When one is in sports media, there is always the temptation to talk in hyperbole. Something is always the worst, best, etc. We deal in superlatives. I try to avoid it whenever possible. However, in the case of the Saints' "Bounty-Gate" contreversey, it's hard not to go overboard.
While many in "Who-Dat Nation", along with most players and coaches, will use terms like "Everyone does it" and "It's part of the game", to paraphrase Vice President Joe Biden,"This is a big bleepin' deal".
We cannot gloss over this, anymore than they couldn't gloss over the SMU Football "pay for play" scandal of the early 80's or baseball's "Juiced Era". A fundemental unwritten rule has been broken, flagrantly! When players say "We don't want to see anyone get hurt out here", we believe it. Or at least we did. There is no severe doubt as to what we're even watching when we tune in every Sunday.
Injuries are a part of the game. There's no arguing that point. However, when a team is going out of it's way to take out the opposition's star player (i.e. Brett Favre, Kurt Warner) for pay, it ceases to be a game. It's thuggery and turns the defenders into nothing more than professional hit men.
As far as the finances go, this is a disaster for the Saints. According to reports, not only was Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams puting up his own money, the franchise was as well. Throw in a known felon (a fella reported to have the handle of Ornstein) putting up money from outside the team, and this has all earmarks of a federal indictment. While the money may have been chump change in comparison to the inflated salaries of these players, it still circumvents the salary cap. Not to mention it violates the expressed written rules of the NFL!
Gregg Williams, now the Rams Defensive Coordinator will likely be suspended for the entire year, meaning he's out of a job. In my opinion, given that he has done this with at least three other teams (Bills, Redskins and Jaguars) prior to joining the Saints, a lifetime ban is in order. As for Head Coach Sean Payton, his cries of plausible deniability are ridiculous! How could he not have known this was going on? If he didn't, he's a fool. If he did, he's a liar and as guilty as Williams. A suspension for half the season is not out of the realm of possibility.
As for the rest, word is the franchise will lose draft picks, likely at least a number one next season (they've already promised this year's to the Patriots), Owner Tom Benson is rumored to be getting a bill from the league for at least a million dollars, and the players involved will likely get suspensions ranging from one to six games.
How will this affect the Saints? It probably will hurt them more in the long term, than the short term. Are these too harsh a penalties? Absolutely not! This is the NFL 2012. Commissioner Goodell has been the law-and-order, players safety sheriff. If he fails to act, he's setting the league up for major lawsuits in the future.
As for Saints fans, this is a crushing blow for some of the greatest and loyalest fans in football. However, the game is bigger than any team. The Saints were actually warned to stop this two years ago. However, according to the NFL's investigation, they continued to use bounties this season, including in playoff games against the Lions and 49ers. Wanton disrespect for the rule of law cannot go unpunished.