutely no reason to conceive they would throw a wrench into those gears out of something as inane as spite or ego.
As in most cases such as these, evidence always seems to be the last thing considered. All the wailing and gnashing of teeth defending the innocence of those busted conveniently overlook the statements of U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, who has seen the NFL’s case and noted there were MADE me do it” defense), see nothing wrong with what they did because it’s just part of doing business, (the classic “Everybody ELSE is doing it” defense) or there’s no way someone with any measure of fame would ever consider doing something so underhanded and morally wrong, (forever known as either the OJ Simpson or Bernie Madoff defense, take your pick).
It’s not as if “Bountygate” happened overnight or Gregg Williams was a one-time shot or Sean Payton only heard about something going on in the locker room from the janitor or Vilma and plenty of other players were caught completely by surprise when someone found out about their grotesque side bets.
It may be hard to see thru the haze and smoke of fantasy leagues, point spreads and foam “No. 1” fingers, but Goodell is doing exactly what a commissioner should—hold a hard line on rules—exact a heavy punishment toll on players, coaches, GM’s, and perhaps, even owners who threaten that popularity and sully the reputation of their on-the-field peers who can play within the rules without excuses and cleaning up the messes left lying under numerous rugs by predecessors.
If his evidence then is as solid as he believes it is, then Roger Goodell has a responsibility to the game, the players, the coaches, and most importantly, the fans to stay resolute in meting out harsh and definitive punishment.
Those found guilty then have a similar responsibility to all of the above to take their punishment, serve their sentence, and then, take whatever steps afforded them to apologize and bring a sense of integrity back to themselves and their peers.
Do the crime, do the time.
Because falling back on “the dog ate my homework” just won’t cut it anymore.
Ed Berliner’s daily commentary on the NFL can be read at “Sports Media Masters” (http://sportsmediamasters.com), the only place on the web to get complete local and national coverage of the NFL from local beat reporters to sports radio stations in every major market.
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