National Football League
Saints befitting 'America's Team'
National Football League

Saints befitting 'America's Team'

Published Apr. 8, 2012 1:00 a.m. ET

In the wake of the NFL bounty scandal, the Saints as the new “America’s Team” could not be more apropos.

We believe that sports reflect our society. And in the transition from Tom Landry’s Cowboys of the 1960s and ‘70s to Sean Payton’s Saints of the new millennium, we can see the deceit is all the same; the difference lies in the unvarnished, raw nature by which the truth is unmasked.

A work of fiction, the movie “North Dallas Forty” exposed the fraudulence of Landry’s dignified, sanctified and ethical pursuit of championships. Gregg Williams’ voice, captured unwittingly by a documentarian, revealed the depths to which Payton stooped to maintain the Saints as a national symbol of New Orleans’ rebirth from Hurricane Katrina.

Even after warnings from the league’s office, Payton could not reel Williams in from explicitly imploring Saints defenders to injure the knee of Michael Crabtree and attack the head of previously concussed return man Kyle Williams and other San Francisco players.


“Kill the head and the body will die,” Williams promised.

This column is not written to vilify Payton, Williams and the Saints. To the contrary, it’s written to engender sympathy and provide context and understanding.

Payton, Williams, Jonathan Vilma and all the Saints reflect what is true about modern American society. We’re cold, ruthless and unashamed in pursuit of the things we want. We no longer pretend fair play is important or valued. We condone torture. We’ve lost the courage to compromise, surrendering our national discourse to left and right extremists.

Journalists, the guardians of democracy, have mastered the art of ignoring authentic injustice and writing safe narratives that enhance their Twitter followings and/or ingratiate them with the sources they cover. Consider this: No sport has more “heavyweight” sports journalists covering it than the NFL, but commissioner Roger Goodell “broke” the Saints bounty scandal. Goodell is our editor.

While he pushes for an 18-game schedule, he is selling the myth that eliminating $1,000 bounties and explicit, tough-talking coaches will make the game more safe.

Gregg Williams is a scapegoat.

Yes, I’ve heard the comments from NFL (Goodell) Network employees Michael Irvin and Warren Sapp criticizing Williams. I’ve heard the negative comments of a few current NFL players regarding Williams.

But I also know what some players really think: Gregg Williams reflects the times in which we live. Gregg Williams is just the kind of defensive coach they would love to play for. Gregg Williams speaks the language that it takes to be heard in this era.

Football players, like most American men, always will choose machismo over common sense. Athletes, like modern American society, focus on the development of their exterior and the way they’re perceived far more than their interior and intellect. When you struggle to think and reason, you bully and bomb.

Yeah, the Saints are “America’s Team” and football is our national pastime. These facts could not be more apropos.

“S**t is a joke, the Greg Williams audio, child please, come down to the inner city and listen to how football is coached and played as kids,” Chad Ochocinco tweeted.

The accuracy of Ochocinco’s sentiment is legitimate with or without the words “inner city.”

Coarse, explicit and hostile language is commonplace throughout modern American society. Young people play violent video games, listen to violent and explicit music, watch movies and TV shows that depict violence as an everyday occurrence.

Do we really think a football coach can emotionally reach youth bathed in violence without significantly turning up the rhetoric and hyperbole?

Our youth and our athletes are no different from us.

Ward Cleaver — The Beaver’s dad — no longer connects with us. Our symbol of American manhood and virtue is "Mad Men" icon Don Draper, a complicated womanizer. Think about it. You see his courage, fair-mindedness and virtue in the way he treats Peggy Olson, black people (a black secretary), a gay co-worker, etc. Ward Cleaver’s sanitized, preachy, end-of-show sermons to Wally and Beaver would be laughed off TV today. We accept and eat up Don’s morality plays because they’re wrapped in his own human failings.

We like filth. We’ve been socialized to expect it. Our hearts and minds respond to the extreme.

Gregg Williams played from the same playbook as Rush Limbaugh, Skip Bayless, Keith Olbermann, Michelle Malkin, Young Jeezy and all the rest. You have to shout to be heard. You must be crude and uncompromising and cold to connect. I’m a product of and benefactor of this modern environment. I have a filthy mouth. And I’m willing to be cruel to those I feel deserve it. I like to believe that I’m unwilling to be unfair, but that is for you to judge.

How unfair was Gregg Williams? That’s the question Roger Goodell should contemplate while Williams serves his indefinite suspension.

I don’t think he was unfair. I think Williams was all American.


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