Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

There Is No Title For This Piece That I Would Want My Mother To Read

By now, you all must have heard about the issue of football inflation. It’s inevitable, given the Importance Of Professional Sports, and given the Things That American Media Will Obsess Over, and given the Rabid Fan Bases Of This And That Professional Sports Team.

You may not have heard nearly as much about Nigerian mass-murders or Congressional legislative proposals or oil spills in Montana rivers; but you have heard about the Shameful Doings Down In Foxborough.

I just listened to the podcast version of my favorite political talk radio show – political – and I swear to you, the average number of times per minute that the word for “spheroid projectile” was uttered, with more than a hint of Beavis and Butthead, had to have topped a dozen.

(Now, I’m going to put in some serious effort to see if I can avoid using the “spheroid projectile” synonym even once, here. So that no one will snicker during this Very Serious Discussion of an Important Ethical Concern. I mean it. Cut it out. Hey! STOP.)

So, the only two things I need to say in setting up the thought that just occurred to me: [1] there are some people in this Great Land Of Ours who really need to get their priorities straight; and [2] there are some moments where the existence of slang in our fine language just plain s–

(I hate you all.)

Full disclosure: I’ve been a New England Patriots fan since I learned how to watch television. Not that the Patriots were on television a whole lot, back then, owing to their Inability To Win Games, and the NFL blackout rule, and all. In fact, while the vast majority of citizens of the sports-viewing nation who live outside New England have cultivated an intense dislike of that team, I come from a background of remembering when we disliked them for a diametrically opposite reason than the current one. And what’s that reason?

Ya know what? For the past decade and a half, the Patriots have won. Not always, but a super lot more than many teams in their league. Envy and jealousy will inevitably set in, amongst the fan bases of teams that have not won so much. I am not saying this because I’m amongst the fan-base of the team that has found lots of success; this is just true. Talk to fans of, por ejamplo, the Montreal Canadiens hockey club, the Manchester United soccer (sorry; football!) club, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics of the 1980s, the Dallas Cowboys of the 1960s and ’70s (really, who has the arrogance to call themselves “America’s Team”?) … and, much as this New Englander hates to admit it, … the New York Yankees.

Success breeds jealousy. Wish we could win like that (, say this year’s NBA Philadelphia 76ers, this year’s NFL Oakland Raiders, this past season’s Boston Red Sox, or Tiger Woods in the last few years).

But they cheeeeeeeeeeeated!

Sorry, and you think the New England NFL franchise is the only team that ever may have fine-tooth-combed the rule book in its quest for The Golden Loophole? You think there is a single sports team, professional or amateur, who hasn’t at least investigated little tiny ways to gain advantage, to get ahead, to prevail?

I have two words for all you fans of Upright Cosmic-Scale Overgrown Boy Scout Heroes Who Would Never Cheat: Kobayashi Maru.

I know, I know: it doesn’t make it right.

This all is by no means meant to suggest that I’m one of those “what-about-ers”, the people whose response to their team’s (political party’s) (denomination’s) misdeeds is to suggest that the other team (political party) (denomination) has done something equally bad. Both sides do it. Therefore my team isn’t so bad, really.

What they teach you in kindergarten is true: it’s best to play fair. Be honest, shoot straight, be honorable.

What you learn after kindergarten is equally true: humans are incapable of playing fair for their entire lives. Nobody can claim absolute purity. Even when millions, perhaps billions of dollars aren’t on the line.

The “both sides do it” argument is one with which I have grown increasingly weary in the last decade or so. That’s another post for another day.

But there are some moments when somebody takes that “both sides do it” wager and doubles down on it so hard it collapses the card table.

From today’s Dallas Morning News:

Pro Football Hall of Famer, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and Fox color analyst Troy Aikman didn’t mince words Thursday morning when discussing the Patriots, the NFL and Roger Goodell.

It’s obvious that Tom Brady had something to do with this,” Aikman said. “I know going back to when I played, they’ve loosened up the rules in terms of what each team is able to do with the footballs coming into the game. Used to, the home team provided all the balls. And now, each team brings their footballs the way they like them and break ’em in. Used to you couldn’t break them in. So for the balls to be deflated, that doesn’t happen unless the quarterback wants that to happen, I can assure you of that.”

So what should the penalty be? Aikman, who has adamantly contested the NFL’s ruling against the New Orleans Saints for allegedly issuing bounties on players, used them as an example to challenge the NFL. … Aikman noted the difference between the Saints’ charge and the Patriots’ offense, and says the NFL must take a significant stand.

Sean Payton did not cheat,” Aikman contended. “There was nothing that Sean Payton and the Saints did that was illegal. And they did not give themselves a competitive edge. I maintain, regardless of whatever was said in the locker room, and in that locker room, is not anything different than what’s been said in any other locker room around the league. There’s no proof on the field of what took place that guys were targeting players. You can always pull out a play here and there.

Now twice, under Bill Belichick and possibly a third time, they’ve cheated and given themselves an advantage,” Aikman said. “To me, the punishment for the Patriots and/or Bill Belichick has to be more severe than what the punishment was for the New Orleans Saints.”

(By the way, I apologize to readers of this blog. I have forced you to wade through Mr. Aikman’s questionable grip on English grammar. Hell … maybe the grammar isn’t properly inflated …)

While we wait for Mr. Aikman to rise from his fainting couch, let us admire these words from Wikipedia (because that’s where you go to get accurate information, of course!) – which, among other things, suggest that Mr. Aikman is exactly wrong when he asserts that “there was nothing that Sean Payton and the Saints did that was illegal” [italics mine, for emphasis]:

The New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, widely dubbed “Bountygate”, was an incident in which members of the New Orleans Saints franchise of the NFL were accused of paying out bonuses, or “bounties”, for injuring opposing team players. None of the hits in question were ever penalized or deemed illegal by in-game officials. The pool was alleged to have been in operation from 2009 (the year in which the Saints won Super Bowl) to 2011. …

The NFL has long frowned upon bounties, or “non-contract bonuses” as it officially calls them; but an underground culture of bounties is known to exist, with teams turning a blind eye to the practice. …

The league constitution specifically forbids payment of bonuses based on performances against an individual player or team, as well as bonuses for on-field misconduct; the NFL holds that such practices undermine the integrity of the game, and also would allow teams to use such payments to circumvent the salary cap. The collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association also forbids this practice, as does the standard NFL player contract. Every year, the NFL sends a memo reiterating this ban to every team before training camp opens.

On March 2, 2012, the NFL announced that it had evidence that [Saints] defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had created the program soon after his arrival in 2009, and alleged that “between 22 and 27 Saints players” were involved. Williams and the players pooled their own money to pay out performance bonuses. It also asserted that head coach Sean Payton tried to cover up the scheme, and that he and general manager Mickey Loomis failed to shut it down when ordered to do so by team owner Tom Benson. …

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded with some of the most severe sanctions in the league’s 92-year history, and among the most severe punishments for in-game misconduct in North American professional sports history. Williams was suspended indefinitely, though this would be overturned the following year. Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season — the first time in modern NFL history that a head coach has been suspended for any reason — and Loomis was suspended for the first eight games of the 2012 season. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt was suspended for the first six games of the 2012 season. The Saints organization was fined $500,000 [the maximum fine permitted under the league constitution], and forced to forfeit their second-round draft selections in 2012 and 2013. On May 2, 2012, four current and former Saints players were suspended after being named as ringleaders in the scandal, with linebacker Jonathan Vilma being suspended for the entire 2012 season — the longest suspension for an on-field incident in modern NFL history.

As much as Mr. Aikman is now an NFL analyst with the Fox television network, and is therefore a prominent member of the world of football journalism (…sorry, I just had to quell an attack of the giggles) … by way of his membership in the Dallas Cowboys football club during the 1990s, he is also a member of the NFL’s alumni association. Therefore he is somebody who ought to be able to express a hell of a lot greater sense of perspective about these two controversies, and the comparison betwixt and between, than he has.

In this corner: reportedly many more quarterbacks than Young Mr. Brady, Husband Of Gisele Bundchen, who have done the very thing that he’s has been accused of doing.

In the other corner: players whose reward for genuinely injuring other players might be measured in more than just loss of yardage. And a coaching staff which encouraged them to do it.

To coin a ferociously mixed metaphor … this is a slam dunk that ought to be easy to hit out of the park.

If it turns out that the Patriots broke the rules, sure, go ahead and fine ’em. Have at it.

But if the NFL were to take Troy Aikman’s advice and levy a penalty on the Patriots’ alleged inflation work that was in any way comparable to the penalty it assigned the Saints’ bounty program, it would constitute the final clinching proof that the National Football League’s priorities are screwed up beyond any hope of redemption.

What’s more important? Fewer pounds per square inch of pressure … or greater amounts of pressure on a quarterback because the pass-rusher might stand to literally profit from it?

Troy Aikman ought to know the answer to that. If he doesn’t, … I really don’t know what to say.

Other than: I think making the assertion that he did … probably takes an awful lot of testicular fortitude.

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January 23, 2015 - Posted by | current events, Famous Persons, football, media, sports | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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