Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bleachers' Brew #303 Bountygate: what comes around goes around

This appears in the Monday, March 26, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.

Bountygate: what comes around goes around.

by rick olivares cartoon by

Embattled National Football League coach Gregg Williams and company are about to find out that what goes around comes around. Williams ran a bounty fund with his former team, the New Orleans Saints, where defensive players were paid to injure opposing players. There is even speculation that he ran a similar program during his tenure with the Washington Redskins from 2004-2007. The fact that he initially denied that the allegations only to later admit to running it begs the question, “Has he run this elsewhere and did the head coaches have knowledge of the bounty?”

It was certainly disappointing to see New Orleans head coach Sean Payton attempt to cover up the scheme and general manager Mickey Loomis fail to end it despite being told by the team’s ownership to do so, hence, warranting the most severe sanctions ever levied upon a team in the NFL -- Williams was suspended indefinitely, Payton for one season, and Loomis for eight matches.

What makes it even worse is how poor the team’s management has responded to this issue that from the very beginning of its inception, is a landmine of disastrous proportions. Bountygate is to pro American Football what the Penn State sexual abuse scandal is to the college version.

With Bountygate far from over (I believe that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t done levying fines and suspensions to the New Orleans Saints players), I am wondering if the Saints are the only ones that play bounties. And furthermore, will the other teams try to get back at the Saints now that they’ve been busted for their dirty play. One thing is for sure, the league will be scrutinizing every dirty and rough play with eagle eyes.

Rough play has always been a part of the NFL and that certainly begets dirty play. Some say it’s part of the game and I’m going to have to quote former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon here: “You get hit legally, it’s part of the game. You get mugged, it’s not part of the game.”
Charles Martin after he leveled Jim McMahon.

And McMahon was referring to the illegal hit by the late Green Bay Packer Charles Martin on him during a November 1986 game (Week 12 at Soldier Field) where the defensive end body slammed the Chicago QB two seconds after the play had ended. McMahon was already playing hurt and although he finished the game, a 12-10 victory for the Bears, he was out after that and battled a series of recurring injuries. What caught me then was seeing martin’s towel that was dangling from his game pants. Written on the towel were players that Martin (and maybe the other Packers were gunning for) – McMahon, wide receivers Willie Gault and Dennis Gentry, running back Walter Payton, and center Jay Hilgenberg. Martin was sent off and levied a two-match suspension and a $15,000 fine (that was huge back then). McMahon would battle a series of injuries over the remainder of his career. Ironically, he won a second Super Bowl title as a part of the 1996 Green Bay Packers.

I always thought that the game was about scoring touchdowns and winning bowls. As the case of Bountygate was discussed, a decision by the US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals during a similar incident in 1977 ruled, “ The general rules of football do not include deliberately attempting to injure opposing players.”

If there were injuries along the way, they were unfortunate incidents. The sight of seeing Washington QB Joe Theismann going down and breaking his leg after a sack by New York Giant LB Lawrence Taylor and getting piled on by Harry Carson and Gary Reasons is sickening. Theismann never played another down in his life but he never blamed Taylor for what happened.

Bountygate is something altogether different. It is the work of sick minds. So much for sportsmanship when you are trying to take someone away from their livelihood. And NFL Network analyst Warren Sapp (who himself was the subject of many a fine for his rough play) is upset that there was a snitch? He looks like those idiot Packers who high-fived Charles Martin after he put Jim McMahon to the turf. A snitch inside the locker room is not welcome but so is Bountygate that breaks an unwritten code for players where you do not try to end another's career. Is Sapp trying to infer that Bountygate is okay? Can someone take out… Sapp’s social media networks?

I applaud Roger Goodell for the stiff penalties on the Saints. The sad thing is Bountygate began during the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl season and that somewhat taints the victory. That was one of the all-time great wins in NFL history and for the state of Louisiana. It's a feel good story post-Hurricane Katrina.

However, reading the investigative report on Bountygate just makes me sick and if the victims of these vicious and dirty hits take legal action then it is deserved. And now there are words of regret from Payton and Williams? If they weren’t caught I’m going to bet that they wouldn’t be as contrite. The NFL has been beset by many of these suits of late and no doubt, Goodell will want to end this bounty system. Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely. I hope he has saved a lot of money because he’ll be blitzed by a bunch of suits carrying lawsuits.

And when these players who participated in Bountygate are revealed, it is going to be much worse for them than Charles Martin’s hit list on a towel.

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