When all this Bountygate crap first broke on the news, I--like everyone else--was appalled. Not simply for the future of my team, but for its past. How could they have done this? Only gradually did it occur to me to wonder: did they do it?
Apparently, that question has yet to occur to anyone in a prominent position in the national media.
Take Pat Yasinskas (please) for example. Being ESPN's NFC South blogger, he's of course all over this story. It's probably the biggest story of his career, in fact, so he has a great deal of incentive to maximize it to the best of his ability. And that's what he's doing.
His latest post is a paean to Fran Tarkenton's column in the Wall Street Journal, calling for the nuclear option in the case of Gregg Williams. Loomis and Payton, he says,
should be suspended for a season and re-join the Saints next year. Or maybe they should resign and let the Saints get a clean start after this mess. Payton and Loomis are good at what they do and they can get other jobs in the future.
Gosh, thanks, Pat. Generous of you to offer the Saints a golden opportunity at the cellar while some other team goes on to provide Payton with his second ring.
But I’m with Tarkenton on Williams. We should never see him again in the NFL.
I honestly don't know what to think about Williams. He "confessed"--but to what? Were the Saints, in fact, operating a bounty system specifically for the purpose of causing injuries to opposing players? Not according to Darren Sharper. Not according to Scott Fujita. So far, only one Saints player has answered "yes," and we don't know who he is.
And the whole point is, I doubt Pat Y knows who he is, either. Or Mike Florio. Or Gregg Easterbrook. Or Peter King, or any of the other longwinded pontificators who plague professional sports like liver flukes in a tropical slough. We don't know because the NFL hasn't said squat--other than, "We've determined this to be the truth and you will believe."
I strongly suspect--and I admit, this is only a suspicion--that while the Saints did have a bounty system (big deal), it was for the purpose of rewarding big plays...just like almost every other team in the NFL at one time or another. If it was used, occasionally (and it would have to have been very occasionally, if Sharper and Fujita were unaware) to reward an injury, that's no different from using an office pool to launder drug money. It can be done (on a very small scale) but that's not why most people bet on the Final Four every spring--and if it does happen, that's not proof that everyone in the office is into money laundering. It just means the pool was hijacked.
If the NFL wants to crack down on incentive programs, as sources of illegal compensation, I'm fine with that. Punish the Saints, along with every other team found to have used such a system (if they take away draft picks from every guilty team, they might as well just cancel the first round and move on to the second). But quit pretending that what the Saints did is the worst scandal in the history of scandals. Or, at least, quit pretending it until the NFL shows definitive proof that what they claim is true. I'm betting we'll be waiting a long time for that to happen.
And as for the national sports media: while you're waiting, hold your breath. Please.