Peter Kerasotis: More Controversy Rocks Saints
By Peter Kerasotis // April 24, 2012
My two cents of your free – yes, free – SpaceCoastDaily.com …
When you’ve been away from writing a regular column for as long as I have there are so many topics to catch up with you on, and so many more arriving daily.
So let’s get this thing started with something current.
As I write this, I’m en route to Louisiana for my annual sojourn to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. I’m also reading a report (relax, my wife is driving) from ESPN “Outside the Lines.” It details allegations that New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis used an illegal eavesdropping device to listen in real time to opposing coaches and their play-calling from 2002 through 2004.
Loomis denies this. Though, to be sure, this is the same Mickey Loomis the NFL just slapped with an eight-game suspension for his role in the Saints’ now-infamous bounty program.
I have few.
It’ll be interesting to see how the NFL pursues this, and if proven true, what Loomis’ punishment will be. A few weeks ago, I told a colleague at a spring training baseball game that if you’re an NFL head coach, you’re better off if you brazenly cheat to win football games rather than attempt to injure opposing players to win football games.
My colleague is a New England Patriots fan. He knew what I was getting at. No doubt, you now know, too.
Back in 2007, Patriots head coach Bill Belicheat … uh, Belichick was caught filming an opposing team’s practice, something he routinely did. It came to be known as Spygate, but the extent of the cheating might never be known because the NFL destroyed all the evidence. Did spying on opposing team practices help New England win one, two, or perhaps all three of its Super Bowls?
What we do know is that for such an egregious breach of ethics that compromised the game’s integrity to its core, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell fined Belichick and the Patriots, took away a first round draft pick, and suspended the head coach for exactly … zero games.
That’s right, Belichick wasn’t even suspended.
But take a violent game and take it over the line with a bounty program, and Saints head coach Sean Payton is booted for an entire season.
That’s not to say the bounty program wasn’t wrong. It absolutely was. It was beyond wrong. It was morally reprehensible.
But something sure seems awry when one coach misses no games for an abject and intricate method of cheating, while another coach is banned for an entire season for a bounty program one of his assistants perpetrated and operated.
Again, not that Payton, his former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the Saints’ franchise shouldn’t be punished. They should. Especially Williams.
But rather than the punishment fitting the crime, it instead fits into the NFL’s fear of the avalanche of lawsuits heading its way.
The NFL has to show – or maybe we should say make a show – that it’s concerned with injuries and player safety, even while it disingenuously wants to add two more games to the regular season, increasing the mayhem and the maiming.
Suspending Payton for a season wasn’t designed to send a message to other coaches and their assistants. It was designed to send a message to judges and juries.
The NFL is worried.
It should be.
According to NFLConcussionLitigation.com – yes, such a web site exists – there currently are 61 concussion-related lawsuits that have been filed against the league by upwards of 1,260 former players.
One of those former players was Ray Easterling.
The emphasis here is on the past tense was.
Easterling was part of a contingent of former players, which included Super Bowl quarterback Jim McMahon, who last year filed a lawsuit against the NFL over concussion-related issues. Last week, though, Easterling blew his brains out. It was suicide, and its implications are far-reaching.
Attorney Larry Coben, who still represents Easterling’s widow, told USA TODAY, “We’ll change it from a personal injury case to a wrongful death case.”
Yeah, the NFL is real worried.
And more is coming.
I was talking to my friend the other day, former NFL great Wilber Marshall, the Astronaut High product who is part of the inaugural class going into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame on May 11 (link to story here), and he told me about how he’d just returned from California, where he had his head examined.
Marshall told me how he’d suffered “a ton of concussions” as player, and how there are things he’s feeling, symptoms, that have him concerned.
He should be.
It was barely more than a year ago when Marshall’s friend and former Chicago Bears teammate, Dave Duerson, shot himself in the chest in South Florida. Before his suicide was complete, Duerson texted his family, requesting that his brain be donated to the Boston University School of Medicine, which has been on the forefront of researching chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Sure enough, BU found that that Duerson suffered from neurodegenerative disease linked to multiple concussions.
Duerson was only 50.
Marshall turned 50 on April 18.
It’s a serious issue.
Much more serious than cheating to win football games.
The evidence against the NFL is mounting. But unlike the evidence against Bill Belichick and the extent and scope of Spygate, the NFL can’t destroy this evidence. All they can do is attempt to portray that they care.
Perception is a powerful tool.
It’s why the NFL threw the book at Sean Peyton and Gregg Williams, issuing unprecedented suspensions.
Something tells me, though, that if it’s proven that Mickey Loomis cheated, the NFL will go easier on him. Just like they did with Bill Belichick.
You see, the NFL isn’t facing a conga line of lawsuits over personal integrity. Just personal injuries.
There is a difference.
And the league has duly noted it.