Assuming there are no yet-to-be-released videos of Gregg Williams diagraming the best way to concuss an opponent, the Saints bounty story should fade into the background of the sports media cycle until draft day. If the media coverage of the Saints controversy tells us anything its the absolute dominance of football in the sporting landscape. When you get past all the heat and light around this story it stands as a testament that even fairly uneventful news about football can became backpage headline news.
Reading Bill Simmons piece on Grantland about the now infamous Gregg Williams audio has convinced me once again that giving Simmons a place for him and his people to do their thing was genius. The substance and tone of Simmons’ piece really capture the banality of the entire story, and the mostly ridiculous coverage on the part of Grantland’s corporate parent. Simmons made a good point noting the incongruity of ESPN adopting such a tut-tutting tone when they were just a few years removed from reveling in “jacked up!” segements. He could’ve gone on to mention the big hits that make their way onto top plays during the season, or how lightly the Ravens bounty situation was treated in 2008. I can still remember the PTI guys and Hines Ward having a big laugh over the bounty situation then.
Obviously with all the emphasis on player saftey, no one wants to be the guy who says its ok to have bounties, but am I really supposed to believe that Teddy Bruschi and Darren Woodson (who both said Williams made a “mistake”) never took part in anything similar? Further, anyone who has ever been in a football locker room from the High School level up knows that if a report comes out saying X player is injured, their opponent will target that injury. I am willing to bet if you had audio of every game for every team, you could find similar coach-speak for all 32 franchies.
Yahoo! Sports has to also get a dunce cap for running a frontpage story with the headline “Character Change” quoting one random Bills player saying he was a “soft” coach. As the article mentions there have been reports of a bounty program in Bufallo, we know for sure Williams ran a bounty program in DC and NO, doesn’t that at least warrant a question mark in the title? Blah, Blah, Blah, 24 hour news cycle and all that, but cmon.
The point being if the whole thing is such an outrage, why exactly is there not a major media push to find out why the Ravens faced no comprable action when one of their central defensive players admitted they had a bounty on Hines Ward, as well as admitting that they delibertly targeted Reggie Bush’s injured ankle (“we put some hot sauce on that ankle”)? Maybe the real story here is Roger Goodells Judge Dredd Act as commissioner where punishments are often nonsensical and reactionary to the extreme.
While there is always criticism of Goodell’s particular punishments, every media outlet seems to be on the player saftey bandwagon. Not surprising of course because no one wants to see anyone get hurt. Yet how is it that in a league where people are paid to hurt people, they can get suspended for a year for urging their players to get paid more for hurting people? In any other profession that would be called a performance bonus. This is the kind of thing that may get mentioned in passing, but is never deeply interogated. Instead of faux morality plays, and thinly sourced blog-traffic creators, we should be looking not just at particular punishments and policies, but the broader moral questions surrounding player saftey. This is a violent game, we like it that way, where is the line between player saftey and self-righteous, feel-good, hypocricsy?
Finally though kudos to Mike Florio from ProFootballTalk.com who on The Dan Patrick Show pointed out the sad irony that the audio of Williams was recorded in the course of a documentary on Steve Gleason, whose ALS may have been caused by blows to the head recieved during his playing career. Damn.