Sometimes news items are presented with a pretense that evokes knee-jerk outrage or, at the very least, giving a shit. Such is the tone of the ongoing NFL bounty coverage.
In short, teams encouraged players to arrange bonuses – typically in the range of $1,000 to $10,000 – for hits that would severely impact opposing players. Is it wrong? Maybe. From an instinct end, the whole process of football sort of hinges itself on the notion of “clobber the shit out of other guy, lest ye be clobbered.” How much extra oomph could a bonus possibly inspire? A bludgeoned Brett Favre from the 2009 NFC Championship game might beg to differ, but if dictating the course of a game is as simple as hitting someone hard, that’s sort of a lame secret formula (not to mention an obvious one).
When you consider the monetary carrot factor, the scandal’s impact is further neutered. The median NFL salary is $770,000 per year. Divided by 16 regular season games, that factors out to a pre-tax median paycheck of $48,125. Let’s say a player manages one vicious, $1,000 bounty hit per-game, a scenario that seems somewhat improbable in and of itself. The bounty haul? It equates to a two percent boost in pay. In barista/waiter teams, that player is getting seriously screwed over.
I understand that the NFL is under a safety microscope; the brain damage and near-crippling that many former players endure is evidence that making 20 times the median U.S. income carries with it implicit risk. Does that mean the players’ health should be ignored because they can buy fleets of Jet Skis? Of course not. But the weight of this bounty scandal is akin to kids gambling quarters on a pog game (something that was actually banned at my elementary school). The bounty system is a drop-in-the-bucket sort of problem, a trifling matter that’ll probably continue no matter what sort of punishment a dead-serious Roger Goodell decides to levy.
If NFL brass really gave a shit about players’ well being, they wouldn’t be so adamant about pushing an 18-game schedule. Because encouraging players to try harder with two percent tips doesn’t have any real impact. Forcing them to smash each other’s heads open 12.5 percent more each year? That’s just owners pocket-lining at the expense of health. So yeah, listen to the bluster and muster your own sense of righteous indignation if you must, but this whole to-do is just the product of NFL PR (we care about safety – seriously!) and a bored crop of sportswriters who’ll forget come free agency.
Feigned outrage it well and good, but – right or wrong – here’s what football fans really care about. Drink up, you bloodthirsty animals:
- by Jay Boller