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Am I A Barbarian?
Published on March 8, 2012 by Sara Foss

Maybe I'm a barbarian, but I'm not at all shocked by the so-called scandal currently rocking the NFL, the not-at-all surprising revelation that the New Orleans Saints maintained a "bounty system" that provided players with payments for hits that injured opposing players. From what I've read, other teams have maintained similar systems, and the scandal involving the Saints simply exposes something that's a part of the NFL.

Charles Pierce, writing over at Grantland, explains:

"Think of all the illusions about the National Football League that the revelations of a bounty program in New Orleans shatter. Think of all the silly pretensions those revelations deflate. The preposterous prayer circles at midfield. The weepy tinpot patriotism of the flyovers and the martial music. The dime-store Americanism that's draped on anything that moves. The suffocating corporate miasma that attends everything the league does — from the groaning buffet tables at the Super Bowl to the Queegish fascination with headbands and sock lengths while teams are paying "bounties" to tee up the stars of your game so they don't get to play anymore. What we have here now is the face of organized savagery, plain and simple, and no amount of commercials showing happy kids cavorting with your dinged-up superstars can ameliorate any of that."

Dave Zirin writes that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has a vested interest in convincing people that football is a lot more wholesome than it actually is. He writes:

"Goodell is nervous because if there is anything that could endanger this golden goose, it’s the idea that the three and a half hours of commodified violence we hold so dear might have an ugly and invisible human cost. Owners want us to imagine that players are like 'Cleatus the NFL on Fox robot': an indestructible, faceless, cyborg. If we start to register the real effects of NFL Sunday and that encourages generation of parents take their own children off this assembly line of concussions, the league’s cultural and financial dominance will be in peril.

The players’ response has also been in line with this effort to keep the realities of violence out of the public eye. Almost to a person, they have stepped forward to say, in the words of one, 'Pay for performance’ systems are a time-honored locker room tradition.'

On the NFL’s website, former Saint Darren Sharper is quoted as saying, 'I think this is something that, from when I got in the league in 1997, has happened thousands and thousands of times over.'"

Football is fun to watch. It's exciting. But anyone who thinks it can be made completely safe is fooling themselves. With or without bounty systems, it's a dangerous game. Am I in favor of bounty systems? No, of course not. But I'm certainly not surprised by them, because football is a violent game, with a violent culture. People need to accept that, and come to terms with what that means.

 

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