By In Stuff

Bounty Hunters

If you don’t care about the Saints bounty hunting story — barely even see it as as story — you might as well stop reading now. I know that includes a lot of people. I know there is a strong belief that just about every team in the NFL does this sort of thing, and I suspect that’s true (already there is talk of investigating other teams). I know that to be appalled by the Saints story is to be absurdly naive. I know that pro football is a rough and vicious game, that hurting other players is both a natural repercussion of the game’s violence and a viable part of the game’s strategy. The quarterback must go down, Al Davis said, and he must go down hard.

So all that’s said.

A few years ago, basketball coach Kelvin Sampson got in a some serious trouble for recruiting violations at Oklahoma. You might remember that, even if you don’t remember the details. Sampson and his staff were investigated for three years and eventually the program was put on probation — severe recruiting were restrictions placed on them. There were quite a few columns and stories written about Sampson’s unethical behavior — he was knowingly cheating — and there was a stink attached to Sampson’s reputation. Even now, when you bring up Sampson’s name, people tend to remember that he got in trouble and was one of those dirty coaches.

What did Kelvin Sampson actually do? He and his staff called potential recruits way too many times — more than 500 more calls than were allowed by NCAA rules. I’m not downplaying this: The NCAA has rules in place to prevent talented high school players from being bombarded by coaches trying to get them to play for their college. I’m all for those rules and all for punishing the people who break them. Still, in the grand scheme of right and wrong, moral and immoral … the guy made too many phone calls. He will probably never live it down.

In the late 1980s, Pete Rose got banned from baseball. Everyone knows why: He bet on baseball. Everyone also knows this is one of baseball’s deadly sins and has been ever since some White Sox threw the 1919 World Series. There are many scenarios you can come up with — many of them pretty unrealistic and imaginary, yes, but still they are there — where the game’s integrity can be called into question when someone gambles on the games. What if he throws a few bucks at a player to take a dive? What if he, as manager, uses his pitchers in an unhealthy order to win one game? And so on. Betting on baseball — as people will tell you again and again — strikes at the game’s integrity.

Pete Rose had a sickness, a gambling sickness, he was addicted to gambling and so bet on baseball too. He says he never bet on his team to lose, but he has said a lot of things. He was banned from the game, he will never be allowed back in, he will probably never be inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame, he has found himself in a strange half-life, signing autographs in Las Vegas and reminding anyone who will listen that he’s the hit king.

On Friday, the NFL announced that the New Orleans Saints — under the watchful eye of former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams — had an all-encompassing bounty system in place from 2009 to 2011. Basically the players would pool together money, with Williams throwing in some of his own, and pay players to seriously injured opponents (if they could). The going rate in New Orleans seemed to be a grand for having a player carted off, $1,500 if a player was knocked out of the game. As far as we know, there was no higher price for paralyzing a player permanently or, with a really clean hit, killing him. But one player, Jonathan Vilma, reportedly did bid $10,000 to take out Brett Favre in a playoff game.

Funny thing: Every year, we will have thousands of outraged columns and radio/TV rants and blog posts about one team running up the score an another. Every year, we will have thousands of outraged columns and radio/TV rants and blog posts about how players dance too forcefully in the end zone after scoring a touchdown or sacking a quarterback. Every years will have thousand of outraged columns and radio/TV rants and blog posts about steroid use and recruiting violations and the violence intrinsic in video games and ultimate fighting and hockey and boxing and, yes, football too …

… does any of that match up with offering players extra money to seriously injure other players?

A brilliant reader suggested to me that what Rose did is worse than what Williams and company did because betting on baseball calls into question the legitimacy of the game while the bounty does not. I don’t want to downplay this opinion because many other people (most people?) agree with it. The thinking seems to be that betting on baseball can, at its worst, lead a person to purposely LOSE a game, which calls into question legitimacy, while paying players extra for successfully hurting opponents is just an extreme version of trying to WIN a game.

But I also don’t think that’s right. Let’s say a player took a payment from GAMBLERS to do whatever was necessary to hurt Tom Brady, I don’t think anyone would question the moral ramifications or that it was a strike against the legitimacy of the game.

And yet, what’s the difference if you take the money from gamblers or from teammates and coaches?

This bounty hunting business seems to me to be unethical and immoral on about a thousand different levels.

For one thing, it’s gambling, plain and simple. If someone says: “I bet you a thousand dollars you can’t cause an injury so severe that the guy gets carted off,” that’s gambling.

For another, it’s game-altering. If pitchers were offered bounties to throw at Albert Pujols’ head and knock him out for a series, that would be a scandal beyond anything in memory. If we found out that Dwyane Wade was actually offered extra money to hurt Kobe Bryant in the NBA All-Star Game, he and the people offering the bounty might be suspended for life. Hockey is a violent sport, but if a team of players and coached really had pooled together money to pay anyone who could get Sidney Crosby taken off on a stretcher, wouldn’t that be one of the great disgraces in the sport’s history?

So what does it say about the NFL — and what does it say about us as football fans — that this would happen in pro football and there would be a vague, “Eh, everybody does it, everybody’s trying to hurt everybody in football anyway” reaction from so many?

Also, it’s on the verge of being criminal — if you got a pool going in your office to purposely injure a competitor so you could win an account, yeah, you would go to jail.

Finally, on the tiniest level — but a level we seem so interested in as fans — it affects the legitimacy of the game. If we can spend hours and hours coming up with scenarios where Pete Rose’s betting on his team to win would call into question the game’s authenticity, how can you not see that a player being paid extra to hurt other players might commit team-killing penalties, might go for the player instead of the ball, might drift away from assignments to hurt someone, might not care about winning or losing as much as hurting the other guy.

I tend to think that we have automatic reactions to things in sports, and often those reactions don’t match up all that well with our larger feelings about things. We have come to think of a big league player betting on baseball, just as a for instance, as a cardinal sin, the worst thing imaginable, worthy of a lifetime ban. And yet, millions and millions of people across America bet on baseball in some form or another — fantasy baseball, little wagers in the office, visits to Vegas and so on. Millions and millions of people also bet on stuff in their own work — bet you I get that account, bet you I finish my project before you do, bet you he gets that promotion and so on. I’m not saying it’s the same: It isn’t. Betting on baseball for a big league player IS a terrible offense within the game, and I think it should be punished severely. But in the larger picture, let’s be honest, it isn’t exactly assault and battery.

A bounty to get players carted off the field … yeah, that actually IS assault and battery.*

*Another brilliant reader questioned the accuracy of saying that the Saints were paying for “serious injury.” His contention is that they were not trying to “seriously” injury anyone, they were only payingto take a player out of the game. “It is tackle football,” the reader said. This is the kind of parsing I’m talking about — do we really believe these guys have the ability to get a player carted off or knocked out but NOT seriously injury them? If so, they truly are geniuses of violence.

Pro football, behind the glitz and glamour and dramatic music, is dark and violent and brutal. We all understand this, even if we don’t like to think too much about it. As mentioned above, when the Saints story broke, the NFL players’ reaction as a whole seemed to be, “eh, part of the game.” A lot of fans seemed to respond the same way. Heck Favre himself shrugged off the oversized bounty on his health as unsurprising and uninteresting.

And it makes me wonder if the overpowering popularity of pro football has simply made us numb. You know, over the last few years we have seen the past heroes of pro football suffer in agony at the end of their lives. We have watched spectacular athletes deteriorate and be discarded by the sport again and again. We have only begun to learn about how head injuries destroy people.

And now, we have the New Orleans Saints — perhaps not alone, but the ones dumb enough to get caught — paying each other extra money to hit opponents so hard, so viciously, so recklessly, that they would be carried off on stretchers. We have a coach, Gregg Williams, who not only oversaw this but put his own money into the pot. We have come to see that other coaches and players were well aware of all this. I fully understand that many people don’t care; they are outraged that anyone would care. Which leads me to this question.

Is our love of pro football — the spectacle, the violence, the thrills and sheer ferocity of it all — so insatiable that nothing will ever shock or disgust us again?

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61 Responses to Bounty Hunters

  1. Tampa Mike says:

    Football is different than all those other sports, so the comparison isn’t the same. Every play, bounty or not, defensive players love to hit hard. Big hits get the headlines, get the replays, get posted all over the internet. You have to compare clean play to dirty play in any sport. A clean hit on the quarterback is not comparable to throwing at Pujols. If guys are out there with late hits, cheap shots, etc, I think it’s a different story all together.

    I think the “injury” aspect is being blown out of proportion too. The reports say money was there for interceptions, fumbles, tackles for loss, etc.

    • Mike, the trouble is that a late hit or a cheap shot IS encouraged if the only criteria for the bounty is getting the other guy carted off the field. When you get a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer in order to collect the bounty, are you really playing football any more?

      Until I read Joe’s column, I would have agreed with you. Unfortunately, when there is a bounty, the object of your hit is not longer to stop your opponent from being successful on that play, but to hurt him, regardless of the play’s outcome.

    • Tampa Mike says:

      How many cheap shots and late hits are being looked at for the Saints? All the replays and things they are talking about (ie Favre and Warner) have been clean hits. Defensive players hit as hard as they can on every play. That is football. I have seen ZERO evidence that the Saints were playing dirty football as a result.

      Getting the guy carted off the field is not the only way to collect the bounty. They said money was payed for all sorts of things like interceptions, fumbles, etc. How many players were hurt by the Saints last year? Carted off? If players can simply decide to hurt other players to make more money, wouldn’t there have been multiple players carted off in every Saints game?

    • hilarie says:

      No, there were several late hits on Favre in the playoff game. There was considerable controversy at the time because the refs didn’t throw a flag. Beyond that, dirty players focus not on a “big hit” aimed at stopping the opponent but on driving the helmet into parts of the body that are most vulnerable to injury. Witness the bragging by NY Giants after the NFC championship game, stating that they targeted Kyle Williams (who was substituting for the injured Ted Ginn; knocking him out of the game would have left SF a receiver short) because he had already suffered two concussions. Injuries happen and the game is brutal, but setting out to severely injure somebody is wrong, unethical, illegal, and monumentally stupid and self-destructive.

    • dad says:

      If Michael Vick is put is prison for years for hurting dogs and we don’t value people as much as animals, then we are a sick and perverted society. I can’t believe that anyone is trying to defend this intentional, premeditated violence. When I played it was called dirty and it still is that. A player can play hard to win but does not have as his goal to injure, and then on top of that to receive payment for it. Is sports turning into a gangs and thugs mentality? Sure looks like it to me….disgusting!

  2. Kered Retej says:

    What does that say about boxing as a sport?

    • bluwood says:

      The purpose of boxing is to jab, punch and beat your opponent into submission; I don’t think that’s the purpose of football.

    • David says:

      And if your opponent is not so obliging as to submit, you hit him until he is maimed or concussed. At which point you are praised for your “killer instinct.”

      I like boxing, but let’s not lie to ourselves behind false definitions.

    • bluwood says:

      David, that’s ridiculous. One huge point you’re choosing to ignore is that in boxing, both fighters know what to expect, they know what is coming and they know what they “signed up for”.

      These bounties are all cloak-and-dagger stuff. Sure, a player may know that the opposition is going to try to be extra aggressive with them, but they could not expect other players were trying to intentionally injure them.

      Plus, in football, there are only a few times each game one player can actually go after someone with the intent to hurt them. In boxing, if you’re truly a fan you know it’s so completely different.

      AND one more thing: The referee in boxing has the right, and the obligation, to stop the fight if, as you say, one opponent is not so obliging to submit.

  3. Bryan says:

    I posted a comment at … curious, Joe, if you have a preference for where comments end up?

  4. wells says:

    Why should we be fazed? Didn’t James Harrison say he loved football because it was the only place where you could legally assault people? Violence is football and football is violence and those that would pretend otherwise seem to enjoy talking out of both sides of their mouth and/or are trying to avoid future lawsuits.

  5. jkak says:

    Yes, “football is different [from] all those other sports”, except hockey. Playing NFL football, and probably major college football, and probably full-gear competitive football at any level, causes a significant number of the players to suffer serious longterm injuries to their limbs, joints, and brains.

    In order to watch NFL football, the viewer must willfully suppress the knowledge that a significant number of the players on the field will die before they reach 50 years old due to injuries caused by repeated trauma, and the knowledge that many of the players who live past 50 will require joint replacements, and the knowledge that most of the players will suffer from debilitating pain for most of the rest of tehir lives, and the knowledge that a large number will wind up psychotic or incapacitated due to brain damage and related illnesses.

    The NFL sells violence and injury, and makes billions doing so. Advertisers make billions from placing their products in the telecasts. The people who watch the games are the ones who pay for that violence, so it’s no surprise that so many people shrug it off.

    • You seem to suggest that fans should feel guilty about watching the NFL because of the injuries. But the players know what they are signing up for and, in fact, enjoy it. It would be one thing if NFL players were playing only as a way out of poverty–as many boxers did but I suspect most really like playing football. I’m not saying the NFL should not try to minimize injury. But I keep seeing this meme about selling violence and so forth as if these players are being dragged off the street and fed to the lions.

  6. Matt Davis says:

    I agree with you for the most part. However, unlike the other sports you mention, this type of thing is not an anomaly in the history of the sport – this was to be expected in the infancy of the NFL. It’s a relatively recent advancement to be shocked by it.

    I recently read the book, “The First Star: Red Grange and the Barnstorming Tour That Launched the NFL” by your colleague at SI, Lars Anderson. His account of Red’s career shows that he was being targeted for serious physical harm throughout his playing days. In HIGH SCHOOL, at the direction of an opposing coach, he was once knocked unconscious for multiple DAYS. He had a teammate that was punched in the nose on the field, who was later apologized to because it was a case of mistaken identity.

    In the early days of the NFL it was expected practice to try to cause bodily harm to the best players on the other side of the field, often carried out by players who were following orders from their coaches.

    That doesn’t in any way justify Williams or any of the players involved. But it does say that this practice has been ingrained in the sport since its inception, and that probably gets at the reaction of the players that it’s “part of the game.” There may be rules against it now, but it’s not novel by a longshot.

    • I agree. The game in the 50s and 60s was far more brutal than today, although the size and speed of players today probably leads to more severe injuries. Things that were legal or quasi-legal in those days would draw a suspension today. Guys used to wear casts on the arms the better to clothesline opponents.

      I’m certainly not defending this, but there has to be some perspective. I think bounties are unacceptable but if you get coaches and players that are basically aggressive by nature and tell them to go hit someone, this is the culture that will develop.

  7. twnzfan says:

    As a Vikings fan, it was obvious that the Saints were going after Favre with a vengeance in the 2009 play-offs. Did it keep us from a Superbowl? Who knows? Not exactly a tragedy. The tragic consequences come when a 55 year old Favre is prevented from fully enjoying his grandchildren because the punishment his body and brain took in his football years.

    And what happens in football affects other sports as well. Justin Morneau was having an MVP season in 2010, cut short by a concussion he has yet to fully recover from. He is one tough former Canadian hockey player, yet some “fans” call him a wimp because “football players go right back into the game after a concussion.” Some parts of our nation’s most popular game need re-examining. There is a name for a system that takes men, exploits their physical strength without regard to their health now or in future, encourages them to seriously harm their opponents, and then discards them when they are crippled and used up. It isn’t integrity. IMO, it isn’t even sport.

    • Fortunately, now at many levels, football coaches are forbidden from allowing their players to go right back into the game after a concussion.

    • Richard says:

      That name is “militarism”.

    • I’m not sure how you can say you are a “fan” and then say it’s not sport. Players aren’t any more exploited than actors are exploited for their physical appearance. As I said before, these guys aren’t being dragged off the street. They have been playing football since they were kids. It’s no secret that people get hurt in football. It’s not like the military that attracts people who often have no other prospects.

      I definitely think the NFL should come down on Williams and others that have perpetuated the bounty system. I regret that a lot of players end up incapacitated or worse at a young age. The NFL should do what it can to encourage safety. But the difference between “legal” hitting and hitting specifically to injure someone is not that clearcut. I watch football and I like it; it would be hypocritical for me to wring my hands over the violence when I am rooting for my team’s defenders to smash the quarterback.

  8. Unknown says:

    Pro bounty’s are the same deal as high school and college programs getting together after the Monday practice to hoot and holler as the little helmet stickers are handed out for big plays from the weekends game.

    No pro player (that isn’t a complete knucklehead) is going to blow an assignment or make a play for a pocket-money amount that isn’t in the teams best interest.

    Because if he does, his hind end will be on the street right soon. A dude has to keep his job, y’know.

    Also, as far as the job point…

    With or without bounties, stickers, SportsCenter highlights, etc. guys are still going to take and make those crushing shots every chance they have.

    Making those plays keeps you in the league and gets you starter money, big time results for performance. This same deal holds true down through the lower levels of play, the biggest rewards come from the ability to make plays out at the (legal) edges of the sport.

    Bounties serve to illustrate this bald fact. The level of violence we expect from football should probably make us uncomfortable.

    • brianS says:

      Maybe I am showing my age, but in neither the high school football I played, nor the DIII college football I played, did anyone hand out helmet decals for blowing someone up. We got decals for “big plays”, yes. Scoring plays, defensive stops, turnovers, etc. But never, ever, ever for injuring another player or for a highlight-reel hit that may have injured another player. Those hits are not “part of the game” per se, because they have no practical value within the rules of the game. A highlight-reel tackle or hit has no more value than any other tackle or hit in terms measured by the rules.

    • E-6 says:

      This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. David Pinto says:

    There was a recent post on an economics blog that law suits over concussions might destroy the NFL, that is, football would disappear as a sport. If injured players start charging bounty hunters with assault, and suing teams that let this happen, that also might quicken the sports demise.

  10. The Commish says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Marco says:

    I always wondered why DBs went for the big hit instead of wrapping up and trying to strip the ball….

  12. A little law enforcement could end sports violence in a jiffy.
    When I took the oath there was no exemption for sports, that I recall.

  13. I agree with Joe’s larger point that our glorification of big hits and our willingness to ignore the short- and long-term health consequences of those hits represents a moral blind spot. But once we accept the violent nature of football, I don’t see how the Saints’ bounty hunting made things worse. The money involved was chump change for a pro athlete, hardly enough to induce anyone to alter his behavior. It seems to me that the bounties represented a fun way for the players to encourage big hits. That may be sick, but that’s football! (And yes, I do and will continue to watch the NFL.)

  14. There is a line between the “the QB must go down and he must go down hard” and paying someone to break the other guy’s leg, and it’s not particularly fine. [For full disclosure, recent publicity about concussions has led to me to conclude that I would probably not let my son play football at an organized level, and led me to wonder if I should pass my fandom on to him at all.]

    Leaving the ethical considerations aside, there are two practical reasons for the NFL to come down hard on the Saints (and on anyone else dumb enough to get caught):
    1. Lawsuits from retired players. The argument really makes itself:
    a. Retired players are suing the NFL (management) that they didn’t do enough to prevent concussions, and in some cases promoted an environment that they knew would lead to severe long-term consequences.
    b. Coaches are management, and paid players to injure other players.
    c. Now all it takes is one game where player A was paid to injury someone, player B was injured, and they were on the field at the same time.
    2. Marketing. The NFL cares deeply about public perception and how it impacts their business (as they should), and negative public perception attaches when you take away draft picks for videotaping practice, fine people for celebrating too much, and ignore actual serious injuries.

  15. doc says:

    To me, the most telling comment I have seen so far was an (anonymous) quote from a player, who said, “The bigger question is, who snitched?” Unless/until that atitude changes, it’s difficult for me to believe that this probelm will go away.

  16. This problem isn’t going anywhere–I doubt the NFL even sees it as a problem. Football players are modern-day gladiators. They give up their bodies for money and fame, and we cheer them on. Until the NFL stops making money because people start caring more for the health of the players than then entertainment value of the hits, nothing will change.

  17. Please point out to me where the Saints had higher instances of roughing penalties and fines from their superbowl season or during Williams’ time there. I only recall the Vikings game as being particularly brutal and that was an obvious strategy against an immobile and about-to-retire Favre.
    Timing this in the offseason, it seems more a part of the business or for someone with an agenda, less for fans. The game has already become a choreographed dance routine.
    That and it feels like a parting shot from Gregg Williams and his ego..

  18. I guess what kills me is that they’re going to make an “example” of just one team. If this is truly as terrible as the media is painting it (and it’s amazing how certain factions have escalated this as quickly as possible: suggesting that franchise tags be taken away and the Super Bowl moved) then every team doing it should be punished, not just the one that was dumb enough to get caught. If it is that awful and reprehensible.

    Keep in mind that if it were the Saints’ goal to injure quarterbacks, they were terrible at it. I do remember Bart Scott twisting Reggie Bush’s ankle and then cackling about his intent on the radio to “give him a little extra hot sauce” when he was safely back in Baltimore, though. Nobody seemed to have a problem with intentionally trying to injure players and chortling about it back then. I’m sure they lost draft picks for that incident and it just didn’t come out nationally.

  19. Tampa Mike says:

    To me this payment system was more about teammates pumping each other up than actual financial gain. I don’t think anyone was going out there playing any differently because they could make an extra grand by hurting someone. I could be wrong, but I don’t see it.

    This just seems like the NFL talking out of both sides of their mouth. They want to appear to care about player safety, but they market the brutality. The NFL would lose some serious viewership if they seriously changed the rules for safety.

  20. Redskins players have stated, on the record, that Williams had the same bounty program in Washington. So, it won’t be just the Saints that are punished, but it will be interesting to see who does. That said, you can BET that no coach will ever suggest this specific kind of system to his players again.

  21. Mark Coale says:

    This seems like a pandora’s box that will be opened as people punished will start to name names and it will spread like a virus across most of the other teams in the league.

    Also, I assume this has been going on at least as far back as Buddy Ryan’s Eagles. remember the Bounty Bowl?

  22. Unknown says:

    It’s not gambling. The person isn’t saying, “I’ll bet you $1000 you can’t cause injury.” The person is saying “I’ll pay you $1000 if you cause injury.”

    If no injury is caused, the player who “failed” (if that’s the word) to cause injury wouldn’t have to pay the person who proposed to pay $1000 for the injury.

    In any case, it’s appalling, and well down the slippery slope to rewarding players for leaving opponents crippled or dead.

    • brianS says:

      Offering to pay someone or having a “system” in place to pay someone to injure another is conspiracy to commit assault.

    • What’s the difference between this and the normal way a defender hits. Outside of football, tackling someone would be assault. Legally, assault doesn’t depend on whether or not someone gets hurt. How does this differ from the coach saying “go out and knock the shit out these guys?” Tackle football is assault regardless of intent.

  23. Ed says:

    I feel like I’m probably in the minority, but big hits aren’t why I watch football. Yes, they can be fun to watch, but if they were gone completely it wouldn’t affect my interest in the game. The extreme violence in big hits isn’t what interests me in football — I’d be more than fine if every single tackle was a wrap-up pull the player down that has almost no chance of resulting in a concussion or serious injury.

    So to me, this bounty system is appalling. It doesn’t even matter if it didn’t change the way they played (although I guarantee it did — $10,000 is a decent amount of money, no matter how much you’re making. Especially since most NFL players live paycheck-to-paycheck and have nothing saved). I realize some players want to hurt other players anyways, and I hate that. They should be fined and suspended for it. The bounty system is even worse though, because coaches were involved. Guys who only like playing football because they want to try to crush someone else should get pushed out of the game.

  24. It’s just a matter of time, at most a generation, before football ceases to exist as we know it. Which kind of makes me wonder whether flag football would be so bad. How much of the game would we actually lose if the NFL switched to outch or flag football. I guess the running game would be hurt most but passing and receiving and kicking wouldn’t change all that much. Is this really so crazy?

  25. Ed McDonald says:

    The more I learn about football the harder it is for me to watch it and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Dammit.

  26. KHAZAD says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. KHAZAD says:

    There have, for sure, been other teams that have done a version of this. I have been told by a former player that both the teams he played on in the 1990’s had a defensive kangaroo court and part of that money was given out in rewards for particularly savage hits, knocking a player out of the game, and game changing forced turnovers or INT’s.

    That was is not nearly as blatantas this case though. Money was pledged specifically for the bounty, with the coach organizing and contributing to it.

    With Goodell’s attempt to gentrify the league, I can’t even imagine the example he will make out of Williams and the Saints, but I am sure based on his past decisions it will be historically severe.

  28. Davis says:

    These comments have been a very interesting read. It seems that there are two schools of thought here. The first regard this issue as a serious problem facing pro football; the second group see it as an issue that calls into question the entire ethical basis of the sport. The most alarming posts, really, are those that stop to quibble about whether an injury was inflicted on a late hit or a clean one, or if the money really altered the players’ behavior. These sort of posts are an implicit reminder that so long as we have accepted the premise of pro football, all that’s left to do is make sure the maimings are handed out by the book. I have had uneasy feelings about the NFL for a number of years now, with all of these stories of mental illnesses, physical health problems, and early deaths in so many players. At this point, it seems evident that pro football cannot ensure that grievous and lasting bodily harm will not be inflicted upon its participants without some massive rule change, perhaps something even more drastic than the invention of the forward pass. It pains me to say it, as pro football was my first real sports love, but I think the time has come for sports fans to boycott the NFL. If we do not, we are morally responsible as the financiers of an inherently unethical sport.

    • The problem as I see it is that tackle football is, in itself, assault. What rule change would actually eliminate violence from the sport? If you want to ban tackle football, I guess that is an option but, short of that, I don’t know what else to do. As far as boycotting it, what exactly would that accomplish? Obviously, if people stopped watching, the NFL would go out of business. Short of that, it seems to me the only way to avoid the consequences is to eliminate tackling. I would bet if you did that participation in football (not to mention viewership) would plummet.

      People have moral qualms about the violence and that’s good. But most players like it. People bemoan the “culture” of football that has players defending the violence but if you didn’t like it, why would you play football in the first place?

  29. Jason says:

    Davis, I’m afraid that I agree with you. The fact that I am not shocked by Williams’ bounties reinforces my growing feeling that I shouldn’t be supporting such a violent sport. I am, more and more, appalled by the violence of football in general. I doubt that bounties caused a significant increase in the already staggering number of injuries that occur in the course of a season.

  30. jwc23 says:

    Your kidding right? Bounty hunters, shocking? OOOOO, how about drug addicts, rapists, and murderers. If it doesn’t get covered on ESPN does it really happen? Here are a few things that did get covered.

    Ricky Williams quit his million dollar running back gig to smoke pot. How much money do you think drug dealers get from NFL players per year?

    Ben Roethlisberger beat 3 rape charges! How many women do you think Ben has raped? How many women do you think have been raped by NFL players?

    Do you think Ray Lewis is a murderer? How about OJ?

    Do you think Mike Vicks only crime was being involved with dog fighting?

    The hits keep coming. I am not outraged that someone cares about Bounty Hunting in the NFL, but really, let’s put this in perspective.

  31. yefrem says:

    There was a picture floating around after that Saints game of Favre’s leg. Totally purple. He also had ankle surgery that offseason to remove about a cup of miscellaneous floating pieces of cartilage and bone chips. Not sure how much of that crap broke off during the Saints game, but I’d *bet* it was at least 1/4 cup. Then, there’s the disaster that was the 2010 Vikings season when Favre was terrible. -Again, not sure how much can be traced back to the Saints game, but its certainly plausible that the quarterback headhunting directly affected the integrity of the Vikings 2010 season and possibly costed Brad Childress his job, incidentally.

  32. nightflyblog says:

    What if he throws a few bucks at a player to take a dive? What if he, as manager, uses his pitchers in an unhealthy order to win one game?

    Or, just hypothetically mind you, he plays a first-baseman with a .319 SLG for 501 PA, instead of putting Nick Esasky at first and playing Gary Redus and Eric Davis full-time in the outfield?

    And yet they were still somehow seven games better than their pythag W/L. Baseball is a crazy game.

  33. Grulg says:

    *Biggest story no one wants to report: HGH use all over the NFL. No one cares.

    *Second biggest story everyone but Joe Poz seems to wanna cover-the roids all thru MLB. What roids-?! Where-?!

  34. I was in 3 Fantasy football leagues last year. So I could accurately be described as a football fan. But I must admit, that football isn’t just violent, it’s culture is largely barbaric. Shamefully so. The violence is celebrated, both among the participants and among the fans salivating at the big hits. Someday, a big star in the game will be paralyzed or killed. I believe that. The math demands it. Unless the culture of violence, particularly to the head, changes. How that change can be accomplished……is beyond my reckoning.

  35. Paul Franz says:

    It’s the Roman Coliseum. “Are you not entertained?”

    • This is the kind of exaggeration that drives me nuts. These guys have been playing football since they were 9 or 10. It’s not as if the NFL is taking kids away from the parents and grooming them to be gladiators. They voluntarily play and are well compensated for it. Many players do not end up maimed or die young.

  36. I’m reading all this hand-wringing about the violence in football. I’m starting to feel like Rush Limbaugh or something (which I’m not). IMO, to say that you are ashamed to be a football fan but then continue to be one is the absolute height of hypocrisy. If you are ashamed, stop watching. If you have specific suggestions for limiting the violence, that’s fine but to just bemoan the “culture of violence” in football but continue to watch is a little much for me.

  37. Remove hard helmets and pads. Then, nearly all of these issues go away.

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  41. It’s crazy how this bounty hunting story was so huge at 1st, but has since lost its appeal. It drew deep emotional responses on both sides, but now it seems a million years ago.

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