The NFL commissioner recently came down hard on the New Orleans Saints for a system of bounties placed on opposing players. That is, if a valuable opponent could be knocked from the game cash rewards were distributed. Head coach, Sean Payton, was suspended for a year, the Saints fined, and former defensive coordinator, Greg Williams, now with another team has been suspended from the NFL indefinitely. Williams was the mastermind behind the knockout-for-cash incentive scheme of which Payton said he knew nothing about (wink-wink). |
In my opinion, there has been an unwritten bounty system throughout sports of all levels, but Williams had the idiocy to document it—put it on paper. I mean, what are those helmet stickers all about in amateur football? Former Colt coach, Tony Dungy, opined that the onset of Peyton Manning’s neck problems came courtesy of the Saints. And if you doubt Manning was important look at the Colts record without him last season.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the NCAA Division III final four for women's basketball in Holland, Michigan. The tournament was won by Illinois Wesleyan University, a team that lost five games during the season. The other three teams, St. Thomas, Amherst, and George Fox lost a combined season long total of ONE game. In the semifinals Fox edged Amherst with slender, smooth, ambidextrous, six-five center, Hannah Munger, leading the way with 36 points. IWU prevailed in the second match employing a roughhouse, roller-derby defensive, which stifled St. Thomas. Picture a swarm of angry hornets playing hockey. The game looked like YMCA ball. It was just plain ugly! Still you had to appreciate the frantic, wild, unrelenting, hustling play of the Titans from IWU.
The final was held the evening of St. Patrick’s Day. On paper the Bruins from George Fox University were a clear favorite especially with Munger looming like Goliath on a battlefield. The Bruins held a seven point lead after the first six minutes, with Munger scoring four and establishing herself in the middle on offense and defense. Then it happened. Munger was taken to the floor by a Titan who rolled on her knee. Exit Hannah Munger. The outcome was predictable although the Bruins managed to have a lead with less than three minutes to play. I am not suggesting a bounty system was in play, but as a casual observer it surely looked suspicious. With Munger in the game, IWU had little chance. What I did perceive from IWU were smiling faces with Munger eliminated coupled with no visible signs of remorse.
But I digress…
I think what may be behind NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s hard line against the Saints is a possible HUGE class action suit brought against the league by ex-players. Without proof of a bounty system they had no recourse. Now that one has been documented…well, let’s see what happens. Goodell showed the league “appears” to care, but do they? If so, why no action against the New York Giants who admitted they were told by coaches to “take out” the 49ers’ Kyle Williams because he has a concussion history? According to Goodell none of the other 31 teams are guilty of wrong doing.
Oh really? Let’s look at some history.
In the late 1950s the Lions met the Bears late in the season at Wrigley Field. The division title was on the line. Certain defensive players told Chicago Tribune reporters they could prevail if they could get Detroit quarterback Bobby Layne out of the game and force the Lions to go with backup Harry Gilmore who played about as well as I do. As a youngster watching on television when Layne was carried off I was delighted. Being a Cleveland Browns fan I was overjoyed at the Bears triumph. At the time the Lions had a history of routinely thumping the Browns.
In 1960 en route to an NFL championship the Philadelphia Eagles had a crucial game against the New York Giants whose standout running back was Frank Gifford. The Eagles made it known to the media before game time that Gifford was a target. Linebacker Chuck Bednarik took Gifford out of the game with one of the most vicious hits I’ve ever seen.
In 1964 the Browns handily beat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in the NFL Championship game 27 – 0. Reporters were shocked. LA Times columnist Jim Murray wrote that they should rename the team Dolts. Colts’ legendary defensive end Gino Marchetti told the Times he would “get” Browns quarterback Frank Ryan in the Pro-Bowl, held at the time in the LA Coliseum, because Ryan poured it on. Ryan was carried from the field.
How about Houston Oilers’ coach Jerry Glanville referring to the Astrodome as the HOUSE OF PAIN? What do you think that phrase inferred? Reporters loved it.
On August 12, 1978, Oakland Raider safety Jack Tatum nicknamed “The Assassin” hit New England receiver Darryl Stingley head-on and broke his back. Stingley spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair and died at age 55. Tatum became the symbol of football violence. Earlier, as reported in Sports Illustrated, Tatum said he loved to see his victims lying on the ground twitching.
Then we have “get even” bean balls in baseball, “take his number” and goons in hockey; and various old-time NBA enforcers likes Jungle Jim Loscutoff of the Celtics, Rudy LaRusso of the Lakers, and Rick Mahorn. I once saw (live) Celtic Dick Hemric stop Piston Bob Houbregs from scoring on a breakaway by shoving him from behind so hard that Houbregs collided violently with the standard holding up the backboard. Houbregs was helped to the locker room and did not return.
Finally, I remember the Monday Night Football crew chuckling over Conrad Dobler’s “title” of dirtiest player in the game (courtesy of Sports Illustrated). Dobler once said he liked to hit players in the throat where there are no pads. Jim Murray wrote that Dobler had the “antisocial instincts of a treed gorilla”. The guy used his fists, legs, plaster cast, and teeth.
I guess boys-will-be-boys; and in the case of the IWU Titans girls-will-be-boys too.
Copyright 2012 by Gene Myers
Author of AFTER HOURS and SONGS FROM LATTYS GROVE both available from Amazon Kindle.
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