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Editorial: A Telling Tale Of A League Based On Violence, Secrecy

I like to consider myself an NFL know-it-all, even with just two years experience covering a pro team. But in the end, like every person who decided to try their hand at crafting rhetoric for criticism…they started off as a fan. And as a former fan, I say the March 2 bounty scandal that’s surrounding the New Orleans Saints, which led to an indefinite suspension for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and a one year ban for head coach Sean Payton, is a sad reality in a grueling, paranoid, secretive, alpha-male sport: There are skeletons in the NFL’s closet and they busted the lock.

Saints’ coaches knew of players placing high-priced bounties on opposing players. Unacceptable? Yes. Surprising? Well, that’s for you to decide.

Samuel Jackson recently said, “they’re gladiators, take the quarterbacks head off.” That’s all well and good…during the course of a hard fought, fair game. Once clear intentions to hurt another human being come into play, the game becomes more about regulation and less about football.

The NFL took a clear stance, reacting that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. My question is, what steps now will be taken to stop this from happening again?

Of course, Commissioner Roger Goodell can’t be everywhere at once and I think it’s safe to say, much like the SpyGate scandal in New England a few years ago, New Orleans was the team that got caught and will be the sacrificial lamb and example, so that other teams will get the drift.

This brings me to the second cloud to park itself over the Saints: The Mickey Loomis eavesdropping device, or as I like to call it: DomeGate.

ESPN reported on its Outside the Lines program Monday, April 23 that the United States Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Louisiana learned two weeks ago that an electronic eavesdropping device was installed that allowed a line from Saints GM Loomis’ luxury booth to hear what was being said in the visiting coaches booth. ESPN also reported that it didn’t know if the listening device was ever used, and that it apparently was destroyed after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and the Louisiana Superdome (DomeGate, get it?) was refurbished in time for the 2006 season.

What is most telling is when the bounty scandal broke exactly one month ago, the Saints barely responded to it, calling it an ongoing investigation and what not.

But when alleged evidence suggested Loomis exhibited Watergate-type tendencies at the Superdome before Katrina, the organization reacted akin to a baby having his pacifier removed from his mouth.

Loomis spoke last week, stating he has never listened, heard of the ability or joked about the possibility of the usage of an eavesdropping device.

Why not come out during bounty questions?

There’s no evidence, yet, that the Saints either used the device, if it was installed, or benefited from it. Now, if it was installed, and that can be proven, that’s serious enough and some sanction should be forthcoming. But I think there also has to be evidence that it was used for the sanction to be serious. If there’s evidence, and we have seen nothing of it yet, Loomis is in big trouble. If not, Loomis should be in the clear.

What is clear is that closet raiding in the NFL is far from over. Whether or not we’ll find dust bunnies or smoking guns is the real question.

— RF