Playing Dirty: Was the Saints’ Bounty Scheme Just Football as Usual?


For sheer elegance, you can’t beat the Irish when it comes to writing about American sports. Here’s Cormac Eklof of on the NFL’s bounty scandal:

“Goodness me, the New Orleans Saints have landed themselves in quite the juicy pickle. The NFL is basically, at this moment, winding up Popeye-style to deliver a debilitating haymaker right in the Saints’ kisser.”

He goes on, saying: “Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, is this week meeting with his minions to decide the punishment for the Saints’ ‘bounty scheme’ where they paid out extra dollars to player who injured and/or sidelined opposition players.”

Eklof asks an intriguing question with a video to supplement it: Was the hit on Peyton Manning part of the bounty scheme implemented by Gregg Williams, the Saints’ defensive coordinator from 2009-2011? This whack on Peyton occurred on Oct. 22, 2006, when Williams was defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins. (Williams is now defensive coordinator for the St. Louis Rams.)

Is it a cheap shot? Does the blitzer spear Manning with his helmet? Or is it a clean hit? It’s hard to tell from this video, but it strikes me that that is the only important question about the play — in fact, the only important question in this entire “bounty” issue: Is the defensive player guilty of a cheap shot or was it a legitimate hit?

In the case of a cheap shot, the player should be fined and suspended. But if not, what’s the fuss about? Are we pretending that taking another player out of the game — especially a key player like a quarterback — isn’t what a defensive player is supposed to be doing in any and all situations? What exactly does a “bounty” add to the stew?

Are you honestly telling me that a free safety who’s earning $4 mil a season will refrain from hitting a receiver across the middle as hard as he can if he’s not rewarded with an extra $5000 in cash?

A great many commentators have jumped on what they believe is the moral high ground in this issue without stopping to think what football really is.

In investigating the so-called bounty system, Commissioner Goodell and his staff should be concerned with only one thing: Was it a clean hit or dirty?

Anything else is just football.