Sunday, April 08, 2012

Over To You, Prefect Louis

"I am shocked, shocked to find gambling going on in here."

Everybody knows Prefect Louis' line from Casablanca. Many of us quote it when we want to be snarky and erudite and comment on hypocrisy, and we generally get most of the words right.

And it's something that comes to mind when all the moralizing erupts over the Saints/NFL/Gregg Williams (How many tasteful "g"s is that, anyway, Mr. Easterbrook?) bounty thing. Everyone - especially the guys who were going "Oh, hey, that's just foobaw" when the bounty story first broke, and saying things like "Well, you don't want to deliberately hurt anyone but..." and all that happy horseshit have spent the past few days spewing carefully calculated outrage about how Gregg Williams' caught-on-tape rant crosses a line.

Maybe it does. Maybe it does cross a line to tell your players to hit a guy who's had knee problems in the knee in order to test those oh-so-delicate knee ligaments. Maybe it does cross a line to tell your players to aim for the head on a guy who's had concussions, or otherwise target injuries. That's what Warren Sapp told us, after all, and he's the guy who called out the "snitch" who supposedly leaked the bounty story.

Except, of course, that "snitches get stitches", and calling someone a snitch is to use loaded language implying that a code has been broken at the "snitch's" peril.

And back when the Super Bowl champion Giants were sneaking their way past the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, they did it in large part thanks to errors by the Niners' often-concussed return man, Kyle Williams. Whom, incidentally, a couple of Giants players admitted to targeting deliberately.

"The thing is, we knew he had four concussions, so that was our biggest thing, was to take him outta the game," said Jacquian Williams, who forced the second fumble, in overtime, to set up New York's game-winning field goal. "He's had a lot of concussions," said Devin Thomas, who recovered both fumbles. "We were just like, 'We gotta put a hit on that guy.'" Later in the same interview, he told the Newark Star-Ledger that teammate and backup safety Tyler Sash "did a great job hitting him early and he looked kind of dazed when he got up. I feel like that made a difference and he coughed it up."

Of course, other Giants later claimed that No Such Thing happened, and an NFL spokesman proclaimed "nothing to see here." And we moved on, because hey, the Super Bowl was coming, and that was big, and there was enough deniability and wiggle room that nobody had to take this thing seriously. Besides, it was just a special teams guy, and everyone knows they're expendable.

So, by all means, let's be shocked that the Saints' coach told his players to go for the head. Let's do it loudly, even as Warren Sapp's contract with the league-owned NFL Network is allowed to quietly expire. And let's do it until the outrage has gone on long enough that people are bored with it, and we can safely get back to made-up controversy over whether the Colts might, just might, pick Robert Griffin III first overall.

And next year, when coaches who are smart enough not to get caught tell players who are smart enough not to brag about it, there will be gambling at Rick's Place once again.

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