Archive for March 22, 2012
Today’s Game of the Day
Greenwood Village Cherry Creek (Colo.) at Colorado Springs Air Academy (Colo.)
Last year, Cherry Creek ended the Kadets’ season in the state final by a score of 16-11. Both teams have been throwing in goals in bunches thus far in 2012; this should be fun to watch.
Yesterday, the National Football League handed down some of the harchest administrative penalties in any athletic or sporting competition anywhere, at any time, for the New Orleans Saints’ participation in a program that offered cash rewards for big plays, including ones that rendered opponents too injured to continue playing.
The concept of rewarding a member of a team for a good play has been around for generations. The rewards could be the favor of the coach to get more playing time, or it could be something like the helmet sticker — buckeye stickers for Ohio State, tomahawks for Florida State.
It has spread around to many sports — getting a game ball, getting a starting position after working hard in practice the previous week.
In professional football, the cash “bounty” has been around for years. It first surfaced in a game in 1989, when accusations of money being paid to incapacitate opponents being made by Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson.
But there has been a recent investigation into the behavior of the Saints the last three seasons. What caught the league’s attention was the number of roughing-the-passer and unnecessary roughness penalties that the team was getting called for.
It was a system that the team denied ever existed, which I’m sure is going to be the NFL’s justification for its suspensions — an indefinite (and possibly lifetime) suspension of assistant coach Gregg Williams, a year’s suspension for head coach Sean Payton, a half-year suspension for general manager Mickey Loomis, and a six-game suspension for assistant coach Joe Vitt.
Behind the suspension, I think, is also a great fear that any weakness on the part of the NFL in handing out punishment is going to affect the several lawsuits seeking damages as the result of concussions and other football-related illnesses and injuries over the years.
Now, at least 22 current players and as many as 27 could face any number of fines and suspensions coming out of the Saints’ punishment, which threatens to overshadow other recent sports scandals such as the college point-shaving scandals of the 50s and 80s, doping enforcement in track and cycling during the post-Armstrong era, the theft of secrets in Formula 1 racing, and match-fixing in soccer and cricket.
Here’s what I don’t get, however. What if a player on a sports team devises way of incapacitating players on an opposing team and you don’t have a bounty program to give or receive awards?
I was talking a few years ago with a prominent women’s lacrosse player, who let on that one secret to her success was to do something akin to the bounty program.
“If you hit a player from one of the prep schools on the hands,” she told me, “they won’t be a problem the rest of the game. They’re soft and wonder if you’ve broken one of their nails.”
This was in an era when the sticks were made of mulberry, mind you.
It’s a way to incapacitate an opponent. But do you penalize a team for repeatedly rapping the knuckles of other teams in the hopes of breaking a bone in their hands?
I’ll therefore be interested to see of these penalties in the NFL will stand up for the integrity of the sport or stand as a monument to overreaction.