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It’s the Footballcalypse! The NFL Referee Strike Strikes Back

If I was swimming in gasoline with a lit blowtorch I couldn’t have immolated myself better than the NFL has managed to do over the past few weeks. Yes it is the Footballcalypse, that time when the religious faith of millions is put to a test greater that the Apocalypse or the Obama Presidency.

But how could this happen?  The NFL is the bomb; it is the pinnacle of American religious life. For crying out loud more people tune in to the NFL on any given Sunday than show up in church. The NFL Shield was the most trusted icon in America and then poof, Roger Goodell began to blow it up.  Like the Anti-Christ in the Left Behind movies he had it all, and now he is bringing down the wrath of Khan on the institution that was as solid as the shield that is its symbol.

To think that it all began because the league couldn’t cut a chump change deal with the Referee union. Sure those guys are part time employees and no one buys their jerseys but still they are like the big toe of football. Sure you can walk without a big toe, but it isn’t a pretty sight, kind of like the officiating of the NFL right now. Sure the refs are part time employees that make more money than most Americans including me do in a year, but this is the NFL. It is a religious faith, more important to most Americans than their own jobs, healthcare or national security.

Obviously Goodell and the owners didn’t think that they needed a big toe. Sure the religious fans would still come out and pack the stadiums, watch the games on TV and buy the merchandise, they wouldn’t care about officiating. After all what could go wrong? Anyone can call a holding penalty, I have done it myself when I watch those replays on TV with angles and views that no on field official could ever hope to match. Illegal motion, easy, clipping, no problem, hooking and boarding? Easy, a balk, you bet, a double fault or goaltending, any of those tricky calls that an NFL referee would have to make anyone with half a brain tied behind their ass could call.

After all, a few bad calls aren’t going to affect the game or the season. Certainly there won’t be any calls that let’s say are wrong and hand victory to a team that didn’t deserve it. It could never happen, even the washed up former college, high school and Pop-Warner referees couldn’t mess up calls that could cost potentially a team a playoff berth or home field advantage. Certainly they couldn’t make calls that would be so bad that even die-hard Green Bay Packer fans want to walk out in fury.

But they did and now unless something happens soon to change things we will witness the Footballcalypse of 2012. Could it be that the Mayan Calendar was actually referring to the NFL? It is possible. Maybe we just misinterpreted it.

NFL Replacement Referee making the Secret I Love Satan sign

Well things are bad my dear readers, things are bad. They are so bad that I actually switched my TV to the watch the last few minutes of the Packers-Seahawks game last night just to see if it was as bad as my football fans were saying ti was. Sure enough I was rewarded for my effort. Within minutes of changing the channel the Seahawks quarterback threw one of those Catholic prayer passes into the end zone against the Packers who were ahead. When the ball came down it was as if God had answered the prayers of the Packers fans, but then it was like Satan himself came down and took victory out of their hands. The Seahawks were ruled to have possession of the ball even though it looked like the Packers defender had the ball and that the Seattle receiver was interfering. By all means it looked like the Packers had won the game, but then, the lack of a real big toe was obvious to all.  The artificial referees decided that the Seahawks had the ball and scored a touchdown. The place went crazy, it was like the end of a WWE cage match.

It has gotten so bad that big union fans like Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Congressman and GOP Vice President Nominee Paul Ryan are demanding that the real union referees return. I never thought that I would see either on the side of the oppressed workers and turn their backs on the the NFL owners, the very top 1% of the top 1%. But then true faith my friends is important to these men. They are men of values whose faith in their Packers and the NFL for they stand, one Packer nation, under God and Lombardi, indivisible with liberty and victory in the NFC Central for all. Belief matters and above all politics both are Packers fans who saw their team get screwed on the final play of the game and they didn’t have a morning after pill available to change the result.

I think that if the NFL wants to deceive their faithful by putting on this kind of show they should at least have the good sense to hire someone who knows how to play that game. Yes, they need to hire Vince McMahon of the WWE, throw out the rules and put a cage around the field.

I for one have to stand up and like an Old Testament prophet on the wall shout the alarm. Lo’ the Footballcalypse is coming! Repent and turn back to baseball before it is too late and all of the money that you spent on your fantasy team is lost.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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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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