The sad saga of “BountyGate” has taken its latest, justified, turn as the player suspensions of Smith, Fujita, Hargrove and Vilma have now been vacated by arbitrator and former NFL Commish Paul Tagliabue. This will not restore bonus reputantia 1- good reputations – to the players nor will it undo the horrific damage done to the Saints organization but it does illustrate the plain truth of American professional sports: it’s all about the money, good reputations don’t matter.
If you doubt that then consider whether or not Johnathan Vilma or Will Smith will ever be denied jobs at ESPN or other media outlets because of their suspensions? The NFL Network airwaves are dotted with men like Michael irvin2 who have committed actual crimes. The extramarital exploits of NFL great Tiki Barber are well known4 as his his current – TV star – status. This past August, Notre Dame football commentator and former Irish star Allen Pinkett saiid the Irish needed “a few bad citizens on the team” because criminals3 “ add[s] to the chemistry”.
None of this is a knock on Vilma or Smith who have displayed class and dignity throughout this ordeal. This IS a knock on what most pro sports have devolved into: very expensive, public entertainment venues whose most popular and well paid figures tend to be the most degenerate; yet the various leagues’ highest paid players -the owners & commissioners- want us to believe all players live for 60 second workouts with kids and visits to nursing homes when the only workouts that really matter are the ones that net tens of millions on draft day which purchase homes so large you need a map to find the bathroom.
In the film “Rudy” we see what sports aspirations can do to elevate the human spirit and while I am happy for Vilma & Smith I’ve seen no players dropping their jerseys on the desk of Roger Goodell.