Lay­ing down the law right call for NFL

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather -

Some of what hap­pens in the NFL can seem so law­less, wan­ton even, that you al­most for­get the game has rules. But Roger Good­ell keeps on try­ing to re­mind ev­ery­body — with his fines, sus­pen­sions and ad­mon­ish­ments — that there re­ally are lim­its, that you re­ally can go too far.

Wed­nes­day he de­liv­ered his loud­est mes­sage yet, a mes­sage that all but screams: Can you hear me now? He knocked the New Or­leans Saints around, come to think of it, the way the Saints knocked Brett Favre around in the NFC ti­tle game two years ago, when they re­port­edly put a bounty on the famed quar­ter­back and went to un­usual lengths to in­ca­pac­i­tate him.

You might say the com­mis­sioner got a lit­tle an­gry. In fact, when he was mulling the penal­ties that were an­nounced Wed­nes­day, he prob­a­bly started rant­ing like John Belushi in “An­i­mal House”:

Gregg Wil­liams, the de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor who en­cour­aged the pay-for-pain scheme, is still alive, of course; but the erst­while Washington Red­skins as­sis­tant likely needed some smelling salts af­ter learn­ing he’s been sus­pended in­def­i­nitely — a year at least, but, given Max­i­mum Roger’s mood, pos­si­bly longer. Saints coach Sean Pay­ton also will sit out the com­ing sea­son, and gen­eral man­ager Mickey Loomis will be barred from his of­fice for the year.

And that’s not all. New Or­leans also lost two sec­ond-round draft picks, and the com­mis­sioner has yet to deal with the play­ers in­volved. By the time he’s done, the Saints might be re­duced to play­ing walk-ons.

Some will say the pun­ish­ment doesn’t fit

the crime, that NFL play­ers treat one an­other sav­agely whether they get bonuses for it or not. But there’s more than one crime here. Aside from the boun­ties — which have been pro­hib­ited for some time — the Saints were guilty of ly­ing to the league of­fice when the sub­ject was first broached with them in 2010, af­ter their Su­per Bowl win. In­sti­tu­tions, gen­er­ally speak­ing, don’t like to be lied to. Re­mem­ber when the NCAA got me­dieval on Bob Wade be­cause he wouldn’t come clean with them about vi­o­la­tions in the Mary­land bas­ket­ball pro­gram?

It’s hard to de­cide which is more loath­some, the ar­ro­gance of re­ward­ing play­ers for “egre­gious hits,” as the league calls them, or the ar­ro­gance of coaches and ad­min­is­tra­tors who act like they aren’t an­swer­able to

There’s a mega­lo­ma­nia at work in this sorry spec­ta­cle, a we-cando-any­thing-we-feel-like men­tal­ity that’s deeply trou­bling.

Any­way, it’s this kind of be­hav­ior that led to the Spy­gate fi­asco in New Eng­land, and now it’s raised an even big­ger stink, one that will linger all sea­son. It’s al­most in­con­ceiv­able that an NFL fran­chise could be this clue­less, could not rec­og­nize that se­ri­ous in­juries — con­cus­sions and the like — pose a dan­ger not just to the play­ers’ health but to the fi­nan­cial vi­a­bil­ity of the league. There’s no telling where these law­suits filed by dis­abled Nflers will lead . . . or what other suits might fol­low in their wake. Dam­ages could be in the hun­dreds of mil­lions, per­haps even more.

So the idea that this is just a grand­stand play by Good­ell, a dis­pro­por­tion­ate re­sponse to an age-old (though hush-hush) pro foot­ball cus­tom, is sim­ply mis­guided. If the com­mis­sioner didn’t throw a few thun­der­bolts, didn’t show zero tol­er­ance for such reck­less­ness, the league’s cred­i­bil­ity would have suf­fered. Yes, the game is, by def­i­ni­tion, vi­o­lent, but play­ers shouldn’t be of­fered in­cen­tives to ramp up that vi­o­lence, to make the vi­o­lence an end in it­self. Enough play­ers, af­ter all, are go­ing to be hurt, un­avoid­ably, on any given Sun­day.

Fifty years ago, two prom­i­nent NFL play­ers, Green Bay Pack­ers run­ning back Paul Hor­nung and Detroit Lions de­fen­sive tackle Alex Kar­ras, were caught bet­ting on games and were sus­pended for a year. For the com­mis­sioner back then, Pete Rozelle, it was a no-brainer. Noth­ing un­der­mines the le­git­i­macy of a sport more than the shadow of gam­bling. It’s in­ter­est­ing to note, though, that the in­ci­dent wasn’t a ca­reer-killer for ei­ther of the prin­ci­pals. Hor­nung re­turned to the Pack­ers, won two more cham­pi­onships and went on to the Hall of Fame. Kar­ras, mean­while, re­joined the Lions, was voted All-pro two sea­sons later and, af­ter his play­ing days were over, spent some time in the “Mon­day Night Foot­ball” booth.

Good­ell’s ver­dict is just as cut and dried. What the Saints did was rep­re­hen­si­ble and wrong. But as with Hor­nung and Kar­ras, it doesn’t have to ruin the lives of Wil­liams (who had al­ready moved on to St. Louis), Pay­ton, Loomis or any­body else who had the ham­mer dropped on them. What’s im­por­tant is that the com­mis­sioner’s rul­ing res­onates through­out the league — and that this never hap­pens again.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.