Football players attempt to injure other players because of three basic facts inherent to the game: 1) A team can gain a better chance of winning if a player on the other team is injured; 2) The nature of game itself provides a means to manufacture such an injury; and 3) The wins produced by those injuries are worth money to owners, coaches and players. Money will always win.
None of those three facts will change at any point in the foreseeable future. The only one that has a chance of ever changing is number two: the nature of the game. There have been attempts on this one already, though they they've yet to produce a major effect. We've seen more penalties and more fines, but at the end of the day, today's game of football looks a lot like it always has, and it will continue to for some time.
The bad news is that the current system gave us Gregg Williams and this speech exhorting his defense to batter the brains, ACLs and ankles of opposing players. The good news is that this same system produces the game of football, which we all love.
So what's the proper reaction to the disturbing audio on Thursday? What are we supposed to feel now?
It's at least off-putting, right? It's a grown man instructing other men, some of whom are still very young and impressionable, to do further damage to parts of bodies that have already suffered major trauma. If you're a person with any level of human compassion, that's probably not okay with you.
And this is kind of a side note, but what's so creepy to me is the strange cult feel of this audio. Williams is doing none of these things himself ‒ his personal safety is never in jeopardy. Instead, he's commanding others to do his bidding. I imagine that most cult meetings sound something like the Williams audio. "Hey, guys, I want you all to go do this dangerous and morally-questionable thing for some greater good. No no, I'm not going to do it. I have to stand over here and have an unnecessary 'g' at the end of my first name. But you have to do it. Cool? Alright. 'Saints' on three."
So I hope we can all agree that what Williams said is not a good thing, and we can probably also agree that he comes off as an unpleasant and somewhat ghoulish man. That said, what do we do with this information?
Shock, horror and anger are understandable, but also completely unproductive. Even if we had previously assumed things like this happened, and even knew specifically that Williams was guilty, hearing the actual words come out of this goon's mouth makes it feel gross in a way it hasn't before. There are guys out there attempting to injure people ‒ who are mandated to do it, in fact. We're talking about making it so a fellow can't walk for six months, urinate without assistance, or can't remember his wife's name in twenty years.
This is something that's happening ‒ happening, as in, present tense. The violence and attempt to injure still exist. It exists today, it existed yesterday, and it existed before Gregg Williams ever coached in the NFL. It's going to exist on September 5th when the Giants and Cowboys open the 2012 season and Gregg Williams is at home watching cockfight DVDs or something.
The fact is that none of this will change. In the NFL's post-Gregg Williams era, players are still going to attempt to knock star quarterbacks out of games, because of the series of facts listed in the first paragraph. There's money in injuring star players, and money will always win.
As fans, nothing's really going to change for us, either. A lot of us, for better or worse, just don't care. And even those of us who do care don't care enough to stop watching. We're going to love what we've always loved. There's no choice to be made. We're like wives in sham marriages ‒ we're fine with the man of the house out doing despicable things, as long as we can pretend like we don't know. This one time, his debauchery was thrown in our face, but we'll hang in there, as long as we feel like we got a sufficient apology and a promise that it won't happen again.
Hands were thrown up in exasperation and people were punished, but change and/or reform are still lacking. I'm not even saying that's a problem ‒ it's just football. In the end, all we got was a reminder of exactly what it is that we're watching. That probably won't matter, either.