Almost overnight, the New Orleans Saints went from being one of the most popular NFL teams to the most hated. Thanks to the Saints bounty program, NFL fans of the 31 other teams have moved New Orleans ahead of franchises such as the New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys on the most hated list.
Of course, as all NFL fans know, bounties and "pay for performance" bonuses are as old as the NFL itself. Still, in an effort to galvanize support for his safety crusade, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell only punished the Saints for bounties so New Orleans could be a scapegoat for the sins of every team.
Early on, Goodell's plan worked to perfection. Internet message boards lit up around the world with NFL fans decrying the brutality of bounties and thanking Roger Goodell for his stiff punishment of the Saints. Minnesota Vikings fans thought Goodell should have stripped New Orleans of its Lombardi Trophy and presented it to the Vikings.
However, I began to sense a slight shift in public opinion after the Saints player suspensions were announced for those who allegedly played leadership roles in the bounty system. I believe this began when fellow NFL players, both past and present, complained about the severity of Jonathan Vilma's year-long suspension.
Ramifications of Goodell's crusade
As I hear and read what NFL players are saying, it looks like people are beginning to realize what I've been saying for a long time. If Roger Goodell continues to operate as he has for years now, the NFL will look like the Pro Bowl someday. The Saints bounty punishments are just one pawn move on Goodell's chess board.
The knee-jerk reaction of any NFL fan (myself included) is to applaud anything that hurts a rival team. In their blind joy to celebrate the Saints bounty punishments, NFL fans were oblivious to the changes being made to the game they love.
However, with so many NFL players coming forward in support of Saints players, I believe fans of other teams are starting to realize the direction Goodell is taking the league. NFL fans may also be realizing the injustice of Goodell only punishing the Saints for bounties and not releasing the evidence against New Orleans.
The comments that I'm now seeing from NFL fans on Internet articles and via Twitter are much different than two months ago. With players from their own teams admitting to taking part in bounty programs, the injustice in only punishing the Saints is obvious. And who wants to watch the Pro Bowl 16 times a year?
However, I'm sure Vikings fans would still like to have a Lombardi Trophy gift-wrapped for their team.
Patrick Michael lives in New Orleans and has always been a big fan of the New Orleans Saints. Patrick's favorite Saints season was 2009 when New Orleans won Super Bowl 44. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
Brett Martel, "Vilma, others fight suspensions in bounty case," yahoo.com
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