The NFL is the greatest sport, in the greatest country, in all the world. Seemingly impossible, the NFL just gets stronger year by year, with a widening fan base, slowing creeping into countries, both near and far. It seems impossible that someone, anyone would dare to jeopardize the cornucopia that is the National Football League. A money-driven, greed inspired, lock-out, when the elite, NFL Players Association wanted more than 50% of the league revenue to be devoted to player salaries, and the ultra-elite owners wanted to keep salaries under 50% and spread more of the profits to help offset the costs of running these incredibly profitable clubs. It ultimately came down to millionaires and billionaires arguing over percentage points of a multi-trillion dollar industry. This supreme pettiness is a distant memory for most fans. More fans will focus on the shortened off-season or the odd salary cap, than remember that NFL Network and ESPN had even less (meaningful) football news to run on an endless loop.
Why does the NFL, seemingly, wish to impede this limitless growth?
The bounty program installed (in multiple clubs) by Gregg Williams is, in my mind, even more deplorable, but, at the same time, more understandable, than the petty squabbling of millionaires and billionaires.
The NFL is a violent sport. It has always been, and will (even including the, “protect the QB no matter what” rules) forever be a violent sport. Very large men running in close proximity at very high speeds will always lead to violent collisions. It is the grace and fluidity, the display of skill with which these gargantuan individuals crash into each other that helps keep the countless number of fans enthralled and invested. This fine line between violence and physical brilliance was demolished when Gregg Williams offered pocket change to players when they would successfully injure an opposing play. Playing for performance is not a new thing in the NFL. Bonuses for pro-bowls, playoff appearances, records set. But equating positive reinforcement with assault is deplorable. Some might say, “NFL players try to hit each other.” And that is the beauty of the game. There is a significantly distinct difference between, hitting someone for the sake of the game and aiming for someone’s head or ACL or ankle because it could take them out of the game, temporarily or more.
The players, coaches and administrators that were involved, directly or indirectly, by turning a blind eye or feigning ignorance, were taking the careers, and more importantly lives, of their opponents in their hands. And with reckless abandon, were attempting to destroy the fabric that is the NFL. Football is a sport, a game in which physically gifted individuals run around on a perfectly manicured lawn for 60 minutes for the enjoyment of all. When the intent to injury is entered into the equation, the game no longer becomes a sport; it becomes something twisted and vile. A post-apocalyptic grudge match where the sanctity of safety and human life is cast aside for the bottom line.
The guilty parties, from top to bottom, should be punished. And punished severely.