This article has been written before, hasn't it? Probably in 100 different languages and in thousands more different tones and distinct ways of saying the same thing. I mean seriously, aren't we all sick and tired of this stupid "Bountygate" thing? Am I the only one?
I recently was on Bill Smith's talk show on fryingpansports.com to discuss the Hornets draft and field a question or two regarding the New Orleans Saints (my segments can be found here). Naturally it was about this whole "Bountygate" thing.
I tried to answer his question the best I could, but I had to admit, I really don't care. I am literally the worst person to write this article. I don't care!
Is that clear enough?
All that said, there are a number of misconceptions the national media, and others, have formulated in regards to the Saints organization over the course of this offseason. And I care enough about the state of the team's reputation to stand on my soapbox and defend them.
So here goes.
You know what NFL fans in general care about? I'll go ahead and list them in order:
1. Their favorite team wins on Sunday, Monday or Thursday, or whenever the NFL gets around to having the game played.
2. Their team is entertaining. Fans generally don't like boring 6-3 wins, especially if that game wasn't played in 10 inches of snow and minus-21 degree temperatures.
3. Hot cheerleaders and good game day entertainment. Let's just be real, that's what many men and women want when they go to a game.
4. Good food and tailgating experiences. There are entire websites and shows devoted to this crucial fandom topic. Three and four could easily be flipped.
5. That their favorite team doesn't have a player on the team getting arrested more often than he makes a tackle or scores a touchdown. No Saint has been arrested for their role in "Bountygate" and none will be.
The closest infraction this Saints "Bountygate" scandal reaches is No. 5, and it doesn't even get there. It's not even close. Most of the Saints players are upstanding individuals who care more about their community than the average professional football player.
Saints fans know that, and a wise NFL fan knows that too. National media: Please stop portraying this like fans care about this scandal, when most fans are more concerned about Drew Brees re-signing and how the rest of the team will develop for a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
Much can be said about Jonathan Vilma's play in the past two seasons since the team won its first Super Bowl. From simply an Xs and Os and personnel standpoint, I'm glad he won't be available for this Saints team in 2012.
But to suggest the guy is a jerk, some crazy meathead or a dumb jock is miss-based. Sure, he probably made a bad decision by paying out money for certain "play-for-performance" incentives from 2009 to 2011.
But as many testimonies that have come out, regarding bounties and play-for-performance, in the wake of the NFL's announcement of their findings on the Saints back in late February, to single out Vilma is wrong.
Is Vilma an offender of rules the NFL put in place to protect itself, its players and simply stay within the boundaries of federal law? Most definitely.
But so is every other player on every other team who either handed out money or took money in such instances. Do you really believe the steroid-induced Bill Romanowski (h/t The Dan Patrick Show) that his team never had "bounties" or "play-for-performance" incentives built into their program?
If you do, you're naive and probably get looped into the Nigerian bank emails you get too.
My point is this: Vilma cannot be excused; he is guilty. But so are probably 75 to 80 percent of players who have played in the NFL. It's a cultural issue in the NFL which must be solved.
I have no problem blaming Vilma, just make sure you blame others too, or at least don't assume any other player is completely innocent.
Right or wrong, Roger Goodell is in control of the whole "Bountygate" thing. He gets to determine these things. He has the final call on all of it, because the NFL is no longer the National Football League. It is now the Roger Goodell League.
Sure they've kept the abbreviation NFL, but don't expect anyone to continue to utter the sometimes catchy, sometimes annoying catchphrase the National Football League as they are announcing (especially since Ron Jaworski will no longer be working live games).
That's because it's true that it's Goodell's league and all his little pawns are just playing in it. He's probably the second-biggest egomaniac in this country who has any significant kind of power (I'll let you guess who I'm inferring is first).
The point here is that there are Twitter updates and news updates seemingly every day with "breaking news" or speculation that certain Saints players may have a chance to have their suspensions alleviated, or that the Saints could somehow be acquitted of all charges against them.
My exhortation to you is simple: Don't drink the Kool-Aid.
I mean sure, in some alternate universe where justice is revealed to the masses not in due time but immediately, it could possibly happen. In the real world, where justice is never really known until the end, Roger Goodell is allowed to continue to rule with an iron fist as he sees fit.
The Saints have no chance of getting any freedom from their punishment. It's best to stop pretending right now that there is any other hope.
Though I have seen multiple articles based on this very premise, I really have no idea where this belief stems from.
I guess the argument goes that he should be fired because he didn't fully cooperate with the NFL and lied to Goodell. I understand that argument, until you remember first that his job revolves around a game.
A game, a freaking game. His job is a fantasy job. I'm not even sure his job counts as a job. Sure he works more hours than the normal American on his "job." But it's a game.
And you must remember when your job revolves around a game, you become somewhat of a child, or at least maintain a childlike exuberance and mentality. And when that happens you forget about integrity and doing things the right way. You grow to do whatever pleases you.
I work with kids for a living. Believe me, that's how they are. Doing things that make them happy supersedes doing things the right way.
While Sean Payton is hovering around 50 years of age and should know better, you can also argue that he's been in this "business" (game) so long he's immune to the thoughts and reasoning of the average person. His mentality is naturally that of a kid.
Again, I am not making an excuse for Payton, but the NFL needs systems in place which requires and rewards integrity, if they want integrity to be exhibited among its players and coaches.
I will continue to say it's not right, but Payton is not the only guy who has ever committed a wrong of this type and more importantly won't be the last. Punishment ultimately isn't enough to keep teams and people from venturing into schemes they know may get them in trouble should they get caught.
The NFL needs to realize this and figure out a way to get its players, coaches and personnel to work and live by a standard of integrity. (I actually have an answer for how to do that, but this is not the spot to expand on that.) Until they do, Payton and others will go against it.
Should he be fired because of something so silly? I think not.
Remember at the beginning we said the fans' main priority when it comes to football fandom is a winning team? Well, to go a little bit gangsta, these dudes still gon' ball!
The media loves to think the Panthers or Falcons can take control of this division now that the Saints are in disarray. Apparently they forgot the Saints still have the second-best QB in football (and hands down the best in the division), great skill players, a wonderful offensive line and a defensive coordinator who by simply showing up improves the defense by leaps and bounds.
Sure they will miss Sean Payton. But they'll also be playing for him. And Payton's greatest attribute is the program he put in place, not his play-calling or game management. Therefore I could step into New Orleans as interim head coach and this team wouldn't miss a beat.
The Saints actually have a pretty favorable schedule in 2012, in which they only face one good offense during Will Smith's four-game suspension (I don't consider Carolina a good offense yet) and have every opportunity to repeat their 13-3 record of 2009 and 2011.
Of course it won't be easy, and there will be adversity at every turn of the corner. But this team has overcome more than anyone can even remember. That's in part because the media tends to assume no team is capable of overcoming adversity. And they never give anyone credit if they do overcome.
The Saints have been a team that's defined what it means to overcome adversity since 2005. Why would the 2012 season be any different?