Quarterback Peyton Manning will announce departure from Colts at press conference Wednesday.
Both events highlight the sport’s aggression and how that affects the players on and off the field. Some will scrutinize the Colts for mercilessly letting a veteran player go because of his injuries and inactivity for a whole season, while others have already begun accusing the NFL of unethical practices through the Saints' bounty program. Those groups are either too empathetic and pacifist, or really just don’t understand the ways of the sport. It’s not that the sport is changing; it’s the audience that’s getting too soft.
The NFL draws viewers in with a sense of pride and competition, not the utmost desire to push violence to the next level. If it wanted to be like WWE, Commissioner Roger Goodell would have done that by now. Thus, the media’s presentation with the bounty program almost appears over-exaggerated presenting this issue as if it is completely oblivious to the fact that football requires physical contact.
Receiving incentives for plays is not a foreign concept. After winning his first playoff game, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow received a $250,000 bonus. For players, that bonus increases each time they move closer to the Super Bowl.
It might seem silly to reward millionaires more money for tackling each other, but being a football player is just like any other job. When you impress your boss, you get a bonus or a raise. When it’s your co-workers birthday, you throw them a party at the office. Likewise, giving a special teams’ player a bonus for a good play is the same as giving your company’s custodian a thank you card. At the office or on the field, people want to feel like they’re part of a team.
Unfortunately, when you get injured and can’t do your job, as in the case of Manning, you either take a leave or get released. When your boss tells you to do something illegal, you report them, or end up like the folks at Enron.
Competition motivates people to watch football, and like telling a die-hard fan a game is just a game, players get distracted by the competitiveness of the game too. Thus, exposing the bounty program reminds them of football’s rules and ethics.
Hits completely irrelevant to play, which were rewarded by the bounty program, have always been and still are illegal in terms of the rules. However, for a hit to go to criminal court is a little excessive. The players enter the sport with full knowledge they could get injured, yet they sign a contract anyway. For a court to rule that the defense should watch out for the offense’s well-being moves football far away from its original image to something of a gentleman’s sport.
People get choices when it comes to sports. So for the fainthearted, embrace the spring and summer with non-aggressive sports like basketball and baseball, instead of accusing an off-season sport for being too aggressive. It always has been, and always will.
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