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Collaring Sean the Bounty Hunter: Sean Payton and Saints Hammered for Dreadful Practice

Sean the Bounty Hunter Payton (Getty Images)

“Let me be clear. There is no place in the NFL for deliberately seeking to injure another player, let alone offering a reward for doing so. Any form of bounty is incompatible with our commitment to create a culture of sportsmanship, fairness, and safety.” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

Today National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell hammered the New Orleans Saints for conducting a bounty hunting operation from during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. Saints Head Coach Sean Payton was suspended for a year, former Saints and now St Louis Rams Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely and Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis for half of the 2012 season. A $500,000 fine was also leveled against the Saints who lost two draft picks. Player suspensions have not yet been announced by the league pending the review of the findings by the NFL Players Association.  It is expected that a number of Saints defensive stars may get suspended and fined.

The fact that the Saints were engaged in this was bad enough. However after reports surfaced following the 2009 season the team was warned and told the league that it had stopped the practice after Saints owner instructed Loomis to stop the practice. Well Loomis, Payton and Williams were stupid enough to lie to the NFL, make their owner look stupid and have been quite justifiably punished for their actions.

Football is a game of speed and violence. It is that fact that makes it popular with fans. Football at any level is not a game for the meek of heart and by nature is a game of violent hits.  The NFL and for that matter all football leagues have rules to mitigate some of the violence to lessen the chance of severe injuries to players but fundamentally it is a game of somewhat regulated gratuitous violence. Those that play the game understand this and to try to take all violence out of the game as it is the restrictions and penalties for hits that go beyond the normal expectation of the sport are already strong.

However the problem was not the violence that it inherent in the game it was the the fact that the team paid bounties to defensive players to intentionally and with deliberate forethought injure opposing players.  If anyone in the non-sporting world outside the NFL paid employees to injure or harm opponents in business, academia or anywhere else they would not only lose their job they would probably be charged with a crime.

Sports’ Illustrated’s Peter King discussed the 2009 NFC Championship Game detailed some of the transgressions:

“On Saturday nights during the 2009 NFL season, Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the lightning-rod leader of a feisty unit, would stand in front of his men holding white envelopes filled with cash—bonuses for their performances the previous week. As Williams called up player after player, handing them envelopes with amounts ranging from $100 for a special teams tackle inside the opponents’ 20-yard line to $1,500 for knocking a foe out of the game, a chant would rise up from the fired-up defenders:

“Give it back! Give it back! Give it back!”

Many players would do just that, to beef up the pot and make the stakes bigger as the season went on. The NFL alleges that by the time New Orleans reached the NFC Championship Game against the Vikings on Jan. 24, 2010, the stakes had risen to the point that middle linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Vilma personally offered a $10,000 bounty to any player who knocked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the game. (SI’s attempts to reach Vilma were unsuccessful.)

Over four quarters that Sunday at the Superdome, Favre was hit repeatedly and hard. The league later fined Saints defensive linemen Bobby McCray and Anthony Hargrove a total of $25,000 for three separate improper hits, and NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira said the Saints should have been flagged for a brutal high-low mashing by McCray and defensive lineman Remi Ayodele in the third quarter. Favre suffered a badly sprained left ankle on that play and had to be helped off the field. On the New Orleans sideline, Hargrove excitedly slapped hands with teammates, saying, “Favre is out of the game! Favre is done! Favre is done!”

An on-field microphone directed toward the sideline caught an unidentified defender saying, “Pay me my money!”

In a game where players are injured on clean plays sometimes ending their careers, where many active and retired players are suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury, concussion syndrome and where it is not uncommon for players with head injuries to develop forms of early onset dementia for a team to actively solicit its players to injure opponents is despicable. Sean Payton may be a great coach as far as the game is concerned but neither he nor Gregg Williams should be allowed on the sidelines again.

For players to go after opponents hard in the course of a game is not the issue but to intentionally attempt to injure an opponent and to be paid a bounty to do it is beyond the lines. The decision by Roger Goodell and the league is the right one and it is just. Payton, Williams and Loomis used a bounty system to injure opposing players and lied about it to the league.

That may seem to be a harsh assessment on my part but it is fitting. The league will have to see just how many players were deliberately injured by the Saints during the years in question and undoubtably some of the affected players will file legal action against the Saints for their injuries. Those that think only of Sean Payton losing his 7.5 million dollar salary miss the point. The practices that he condoned and his subordinates executed cost injured players pain, suffering and money, especially those that were not able to fully recover from them. I think that Payton is lucky that no one has filed criminal charges against him.  Even Police Officers and the Military operate under law and can’t do this kind of thing. As for the rest of us if we paid employees to intentional harm others to further our business or give our company or organization an edge we would go to jail.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Blowout, a Trouncing, a Massacre and an Upset the NFL Divisional Playoffs and Picks for Next Week

Well the Divisional Playoffs are behind us, I went 3 for 4 in my picks only missing the Chargers and Jets.  This patently is rather good for a member of the Church of Baseball who has no dog in the NFL fight. The only really interesting thing to me as only the Chargers and Jets game was competitive.

So let’s go through the results and look to next week.

Saints Defense Swarming (Getty Images)

In game one the Cardinals travelled to New Orleans to meet the Saints. The Saints were the clear favorite in the game despite the play of the Cardinals against the Packers last week.  I figured that the Saints would win but gave the Cardinals a chance at stealing one from the Saints.  In my heart I wanted the Cardinals to take it because I like Kurt Warner.  The game was dominated by the Saints who took advantage of Cardinals turnovers to win convincingly 45-14.  The Saints used aggressive defense to shut down the Cardinals and their offense led by the passing of Drew Brees and stellar performance of Reggie Bush put on a show against the porous Cardinal defense which in two playoff games gave up a record 90 points.  Warner was crushed by a tackle in the 2nd quarter which could factor into his decision to continue playing or retire.  The Saints take home field advantage into the NFC Championship game against Brett Farve and the Vikings this week.

Peyton Manning Leads the Colts over the Ravens (Getty Images)

In the evening game the Colts shut down the Baltimore offense and though did not have a spectacular game offensively producing only 275 yards but got the job done effectively.  Payton Manning was the offense for the Colts who rushed for only 46 yards.  The Ravens gave up 2 fumbles and 2 interceptions one of the fumbles coming on a potentially game changing interception by Ed Reed who was stripped of the ball deep in Colts territory after a 38 yard interception return.  The Ravens go home and Indianapolis breaks the “bye week jinx” to advance to the AFC Championship game which will be played in Indy against the scrappy New York Jets.

Brett Farve Tipping His Hat (AP Photo)

On Sunday Brett Farve and his Vikings faced off against the Cowboys in the Hubert H Humphrey Metrosexual Dome’s final NFL game.  Farve who had never beaten the Cowboys in the playoffs was spectacular leading the Vikings to a 34-3 massacre of the Cowboys making the pokes look like they didn’t belong on the same field.  Farve threw for 234 yards, with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions with a 134.4 quarterback rating while the Cowboys managed as a team a mere 248 yards. Tony “the over-rated” Romo went back to traditional post season form going 22 of 35 for a mere 198 yards and an interception for a 66.1 quarterback rating.  He also fumbled twice and was sacked 6 times.  Cowboys fans considered a late touchdown pass by Farve at the end of the game to be not “classy” but ever since the departure of Saint Tom Landry there has been little to call classy about the Cowboys including the new Cowboys Stadium which puts the T in tacky with the scoreboard larger than Eritrea.  Despite this being a massacre which I normally would have changed channels rather than continue to watch I kept watching taking a perverse pleasure in the Cowboy’s collapse.

Rex Ryan is Making Believers (Getty Images)

The final game of the weekend featured the hot San Diego chargers against the surprising New York Jets. This was the only game that was not a blowout and certainly the only upset.  The Jets won 17-14 in the best game of the weekend.  Perhaps only Rex Ryan and the Jets believed that they could go on the road to San Diego and win this one and win they did. The Jets opportunistic and aggressive defense shut down the vaunted San Diego offense and Philip Rivers allowing only 14 points and keeping Rivers to just on passing TD with an interception.  The league leading Jets running game ground up the Chargers defense and Mark Sanchez did what was needed to win the game.  The Jets love their coach and he loves his team.  Every week that goes by one gets the feeling that Cinderella might get to go to the ball this year and her name is the “Jets.”

Next week in the AFC Championship I pick the Jets to upset the Colts in Indy and the Vikings to upset the Saints down in the Bayou.  The numbers say that the home teams which have better records and home field advantage should win but there is an sense of magic in the air as Brett Farve looks to further detract from his detractors and the Jets befuddle all of us.  I should be a great football weekend.

Peace,

Steve+

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A “Wild” Wild Card Weekend

Though I am not a member of the heretical Church of Football but rather a member of the one true Church, the Church of Baseball, I do pay attention to what happens in this aberrant sect.  This weekend was the “Wild Card Weekend” where the teams with the best records that did not win a division title faced off against each other and the division title winner in each conference with the worst of the divisional winners.

I do not have any dog in the fight except for whoever is playing the Cowboys.  I don’t consider me to be a “Cowboy hater” but I cannot be considered to be a Cowboy fan having suffered through Cowboy hubris living as a foreigner in the Republic of Texas, though serving as a sworn member and officer in that Land’s National Guard being a member of a unit with its heritage going back to the Texas Brigade of General John Bell Hood.

Rookie QB Mark Sanchez Leads the Jets over the Bengals (AP photo)

This weekend featured four games.  In the first game the New York Jets under coach Buddy Ryan defeated the Cincinnati 24-14 Bengals for the second straight week in Cincinnati after having shellacked the Bengals last week to secure a playoff berth.   This was not really a surprise to me because the Jets after an inauspicious start to the season where almost anyone with half a brain figured that they stood no chance of even having a winning season and that Ryan would be a former head coach by now turned things around and finished the season as one of the hottest teams in football.

Tony Romo and the Cowboys Broke their Playoff Drought against the Eagles (AP photo)

In the monstrosity known as Cowboy’s Stadium where the scoreboard is bigger than Eritrea the Cowboys clipped the Eagles wings for the second straight week.  In fact they made the Eagles who had entered the playoff never having lost an opening playoff game under Coach Andy Reid. The Cowboys won their first playoff game since 1996.  The Cowboys much like the Jets had been pronounced dead after losing to San Diego and heading into their traditional December depression. This time Tony Romo and Coach Wade Phillips led the Cowboys to a 34-14 win over the Eagles sending Donovan McNabb home to eat soup with mom.

Now neither of these games were a surprise to me after the previous week where both the Cowboys and the Jets had made the Bengals and Eagles look bad.  Now it is true that both the Bengals had nothing to gain in the final game of the season, but even so they were flat and the Eagles first lost the division last week and were booted from the playoffs Saturday.

Ray Rice had 159 Yards against the Patriots (AP Photo)

Today’s games were certainly entertaining, unless you are a Patriots fan.  In the first game today the Baltimore Ravens dominated the Patriots with a crushing rushing attack and devastating defense led by veteran linebacker Ray Lewis 33-14.  The Ravens made the Patriots who had one of their most uneven seasons of the past 10 years look bad.  Tom Brady, who was probably cursed by the Grand Master Pastor Reverend Marc of the Amazing Grace Baptist Church who had labeled Brady a sinner bound for hell on their website had a terrible day. He went 23 of 42 attempts for a mere 154 years with three interceptions. Baltimore Running Back Ray Rice rushed for more yards by himself than Brady passed for. So the Patriots pass into off season oblivion while Bill Belichick commented “All of us that participated in the game are accountable for our performance and I don’t think anybody felt very good about it, players, coaches, anybody.” The Patriots looked really bad like they did not even belong on the same field as the Ravens.

Kurt Warner and his Offense Celebrate against the Packers (AP Photo)

In the final game of the Wild Card Weekend we were treated to a truly “wild” game.  The Arizona Cardinals defeated the Green Bay Packers who had defeated the Cardinals in the last game of the regular season 33-7 by a score of 51-45 in overtime.  This was an offensive display seldom seen in the playoffs; the most points ever scored in an NFL playoff game and possibly was one of the most exciting playoff games ever played. Kurt Warner led the Cardinals attack and the game was decided in the first series of overtime when Cardinal Karlos Dansby returned a fumble by Green Bay Quarterback Aaron Rodgers 17 yards for a defensive touchdown. The teams combined for 1024 yards of offense and 96 points.   The Packers go home.

Next week the Cardinals will venture to the Bayous of Louisiana to play the Saints in the Superdome.  New Orleans is favored but I would not count out Warner and the Cardinals.  The Ravens stay on the road to venture into Indianapolis to play Peyton Manning and the Colts. The Colts are favored but have played very flat since resting their players in week 15 and giving up the chance at a perfect season while the Ravens have played like a team possessed.  Moving on to Sunday Dallas will venture to the northlands to play the Vikings in the nation’s loudest venue the Hubert H Humphrey Metrosexual Dome in what could be the last game of any kind played there unless the Vikings win and the Saints lose forcing Arizona to go north.  The Vikings stumbled into the playoffs while the Cowboys are hot.  The game could certainly go either way but I think that the Vikings home field advantage might with a strong offensive and defensive performance might be what the Vikings need to send the Cowboys home.  In the final game the Jets wing their way to the west coast to play the Chargers who have remained hot all year long.  While the Jets could pull an upset I will go with the Chargers to shoot down the Jets.

My picks for what they are worth.  I think that the Cardinals by 3 in a shootout in New Orleans and the Colts by 7 the over the Ravens despite a hope that the Ravens will pull the upset.  In the Sunday games I take Brett Farve and the Vikings over the Cowboys by 3 and the Chargers over the Jets by 7.

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One Pitch, Game or Season too Many

In 1973 Willie Mays signed with the New York Mets after being released by the San Francisco Giants at the end of the 1972 season.   It was  a mistake and was his worst season in the majors.  He showed his age, he had lost his speed.  His arm was shot and hs hitting was a shadow of what it once was. He committed errors that never would have happened early in his career.  He was unable to play on a daily basis.  He wanted to do well.  However the inability to be in the lineup on a consistant basis, lack of outfield speed, weak arm and poor hitting hurt his team.  As a Giants fan I love Willie Mays.  I believe that he is quite possibly the best player who ever lived.  It hurt to see him finish his career in that fashion.

Other players have done this as well.  They go for that last season that last chance for glory and leave not at the top of their game, but at the bottom.  They end up tarnishing their final year and a career that should have ended in triumph ends in a whimper.  A recent example is NFL great Brett Farve.  His debacle with the New York Jets after retiring from the Packers has pushed his greatness to the side.  The continuing confusion of whether he will try to return for one more year has made many former supports stop caring.  Roger Clemens in the way that he played his last couple of years, sitting out half a season to make a dramatic entrance and then not performing well in his last season left a sour taste in the mouth of many in and out of baseball.

This is not confined to sports figures it occurs in almost every career vocation.  For many this desire to stay just one more year, one more tour one more chance at glory the attempt ends in personal humiliation. They realize later that they should have gotten out at the top of their game.  When I was a young Medical Service Corps officer we had about 250 Colonels in our branch.  We only had one billet for a Brigadier General.  That was usually 3-4 year term for whoever was the Chief of the Medical Service Corps.  Additionally there were only a few actually billets for Colonel’s to command actual units.   Some of these officers would have sld their soul’s to get the star.  I’m sure that at least a few did. But with only one General Officer billet that came open every 3-4 years the chances were pretty slim for anyone to get the job. Yet we would have men well past their prime holding on, going from staff assignment to staff assignment until they hit the statutory retirement point.  Many were miserable and felt that they should have been the annointed one. Unfortunately both in attitude and for the fact that by holding on indefinitely they kept others from getting promoted they hurt the Corps.  This is not uncommon in botht he military and the civilian world, even in churches.  It often harms those that hold on, those that work for them and the institution when younger men and women with fresh ideas can’t get promoted.  Since I left the Medical Service Corps as a  fairly junior Captain to go to seminary I never had a dog in this fight, but it was intersting to observe the effect on individuals and the institution.

There are times in life as well where we go through different seasons.  Adjusting to the changes of those seasons is just as important, be they family, spiritual or vocational.  Knowing when the season is changing and having people help us through are key. Likewise for those who have a religions faith, my Christian faith is a moderate Anglo-Catholic Episcopal spirituality with a membership in the Church of Baseball.  After all the Deity does speak to me through baseball.

It takes a bit of self-awareness to know when you shouldn’t go on.  Mike Mussina retired at the end of the 2008 season.  He went won 20 games for the first time in career had a 3.37 ERA and won his 7th Golden Glove of his career.  He could have probably played for another year or two.  However, he decided to go out on top.  He left at the end of his 17th and best season.

In daily life we have the same situation.  A pitcher needs to know when to tell his manager that he can’t pitch.  Likewise the manager and pitching coach have to be able to tell when their pitchers are losing their edge. My department head knows what I have been through in my life and what I have been dealing with both personally and physically.  He trusts me to tell him when I am having trouble.  He knows how to get the best out of me without wiping me out to do it.

Sometimes people not only stay too long, but in staying to long end up hurting their team, political party, business organization or religious organization.   We have all probably known people like this.  They finish badly and seldom does someone gently come alongside and say, “Friend, you had a great run, it’s time for you to step aside and let others carry out the mission.”

I for one know that I desire to go out on top when it is time for me to leave the military.  I will be retirement eligible in about 2 ½ years.  I want my tour where I am to be the best of my career regardless of whether I retire or get promoted and remain in service.  I want people to remember me in the best possible way. If I know that I cannot do the job anymore it is incumbent on me to be honest enough with myself to admit it and go home before people say: “Yah, he was a good chaplain back in the day, but he’s lost something…he’s not the same.”   I trust that the Deity Herself will assist me in this; Lord knows that this miscreant Priest needs all the help that he can get.

Peace,

Steve+

Post Script: I saw the Tides win again tonight and bring their record to 28 and 13, the best in AAA baseball.  They won on a Justin Turner hit a walk off single to drive in Oscar Salazar with 2 outs in the bottom of the 10th to defeat the Rochester Red Wings.  Kam Mikalio got the win for the Tides and Bobby Keppel took the loss for the Wings.  It was a ugly game, perhaps the ugliest I have see this year.  Each team committed three errors for a total of six errors in the game.  Wings third baseman Matt Macri dropped a routine pop foul by Oscar Salazar who then singled and scored the winning run.  Wings starting pitcher Philip Humber hit three Tides batters.  Tides Manager Gary Allenson and Designated Hitter Robby Hammock was tossed in the bottom of the 8th and Wings Shortstop Trevor Plouffe was tossed in the top of the 10th.

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