When the story about the bounties set on opposing players by the New Orleans Saints coach -- or coaches, I'm still not convinced that there was only one person calling the shots --came out I said that I hope that something is done to the "hit squad" as well.
But after thinking about it and putting myself in that coach-player situation I was wondering if maybe I should reconsider my point of view.
If you think about it, we tell our boys from the time that they stop play to hover over a bug on the field to listen to the coach. When a player moves to middle school and high school and a coach wants to move them to a position they don't want to play and they want to argue with him about it what do parents normally say? The ones that I have always come in contact with have responded by telling their son that if the coach wants to move them they must have a good reason and just do as he says without question or attitude.
I know that if my wife, Meg, has a problem with a student who is on the Cousins football team all she has to do is threaten to tell head coach David Zimmerman. That quickly puts them in their place. Even though I don't have experience at this level, I'm sure it's the same at the collegiate level and above. Just like in the military, it is instilled deeply that it is not your place to question orders but to follow them.
So now all of a sudden we're going to expect these players to go against what has been ingrained in them from the first day they put on pads? I don't think so.
These so-called bounties have been something used to motivate players to give their opponents' key players an extra hard hit for a long time. I remember reading about how the veteran players would tell the low-paid rookies that they would get an extra $500 or whatever if they hit a marked player so hard they had to leave the game. The difference is that people in authority would always stay out of it.
Now I hear that people who probably don't like the game to begin with want to make extra rules to try to curb some of the violence from the game. But if we're honest with ourselves, a lot of us watch the game for the hard hits. What are the chances that a flag football game will ever sell out a 50,000-plus stadium? The highlight reels are filled with plays where the ball, and probably a filling or two, is knocked loose.
I wonder if the problem is that we're keeping players too safe? With the added padding, including a flak jacket to protect the ribs, players are almost equipped like Iron Man. To me, all the protective equipment and a lack of fear of being hurt is the problem. Rather than using the equipment to protect the players, they are using it as a weapon. If the NFL were to go back to retro equipment, it's possible that there could be less permanent damage done to players. What are the chances that someone will tackle using their helmet if there's no face mask to protect them?
Manny Fils is a sports writer for the Citizen.