A Simpler Time (to Pay Players to Hurt Other Players)

Three thoughts came to mind when I heard the shocking news about the New Orleans Saints bounty fallout today:

1. All of the penalties seemed to be some degree of excessive.  Sean Payton being suspended for a full year is a little much, but the Mickey Loomis half-season suspension is the most absurd.  Payton and (especially) Gregg Williams don’t strike me as coaches who would be particularly receptive to a front-office person telling them how to run their team, even if he’s doing so on orders from the league via the franchise owner.

2. More surprising than the penalties was the lockstep march of the media in support of the harsh action by Roger Goodell and company.  The sycophancy gold medal goes to Christine Brennan, who suggested that Goodell’s iron-fisted treatment of the Saints is not unlike the famous Kennesaw Mountain Landis decision to banish the Black Sox from baseball. Brennan even goes as far as to hint that Goodell will be remembered as a legendary(!) figure a century(!!!) from now if he remains committed to righteousness.

3. If Goodell had been the commissioner of the NFL in 1989, what would he have done about Buddy Ryan?  Banned him for life?  Ordered a public beheading?  Banned him for life and then ordered a public beheading?

For those who don’t recall the Bounty Bowl, take a look at the videos below.  Note that Ryan’s instruction to go after the Dallas kicker was more brazen than anything the Saints did.  More importantly, notice that, despite Jimmy Johnson’s annoyance with the situation (and with his then-terrible team), the media and the league showed far less outrage (or mock outrage) about the episode:



Brent Musburger is downright amused by the whole thing.  Everyone (including Mike Ditka) plays it tongue-in-cheek.  Not so in 2012.

It’s easy to say that it was just a different era then, but, even when the issue came up quite recently (but before the Saints story broke), no one seemed all that concerned with it:



So, what did happen to Buddy Ryan?

Nothing.

A league investigation was inconclusive, leaving Johnson’s allegations unproven, and Ryan punishment-free.

Just a year later, this happened.  Not that there was anything dirty about the Body Bag Game, per se.

Of course, in looking at the Saints’ current predicament, nearly every one of the hits in question was a legal football play, not, as much of the media would have us believe, a gratuitous attempt to injure someone.

The NFL’s biggest concern back in ’89 wasn’t even with the desire to hurt players intentionally, but, rather, the issue of “non-contractual compensation,” something for which the 49ers had been chided just a couple of years earlier.

That’s not the case today, as the Saints will likely have their season dramatically damaged by today’s league crackdown on “bounties,” coupled with the forthcoming suspensions of individual players.  The timing is especially painful in light of the fact that this season’s Super Bowl will take place in New Orleans.

Speaking of Super Bowl XLVII, I was so flustered by the crippling sentence meted out by the commissioner that I was almost too distracted to follow the simultaneous news about the New York Jets landing the future MVP of that game.

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