|Photo: Getty Images|
Allow me to clarify something -- the allegations against the New Orleans Saints for involvement in a bounty system is of the upmost seriousness. By no means do I intend to downgrade or disregard what happened in New Orleans. Player safety should be a top priority in the NFL, and these sort of allegations deserve the sort of attention it has received.
With that being said -- Roger Goodell, the players allegedly involved and the NFLPA have turned Bountygate into a total and complete joke.
And this isn't even the kind of joke that you bust out laughing over. Not even the kind of joke that garners a chuckle or snort. We're talking about a total mockery of the system and a blatant lack of respect from everyone involved.
As the earth-shattering news was released of the laundry-list of offenses and personnel involved, the NFL fan-base was stuck in shock. It seemed almost improbable, and every major media outlet pushed entire segments talking and discussing what it meant and what was to happen moving forward.
When Roger Goodell announced the punishment for those involved in Bountygate -- another wave of shock hit. Greg Williams -- banished from the NFL. Sean Payton -- gone for an entire season. Jonathan Vilma -- suspended for the entire season. Others less involved -- a wide range of suspensions.
Then.. the appeal process.
Oh, this is when things started to get really good. It was like watching Lost. As every episode of True Bounties: New Orleans unfolded, more questions were raised and the intensity continued to be cranked up. Payton went silent, but every other player and coach involved stood up to fight the allegations.
More so than any other was Vilma -- who was adamant about a successful appeal. And as he lobbied for a lesser-punishment, he continued to slam Goodell. The NFL Commissioner was complacent and gave all the right answers, knowing that he would likely get the last laugh.
Possibly what Vilma didn't realize was that Goodell was not only the judge and jury -- he was also the executioner.
The tough punishment was handed down from the Commish, and along with that, he resided over all appeals. Vilma, obviously totally frustrated, filed a defamation lawsuit against Goodell. The claim was that he didn't have the factual evidence to back-up the allegations that he was a key proponent in supporting and participating in bounties.
As things continued to progress and heat up, the NFLPA kind of faded in and out of relevance. Because, after all, the NFLPA was stuck in the middle like a kid in a divorce. Although the Player's Association will always be determined to defend and support players (the cool parent), it's hard to take their side when the situation involves the question of player safety -- something the NFL is being sued over and trying to correct (not as cool of a parent, but the right one no less).
Essentially, the NFLPA would have to cut of their nose to spite their face to defend the Bountygate players. Then, if the Player's Assocation jumped ship and totally supported the NFL and Goodell, every single player would cry party-foul and it would end in a disaster. Instead, the NFLPA will be content sitting on the fence, never really making a strong push for any side in the dispute.
Basically -- since the reveal of Bountygate, nothing has changed. The rulings by Goodell aren't going to change. The allegations aren't going to change. Vilma and the rest of the group can stomp around and cry as much as they want, but things aren't going to change.
I haven't read the report the NFL has. I don't know who claims what. I don't know if this is just one big conspiracy against the Saints. I don't know if Vilma really is totally innocent. I don't know if Goodell is a totally non-benevolent dictator over the NFL.
What I do know it that Bountygate, through the actions of those involved, have turned what could have been a credible turning point in NFL history into a total mess. Those who aren't heavily involved can only sit back and admire how a group of adults has allowed things to get out of hand so quickly.
I hate to break some more news -- but this is going to get worse before it gets better. In a world of uncertainty, that's one sure-fire thing we can all count on from Vilma, Goodell and everyone else involved. My advice is to get ready, because Bountygate is going to be a ride like we have never been on in the NFL.
Be Sure to follow Beard and Stache on Twitter @BeardAndStache, and also Troy @TroyBallards, like our Facebook page HERE!