Thursday, March 22, 2012
We called it tackle football. It was played on grass, not in the street. For the pavement it was called touch. Two hands clearly placed below the waist of a member of the opposing team. Sometimes we made rule changes. Sometimes you could touch a runner's shoulders. Then there was flag football. Two strips of an old sheet, one on each hip would do the trick. Pull out one of those flags and the play ended on that spot.
We called penalties too. Couldn't always agree on what was holding, unnecessary roughness, or off sides, but we tried. Football was clearly a game of rules.
When I read about New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton being suspended for a year and the team receiving half a million dollars in fines for their "bounty program," I'm reminded of playing tackle football on someone's front lawn or in my local neighborhood park.
By way of definition, the bounty program involved certain players being paid cash bonuses to take out their opponents quarterback or any other player that might be enjoying a successful season. That's right, injure your rival and you get paid. It's been reported that the team kept a pool of $50,000 to dole out rewards of $1000. or $1500. depending on the severity of the injury and the extent to which the recipient of the hit would be disabled.
It's official. It happened. Consequences will be paid now.
What is most disturbing about this story? Could it be the sheer outrage that any standard of fairness and sportsmanship seems to have evaporated if you must now maim the other team to achieve success? Could it be that Payton, in a recent article, has been called "the best and the brightest" of the young NFL coaches? Maybe it's that the notion in the old sci-fi film Rollerball seems to be coming true. In Rollerball, all professional sports has evolved to a domed war between rivals who ride motorcycles and kill their opponents as they propel a giant steel ball into a goal. Oh yeah, there are no teams with names like Giants or Titans. All the teams wear corporate logos.
See what I mean, we just might be heading in that direction. Albeit slowly, but definitely rolling along.
So what happened to tackle football? What happened to sportsmanship and the love of the game? Cue violins here...Hell NO. Get righteously pissed and get the thug mentality out of professional sports or else face the consequences. When we set out not to play the game, but to take out someone from the game, what do we have left? What happens to the next generation of pro athletes who idolize their favorite players and emulate their persona, their sills, their game...everything about their game. Everything.