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NFL's Top Bounty Hunter and the Misleading Audiotape

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NFL's Top Bounty Hunter and the Misleading Audiotape
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Former Saints Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams

I listened to the audio the other day of former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams exhorting his players to hurt and maim key members of the San Francisco 49ers offense.

I suppose what I heard will probably add another year or so to Williams’ indefinite suspension, or worse, perhaps make it permanent.

As bad as the on-going “bounty-gate” scandal has become, especially now with the release of the damning audio from the Saints locker room, I’m just not willing to act like it’s the worst thing that has ever happened in sports.  I’m growing weary of the hypocrisy that “bounty-gate” has inspired.

Yes, Williams’ words on the recording sounded particularly cruel and vicious.  But I also believe they are things that are said every Sunday in the NFL.  They are said every Saturday afternoon by a coach at the college level.  They are said every Friday night by some coach before a high school game.  

We might not like it, but the cold truth is, those words, or words similar to them, are part of the culture of the game.

Football is at the top of the list of the “hurt” sports.

A few years ago, former New York Jets head coach Herman Edwards famously declared, “You play to win the game.”  He could have also added without exaggeration, “You play to hurt somebody.”

Why could he have said that?  Because that is what football is all about.  Hitting and hurting. Winning is the dessert.  But hitting and hurting are the entree.

My favorite team growing up was the Chicago Bears.  The Bears' defensive star back then was the great middle linebacker, Dick Butkus.

Based on the new audio recording should Gregg Williams be permanently banned from coaching in the NFL?

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The Bears had only two winning seasons during Butkus’ nine years with the Bears, but his career is still celebrated, largely because of the brutally fabulous havoc he wreaked on opposing offenses.  You could enjoy watching a Bears game in those days, even when they were losing badly; knowing that at some point Butkus was going to “blow somebody up.”

His big hits are what earned him a valued place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Guys like Dick Butkus are why we watch football.  Fans are vicariously thrilled by the hitting, and the violence.  We have always enjoyed watching men hurt each other.  Boxing, MMA, hockey, and even the entertainment-laden “sport” of pro wrestling, are all about violence and mayhem.  

Take the hitting and the beat-downs out, and you might as well shut those sports down, because the fans just won’t watch.

Now before you jump down my throat, aghast in denial, please know that I do understand the newfound concerns about safety, and have sympathy for those who’ve been injured.   And I also know NFL football is the most important sports business in America, worth billions of dollars.

New lawsuits, alleging life-altering injuries and brain damage, are being filed by former players seemingly every day.

The NFL knows it may one day have to pay dearly for the costly fallout from its legacy of violence, which is why the commissioner and his team of lawyers and public relations staff desperately want to sanitize the league’s image, and rid it of the most egregious enablers.

But I urge you to think twice before you get “holier than thou” and call for the end of Gregg Williams’ coaching career based on what you hear him say on a recording.  Do understand, he was not the first and he will not be the last to call for the unsavory physical destruction of the opposition.

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