Bounty Hunting Revisited

First off, apologies to regular readers for all of the 'revisited' posts of late (there are more to come as well). I am not sure if this is a sign that I am starting to get ahead of the wave on stories or if I am just missing the most interesting angles. I suppose I will leave that up to readers to decide.

Today's re-visitation addresses a piece I recently wrote on the NFL Bounty-Gate scandal. For those who want the short version, the post addresses the fact that I am apparently the only person in America that feels that the whole thing just drips with hypocrisy, that it is incongruous to support football as it is played and also be appalled by bounty systems. Of course the Saints' actions were outside the rules of the game, and therefore some punishment was warranted. But I felt the level of horror with which many Americans apparently viewed the scandal showed a very strong lack of understanding of how the game is played at best and rank hypocrisy at worst.

Though not many commentators have come around to my admittedly off-the-beaten-path worldview on this subject, it has been interesting to see the shifting dialogue around the topic since the scandal originally broke. For one, many people felt that the punishment inflicted by commissioner Roger Goodell was overly harsh, underlining the idea that maybe what the Saints did wasn't so far outside the mainstream after all. Even more notably, writers at several high-profile media outlets have recently surmised that there is likely a direct correlation between this harsh punishment and current and future lawsuits which list the NFL as a defendant and which deal with culpability in player head injuries.

In this line of thinking, the NFL wants to be seen as the defender of player health. Despite the fact that the lawsuits stem from events in the past, the analysis would suggest that the NFL is either trying to make itself a more sympathetic defendant, almost like an unknowing fellow traveler in the 'free concussion' era, or mitigate potential damages from the suits by ex post action.

While this explanation for the harsh punishments levied on the Saints organization (with individual player penalties still to come) doesn't speak directly to my condemnation of the American public's condemnation of the scandal, it does suggest that there was, perhaps, something to the logic I used to get there. That was that the NFL had ulterior motives in playing up the player safety angle. While I might not get public opinion shifted all the way to my statement that Americans were being hypocritical about Bounty-Gate, the more information that comes out, the less inflammatory and aggressive such a position seems.

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