Today Roger Goodell leveled his suspensions of Saints players over the "Bounty Scandal". Jonathan Vilma will join his coach Sean Payton o the shelf for the entire year. Of course, ESPN, as the mouthpiece for the NFL, lauds this as a great and fair move. Discipline was in order, but when discipline is exacted for the purpose of "sending a message", rather than what it should be. I have a problem.
Any well read person on the history of the NFL knows that bounties, are not new. They are not novel, and they are not even restricted to the NFL. The Miami Hurricanes in the late 80's and early 90's received cash bonuses for big hits on opponents from a rapper. The discipline? The rapper was banned from the locker room. The Philadelphia Eagles under Buddy Ryan publicized similar behavior, as did the Raiders of yore. The game has grown faster, and with the NFL's increased admittance to the long term affects of multiple concussions, there is more awareness of "blows to the head". Other cheap shots, hitting low, or, in Trent Cole's case, a pectoral tearing bodyslam, are dealt with casually, unless, of course a high profile quarterback is hit below the waist.
This is not to say football isn't an increasingly violent game with damaging long term effects. That has been proven. Goodell has long been championing "player safety" with a laundry list of inconsistent suspensions that seem to be more based on who the player was that made the hit, who the player was who was hit, and how the media reacted to the hit, than any kind of fair and preset rules and disciplinary measures for hits. The bounty case seems to be the same thing. There is no precedence for this, but I would argue that its up to the commissioner, under his constant guise of player safety to, to have instituted, and or institute set penalties for set offenses. The bounty suspensions seem arbitrary and severe. I also think that, and I'm not doctor, the constant pounding of colliding helmets and hard impacts might lead to more long term effects than a single cheap shot. But, Goodell can't really point to a pulling guard smacking helmets with a linebacker filling a hole, its easier to point to Kam Chancellor annihilating a receiver because the quarterback floated a ball high across the middle and say, "This is illegal and dangerous".
Football, in itself is dangerous. It has the most lasting long term affects on the body and involves higher impacts than any other sport in the country. I think, that herein lies the root of all of this.
The more public the lasting effects of football appear to be, the less inclinded a parent will be to sign the release form for a child to play football. A parent would be more inclined to lead them toward basketball, a game vicious on the knees and back, but relatively harmless to the brain. I think Goodell realizes this, and has realized this. And is on a mission to clean up the "image" of the game. He is hell bent on "protecting the shield". The NFL is a monster, but for how long? When the talented athletes pursue other sports, what is left? The quality of the product increases, and the NFL has lost its stranglehold on the sporting public, and more importantly, the consuming arm of it. I hesitate to state that his actions are rooted in the best interests of the players, it seems to me that he's acting more to protect the image of his product, and the future of his product. A sound business move, but a little soulless? Perhaps.
A friend of mine emailed this to me a few years ago, after Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell had a debate about the future of the NFL, and it has stuck with me ever since.
""The game is going to die from the ground up." Ominous words from Gladwell about the future of football.
This is completely true too. Mom's of today who care about their kids just a little are buying an preventing them from fun. One of these reasons is the market. Safety is selling. It is becoming an industry standard to be safe, and charge more because of it. Just how companies are profiting by being and selling 'green.' So moms will pull kids from football. Its not going to be an epidemic and happen all at once, but... it is scary when you consider the full ramifications."