In a sport whose anthem is “Hit ‘em again, hit ‘em again, hit ‘em again harder!” is it any wonder football players would be rewarded with money for injuring the opponent?
That’s the big buzz in NFL world right now. Gregg Williams, former Saints defensive coordinator, now defensive dude for the Rams, instituted a bounty system whereby football players are paid thousands for hitting an opponent hard enough to take him out of the game. Some people, sports people, primarily, are outraged!
Everyone knows that from pee wee football on up to professional, the defense is rewarded, perhaps not always monetarily, by hitting opponents with everything they’ve got. (I say “everyone”, knowing full well I’ll be beaned for this gross generalization.) I, the football-hater, will make that claim for the sake of this argument. In fact, everything I’m going to write that follows comes from the perspective of a non football fan, one who loathes the game, actually, and would much prefer seeing men building things, like a fully plumbed new wing to my house.
Football teams don’t recruit men to play defense who look like the figure skater, Brian Boitano. Sure, the recruiters and the coaches look at a football player’s stats but their eyes move quickly to the box that lists weight and height. Bigger is better. Tyrannosaurus Rex-gargantuan—even better.
Gregg Williams, a man with moobs, (really, look at the photo!), ran the bounty program. I heard a snippet of his conversation about wimps and toughness in football on NPR the other morning. According to Williams, he urged his youngster’s coaches to let them play rough and hard, because, after all, that is the only thing that will make a young boy a man.
But here’s the thing, as one sports columnist says, “Nothing Goodell [the sport’s commissioner] does when he takes the proverbial helmet to the chest of the Saints for their pay-for-pain program will change the mindset every football player brings onto the field for survival.”
He goes on to say: “By definition football requires players attack with intent to harm. But all participants commonly accept injuries that occur in the context of those collisions happen incidentally — not intentionally from someone receiving extra cash for a hit that requires medical attention.”
So, the difference is that the arrangement created by Williams had a monetary component? There have never been any other rewards in the history of the game to celebrate the targeting of one player against another? Oh, I so doubt it. The Saints just got busted, that’s all. Rewards don’t have to be monetary. They can and do include trips to sunny tropical places and a nice car or two.
And there’s a difference between incidental injury and intentional injury in the defensive game of football? Well, perhaps most of the time there is. But not all the time.
And ironically, this bounty for brutality scandal comes at a time when football teams are dealing with lawsuits related to head injuries, something all too common in the game. We’re not talking about a bruise to the forehead, either. We’re talking about injuries that affect a player long after he hangs up his gear—injuries that destroy memory, cognitive ability, balance, and so on.
The game is violent and rough. It always will be. In a sport where coaches are picking players for their hulk and heft serious injuries are always inevitable. But, I contend they are also often intentional. The messages start early on in a boy’s life, among boys who want to play football, delivered by coaches who desperately want to win.
My suggestion? Most of you football fanatics can ignore this. Ignore the entire post if you wish. But I suggest more padding. Lots more. Gear the guys up so they look like human versions of the Michelin Man. Fashion their armor, head and body, out of dense foam rubber surrounding a full body suit of Jello.
Then, when two mighty ships clash on the field, there will be bouncing—joyful, hilarious bouncing, as seen in the movie, “Absent Minded-Professor.”
That’ll get me to watch football.