HansDat's Friday Readings: Dave Zirin and Jeff Duncan Make Me Go Hmmmmm

In what is becoming a Saturday staple, I present to you once again, faithful readers, some items from my Fun Friday readings on the evening after a long work week.

This week, Jeff Duncan refers to something that caught me by surprise, and Dave Zirin continues his "shockrage" stance on the NFL's handling of the Saints pay-for-performance bounty program.

Follow me across the jump, please, if you will...

First, the Duncan Donut (mmmm doughnuts), which came from a column that appeared first on Thursday morning, and then again on Friday morning, updated, but with a new title, so it looked like a new column. It's the one about Payton and Gregg Williams's dysfunctional relationship, and in the middle of it, he drops this tidbit (emphasis added):

Almost from the start, Payton went to great lengths to limit the loquacious Williams' media access. After the 2010 season, the NFL was forced to rewrite its media policy to close a loophole specifically exploited by Payton to neuter Williams.

It did? I don't recall this, and you'd think something like this would need supporting evidence to mean anything to your audience...I did a very cursory google search on "nfl media policy revisions" and found nothing of note, so I wish Jeff had given some details about what exactly he means here (or at least linked to his story about it at the time).

Do any of you know anything about this? I'm a curious guy and would appreciate more information on this, if you've got it.

* * *

The second thing that gave me pause last night was this Dave Zirin column from yesterday. (Please read my original Zirin column post for the warning/disclaimer I'd like to reinvoke here...thanks.)

It rolls through a "facts, then opinions" structure to analyze the Gregg Williams audio release and its' place in the whole Bounty Scandal/player safety discussion.

First, the facts: Sounding like Garrison Keillor doing an impression of Robert De Niro as Al Capone, we now have audiotape of former New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams telling his team to intentionally maim their playoff opponents, the San Francisco 49ers.

Ha! That bolded part is clever.

Documentary filmmaker Sean Pamphilon released the damning audio, recording Williams during the process of following former Saint Steve Gleason who is suffering from ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease).

Pamphilon also released the audio the day before Saints Head Coach Sean Payton, General Manager Mickey Loomis and Assistant Coach Joe Vitt were to appear before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in an effort to get their own Gregg Williams/bounty related suspensions reduced.

Those are facts. Now some opinion: color me very skeptical of this entire story. I'm skeptical of the timing of the audio being released the day before Payton, Loomis, and Vitt plead for mercy to try and salvage their 2012 season. I'm skeptical of the media outrage roiling from coast to coast. And most of all, I'm deeply skeptical of Roger Goodell.

Did he mention he's skeptical?

Imagine if we had audio of all thirty-two NFL locker rooms. Imagine how our stomachs would turn at the way grown men are riled into fits of violence for our collective entertainment.

This is no excuse for the Saints behavior, but it does point to the inherent violence of the game...

It's a violent game where violent words are used to compel violent deeds. To pretend otherwise, is to play the fool.

And here, too. I don't think I'm a fool, but maybe I need plausible deniability to allow myself to sleep at night.

In addition, I don't want to impugn anyone's motives, but it's very difficult to not look at Mr. Pamphilon with anything but deep suspicion...It’s the fact that Mr. Pamphilon, a mainstream documentarian who directed one of the acclaimed ESPN 30 for 30 films, chooses to drop this bomb right before Payton, Loomis, and Vitt's appeal. If he wanted optimum damage aimed at further boosting Goodell’s public image as Wyatt Earp of a lawless Saints franchise, he couldn’t have picked a better moment to develop a conscience.

Regardless of the intentions of the source, Dave, the tape doesn't lie. People's interpretation of it and conclusions drawn from it may differ, though.

Here's his closing:

In the end, it all comes back around to Roger Goodell and his motives. Yes, Gregg Williams' language and coaching "instructions" are contemptible. Yes, he is now officially radioactive and will probably never work again. Payton might also now be unemployable, at least with the Saints. But if Goodell were serious about stopping bounties and violent directives that precede violent deeds, then every team would be investigated. Dozens of coaches would be suspended. Every week for the next several years would bring more revelations about the violence and rot that exists beneath the three hours of highly commodified violence we enjoy every Sunday. If Goodell were serious about making the league safer, he would finally abandon his fierce efforts for a longer eighteen game season. He'd improve the access to medical care for retired players. He'd settle amicably with the more than 1,000 former NFL players seeking redress for head injuries endured while playing the game. But he doesn't because it's far easier to have the Saints be exampled and take the weight for the entire league. Goodell isn't so much Wyatt Earp as he is Game of Thrones' King Joffrey: vicious, callow, and in the most profound sense, a hypocrite. This is not about changing the lucrative status quo. It's about preserving it and having the Saints carry the sins of an entire league.

The Saints ARE guilty, and should take their punishment, no doubt in my mind, but I sure would like to see some of those other safety issues addressed as well, so that it can really be all in the name of true player safety. I don't want the Saints to be scapegoated. Maybe other teams are being investigated and have been investigated, and will be investigated. Time will tell. Maybe.

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