It's not about the money, eh, Jim Irsay? We've heard that before in St. Louis. Peyton Manning's unceremonious dumping has taken the heat off the Rams and their own little PR nightmare in a pair of Transitions, Gregg Williams. (That's two G's in his name. Because that's how much he's willing to pay to take out a QB, amiright?)
Monday night I had a touch of the flu—nothing too serious, but enough to force me into roughly 10 straight hours of ESPN, since I was too lazy to go downstairs where the DVR was. Maybe it was the fever dreams, but I swore the World Wide Leader had somehow broken the time/space continuum and given me 11 hours of ‘Bounty-Gate'.
The whole thing has exploded into a full-on media flogging of Williams and the Saints, with shrapnel reaching as far as the Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins, and the NFL Commish, his highness, Roger Goodell . We're thiiiiiis close to Mitch Albom recommending the death penalty for the Rams' current defensive coordinator.
What the hell is going on here?
Let's say a month ago we were sitting in a bar talking football, and l told you that professional football players try to hurt players when they tackle them. And that sometimes they'd pool their money for big hits. Do you think you'd be outraged? Or would you think, "Hey, that probably happens"?
This is football. Defensive players like to hit people hard. Sometimes they'll come up with creative ways to incentivize each other to hit people hard.
Because people like us go to work on Monday and talk about who got 'Jacked Up' and post YouTube clips to Twitter all morning. Are we animals? Probably a little bit. But that's kind of deal we've made these past few years.
We know that head injuries are more prevalent in football than even our worst fears called for. We know that as these players age, their golden years will be filled with crippling physical and mental ailments. We know that there is a dispensable factory line of players ready to be the 'next one up' while some other's starts to spiral downward.
But that's the sausage grinder, friends. And we've got to decide whether we're still going to love that tasty meat that comes out. Because it's becoming more impossible than ever to enjoy it both ways.
Either we dig in deep, reveal everything (goodbye Toradol!), and splay it out for everyone to see before moving forward, or we tell ourselves that there are some risks playing football, assume the players playing know these and have squared them with what they'll be making in return, and go on loving Sundays.
Along the way there are going to be tragic stories, and HBO Real Sports will cover them and make us feel awful for loving something so violent so much. But some pigs died to get you that sausage. Sans a shift to two-hand-touch, some good men are going to be stuck with some bad stuff.
We're headed down a path, friends. A path that is going to end up being a true turning point for not only the NFL, but the sport of football as a whole. When enough 'Bounty-Gates' surface and are reported to death, people will start questioning what they're actually doing supporting the game. Hell, I'd be lying if I told you that watching the Dave Duerson story unfold, I didn't get a little pang in my stomach. I don't know what my breaking point will be...
But I know I have one.
And the more the open we demand the NFL to be, the more that we'll be left to wonder how long it can stay so popular.