Yes destruction is nothing new to the loyal fans in the Big Easy, the same fans who yelled "Who Dat" as their Saints showed that you could flood their levees or level their homes, but you couldn't stop their spirit from Fat Tuesdaying its team to a championship. On that fateful February night in 2010 their team hosted the Lombardi Trophy--and, in many ways, New Orleans was made whole again.
Which makes the recent developments all the more troubling. One of the NFL's greatest stories, the truest from of a team and its community leaning on each other to restore their faith in the world in modern memory, has fallen by the wayside. I wasn't in New Orleans when the bounty gate penalties hit, and I am truly happy for that. We've all seen that city suffer enough already.
Now there are certainly some of you who will claim that I am being over dramatic, and maybe I am. After all losing Sean Payton for a year and a couple of 2nd round draft picks could obviously never compare to the most devastating natural disaster of 21st century. We all understand that.
But we also understand what that team means to that city. We watched Monday Night Football when the Saints returned to New Orleans. We felt the energy and emotion through the TV. We saw the tears on grown men's faces, their face paint running because they weren't sure that they'd ever get the chance to be here again. That football would ever be back in New Orleans.
Well it was back, and behind Payton, Drew Brees and the rest of the Saints--it was better than ever. Until the commissioner lowered his boom and arguably crippled the franchise.
Now, some of us will refuse to believe that the punishments levied by the commissioner are fair or justified. Or some will want to paint Goodell as a corrupt, power thirsty dictator who just wants to flex his political muscle, while he leads a hypocritical organization that pretends to care about player safety when, in reality, it only cares about the almighty dollar. And yet others just want to close their eyes and pretend like this never happened, like Sean Payton and the Saints are the same inspiring group of men who carried their city from its darkest days to one of its brightest.
And there is certainly merit in these viewpoints. No educated observer of the NFL would try to wholeheartedly claim that the league's--or its commissioner's--motives are pure, or at least non-economically driven, here. Just like no well-reasoned and logical argument can completely tear down all the good-will the Saints have rightfully built up through their inspiring success. These are all true statements that can cause us to question or debate Goodell's treatment of "Bounty Gate."
But they shouldn't. As I wrote earlier the actions of Payton, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, GM Mickey Loomis and everyone involved was unconscionable. Football, and the head trauma it can cause, is way closer to being an epidemic than people realize. The game will always be violent. But it's turning deadly. And anyone who encourages or helps to push the game towards a state where grown men cannot play without suffering major brain trauma should more than be held accountable for that. That certainly includes Super Bowl Champions and Uplifting stories. That certainly includes the New Orleans Saints.
Now before I conclude let me bring you back to the story of former Saint Steve Gleason. The man who made so many believe on that Monday Night. A man who the city of New Orleans will never forget.
And also a man who is currently in the fight of his life with Lou Gehrig's disease. A fight that he will someday lose. A fight that evidence suggests was brought upon by his time butting heads on a football field.
And I want Sean Payton, Gregg Williams and everyone else involved to look the man that they coached and mentored in his eyes. And I want them to offer him $1,500 to try and inflict that sort of pain on someone else.
A year out of football may seem like a steep price to pay. But it's nothing compared to giving your life.