The last time bounties were a major topic of discussion in the NFL was back in 1989 when Philadelphia Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan was accused of putting a bounty on a couple of Dallas Cowboys ‒ Troy Aikman and, for some reason, kicker Luis Zendejas.
Back then, the subject of bounties was … well, kind of fun. Jimmy Johnson's press conference after the first Bounty Bowl stands as one of the most memorable NFL press conferences of all time. He closed with this:
Oh, I would have said something to Buddy, but he wouldn't stand on the field long enough. He put his big, fat rear end into the dressing room.
You know how Buddy Ryan responded?
I resent that. I've been on a diet, lost a couple of pounds. I thought I was looking good.
You'll notice a complete lack of remorse, apology, or even acknowledgement that the situation was in the least bit serious. Our current situation with Gregg Williams is going to give us about 6,921 somber segments on "SportsCenter." In 1989, CBS got on board and showed "Wanted" posters of players who were allegedly targeted. They celebrated the thing.
No one bemoaned another blow to a league that already had an image problem. No one expressed much concern about anyone's safety or well-being. No one was concerned about the future of the league. People pretty much gathered around and made a carnival out of it. On the way out, get your commemorative T-shirt!
Look at CBS's studio team talk about the subject of bounties. They couldn't be happier. Brent Musberger was never this giddy as a kid on Christmas morning.
Today's situation is different from the one in 1989, but we're still talking about the subject of offering players money to injure other players. Have we evolved since 1989? Or have we taken the fun out of the game?
Judging from the comments I'm hearing most, I'm pretty confident that a lot of you will fall on the "we're no fun" side of the fence. We're taking the fun out of the game, we've become sissies, no one's allowed to hit anymore, etc. It's a popular opinion; one that's even supported by guys who have probably been the subject of bounties themselves.
It's a different era now. Whether it's better or worse, well, that's up to you.
- Buddy Ryan
- Dallas Cowboys
- Luis Zendejas
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Troy Aikman