The NFL announced today that several Saints were suspended for the 2012 season (Jonathan Vilma for the entire season, Anthony Hargrove for 8 games, Will Smith 4 games, and Scott Fujita 3 games) for their roles in Bountygate, where they supposedly were actively involved in providing money for inflicting injuries on opposing players.
On the same day, former Charger and Patriot great Junior Seau was found dead from an apparent suicide. No one is suggesting that his apparent depression was a result from football-related brain damage or other injuries, but it will come as a surprise to no one if that result if ultimately reached. If so, the timing is uncanny with the suspensions of the Saints.
The NFL, and the public in general, can no longer sit back and allow players to inflict damage upon each other without mandating equipment designed to protect the brain and other parts of the body. Some players hesitate at new concussion-lessening helmets because they the look isn’t stylish enough. Players have also been utilizing less padding in the pants because they like the form fitting pants that they feel helps them be more mobile but gives no protection whatsoever.
Yet whenever suggestions are made for the lessening dangers to the players, whether it is through the limit of “head shots”, rules diminishing kickoffs, better equipment, etc., the reaction from both the fans and the players is that we are “pussifying” football. We have become the Roman citizens of ancient times, demanding more and more violence to satisfy our bloodlust, cheering huge hits that inflict lifelong damage to the players. And what is true of football is also true of boxing and MMA–the more gruesome the violence, the more we cheer, the more popular it becomes. Maybe “The Hunger Games” is not so unrealistic after all–just like in the book, we dress the players up in uniforms and unleash them to inflict carnal warfare on each other.
And as more and more players wind up like Junior Seau and Ray Easterling and Dave Duerson, we shake our heads and say “that’s so sad.” But we are partly to blame, and change can only begin when we demand it. So I applaud Commissioner Goodell for sending the message today to the Saints players. And I mourn the loss of Junior Seau. Maybe we the fans will finally get the message.