"That's my third monocle this week. I simply must stop being so horrified."

Welp, everything sure is going according to the plan so far, don't you think? High five? Guh.

Regular readers know that we try to keep it classy here at moosedenied. And hey, let me be perfectly clear here, I'm as shocked and appalled and righteously indignant about this whole sordid affair as the next guy. Please believe me when I tell you that, as a Saints fan, I feel like the team let us all down here. I'm incredibly disappointed with Our Heroes right about now, and I'm even more disappointed with Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis. 

I'm disappointed that they got caught.

I'm ashamed of them for being stupid enough to have created a situation in which it was even possible for them to have gotten caught.

For not realizing that it was only a matter of time until someone inevitably snitched. For obviously not knowing the difference between going balls-out with it and and just being plain reckless. Again. (I'm shocked, SHOCKED I TELL YOU, that it was Gregg Williams who orchestrated this whole thing. Reckless just never struck me as that guy's modus operandi.)

For continuing to insist on associating with this Ornstein asshole, a hustler and a convicted felon, who was allegedly fool enough to send emails to Sean Payton (no doubt to an official Saints/NFL corporate email account) regarding all these shenanigans. For apparently not knowing the meaning of "plausible deniability" and/or being arrogant enough to not really give much of a shit.

For being the first organization in the 90 year history of the National Football League to be careless enough to "institutionalize" a practice that's been commonplace for every one of the aforementioned 90 years to such a degree as to put the franchise itself on the hook for it. For grossly underestimating the risk, and the severity of the consequences. At a time when the single most draconian commissioner the league's ever had holds everyone's balls in the palm of his hand and pretty much has carte blanche to squeeze at will.

Oh, that's just soooo Saints.

So much for the Saints being run by "the smartest guys in the room" these days, eh?

They might as well have just caught a flight to New York, strutted into the league office, dropped trou and wiggled their dongs in Roger Goodell's face, for crying out loud. Hell, at this point, I'm not sure I'd put it past 'em to do precisely that.

As a Saints fan, that's the reason I'm disappointed with Mickey, Coach Payton and the team. Just because it's all so stupid. So careless. So reckless. And evidently so easily avoidable. I mean, shit, players have been doing this kind of thing and "getting away with it" for decades. Leave it to the Saints to be the first to actually get busted for it. Sigh. Of course it's the Saints who end up tripping over their own balls and falling face first into a pile of shit that everybody else has managed to easily avoid since the beginning of time. Nice job, fellas!

Meantime, I find all the pearl-clutching and moralizing over all of this rather silly. I mean, you're all familiar with professional football, right? Two of the presumed targets of this nefarious plot have already plainly stated that they don't consider it a big deal. Numerous other players — players who have no reason to defend or make excuses for the Saints — have plainly stated that this kind of thing is commonplace all over the league and for as long as they've been involved with the league.

"Everybody does it" isn't an "excuse." It's simply a fact. If you've never heard of this kind of thing before Friday, obviously you haven't been following the NFL for very long.

And if it offends your delicate moral sensibilities, then maybe NFL football isn't the sport for you. Perhaps some nice figure skating would be more to your liking. No? Well then Conrad Dobler, Dick Butkus, Dick Night Train Lane, Jack Lambert, Jack Tatum, Deacon Jones, Willie Lanier, Ronnie Lott, John Matuszak, Lyle Alzado, Ray Nitschke and Rosie Grier would like to cordially invite you all to go ahead and quit being a bunch of two-faced pansies.

But it's "a black eye on the organization" right? Please.

Oh sure, haters gonna hate. Of course other teams' fans are taking great pleasure in all this right now. A little schadenfreude is always good for some big fun. Hell, we do it when other teams suffer similar misfortune. Of course they're gonna wring every ounce of smack fodder out of this thing, probably until the end of time. But, come on now, who gives a shit about that?

Media types are gonna do what they always do, blow it all up into as big a scandal they possibly can, for as long as it remains profitable. Scandal sells, after all. But this thing isn't gonna continue to put eyeballs on web sites and tee vees forever. There was a feeding frenzy over the weekend, and it'll probably last for a few more days this week as everybody who wasn't on the air over the weekend gets their piece of the action. But as of Monday morning, the coverage is already a whole hell of a lot measured in tone than it had been over the weekend. Mike Golic, a former player, has been particularly "this is much ado about not much" in his commentary this morning on ESPN. Others will follow as the wow factor continues to wear off. And it will.

The self-righteous are gonna be self-righteous. Of course Tony Dungy and Herm Edwards are gonna insist that it's abhorrent and that nothing like this ever would have happened under their watch. Of course Tedi Bruschi is gonna continue to ride his high horse, just like he does on every other issue. Of course other coaches, both past and present, are gonna cover their asses and insist that nothing like that goes on or ever went on in their locker rooms. And we all totally believe Rex Ryan about that, right? Riiiight.

I'm sure some people will accuse me of parsing words here, but I would assert that people are playing fast and loose with the language here as well. Golic put it best this morning, people can't get past the ugly words being thrown around. "Bounty!!!" Despicable! "Knockouts and cart-offs!!!" Deplorable! Those words carry baggage, and it's easy to go from there to what Herm Edwards did this morning and just jump straight to "…paying players to ruin other players' careers!!!" Because clearly that's what "knockout" or "cart-off" must have really meant, right?

But as Darren Sharper pointed out over the weekend, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for that to have really been the case. Look, we're tempted to recuse Darren Sharper's viewpoint entirely from the discussion. After all, he was involved. He was part of the Saints defense in 2009, he's not exactly impartial. But that doesn't mean his comments don't make a hell of a lot more sense than all the hyperbole coming from people who have something to gain by thugging-up the story as much as possible. For one thing, the math doesn't work. The fine(s) for anything "dirty" far exceed the so-called "bounty" so whatever financial "incentive" there might have been isn't an incentive at all. Not for dirty play that'll get you fined, anyway. Ultimately the fines and incentives are all pocket change anyway.

Secondly, in the age of free agency (and the internet) these guys all know one another. These days, what team you play for matters less than it ever has before, and the "fraternity" of NFL players is tighter than it ever has been before. Not everybody likes each other of course, but you can probably count on one hand the number of guys any given player "hates" enough to actually go out on the field with the express intent to injure him. And you can probably count on two hands the number of players who are asshole enough to go out on the field with the intent to injure anybody. (Note that there's a distinction between "hurt" and "injure.") Not to mention just the general concept of karma. What goes around comes around. There by the grace of God go I and whatnot.

Meantime, all the "evidence" on the field pretty much exonerates the Saints insofar as any kind of organized intent to "play dirty" and to injure opponents. The Saints' defense didn't exactly accumulate an inordinate number of penalties during the Gregg Williams era, personal fouls or otherwise. Nor have an inordinate number of opponents been "knocked out" or "carted off" during the last three seasons. 

But, as Golic so aptly put it this morning, people just can't (read: won't) get past those loaded words and their negative connotations. Bounty! BOUNTY!!! Hence the short-term mass hysteria. And of course, that's precisely what Roger Goodell wants, which is why he made sure to point out that this whole thing is "particularly troubling" and framed it as "intentionally causing injury" to opponents. Because it suits his "player safety" agenda. Whipping people into a frenzy over this is precisely what he was going for.

Am I excusing it? Hell no. Like I said, I'm as disappointed in Payton, Loomis and everyone else involved as the next guy. Because they were dumb enough to get caught.

Am I saying they did nothing wrong? Of course not. Setting aside the moral grandstanding over "bounties" for a second, they clearly broke the rules. There's no doubt about that at this point. Even if only for "non-contract bonuses" which is a clear violation of the CBA. Then they lied to the league about it. They're busted, and for good reason.

Was it worth it? You bet your ass it was.

Maybe it wasn't necessary. We'll never know. And that's just fine by me. All I know is that there's no way in hell I'd trade February 7, 2010 just for the sake of avoiding the shitstorm that's currently rolling in. We're Saints fans, for crying out loud. We sleep through shitstorms. We've been doing it all our lives. At least there was something in it for us this time.

And it'll be a shitstorm, there's no doubt about that. Not only because Goodell needs to make an example of the Saints for purposes of covering the league's ass on the whole player safety issue, but because as the local media has been falling all over themselves to remind us, Loomis and Payton are widely regarded as a couple of jerks. (ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH THEIR CONSISTENT SHIRKING OF THEIR OBLIGATIONS TO THE LEGITIMATE MEDIA?!?!?) Word on the street is that Goodell hates their guts, and relishes the opportunity to kick them in the dong.

moosedenied received a text from the league office Friday night that confirmed it:

This just in, asshole: Actually, #imaketherulespal

D'oh! Owned.

But do yourself a favor and resist the urge to give in to all the kneejerk doom and gloom that's flying around right about now. Goodell's gonna shove the bone as far up as it'll go, but ultimately it can only go so far.

The irony here is that Goodell finds himself between a rock and a hard place too. As of Monday morning, public sentiment is already beginning to shift from "OMG THE SAINTS ARE BASTARDS!!!" to "OMG GOODELL JUST ISN'T GONNA BE HAPPY UNTIL HE COMPLETES THE ONGOING PUSSIFICATION OF THE WHOLE FUCKING SPORT!" And it's happening with a shitload of alacrity, from what I've been seeing and hearing this morning. Never thought that that shift would happen this suddenly. But it's happening. It'll continue to happen as more and more people give the whole thing some time to marinate, and more and more media types start to realize that prevailing winds are beginning to blow the shit in Goodell's general direction. At which point they'll all be punching one another in the face to be the first to start pimping that narrative.

And that's a real problem for the league too. Much as Goodell wishes it weren't true, the longer this goes on, the more people start to come to terms with the fact that this is a league-wide thing, eventually the public is gonna climb down off their moral high horse and settle into the "It's FOOTBALL, for crying out loud! Quit being a douche and quit trying to turn it into flag football!" mindset. It's already begun. Sooner than later, this is gonna cease to be a case of "Saints thuggery" and become a case of "They're ruining the sport!"

Sure, conventional wisdom is that at this point, the NFL is a perpetual money machine, and it always will be because Americans will not be without their NFL football. And as long as that's true, Goodell can do whatever the fuck he wants. But they used to say the same thing about boxing. And horse racing. And baseball. How'd that work out? There's always a point at which your customers will simply cease to care because you're not giving them the product they love and want. And Goodell's already well down that road. Don't think he's not well aware of it. The league is walking a tightrope here. You think the potential for massive judgments against the league in court over the player safety issue is scary? How scary is the prospect of alienating your customer base to the point that they no longer give a shit about your product?

The craziest part of this whole mess is that, in due time, the Saints might very well end up coming out of this thing as the "heroes" after all. Or at least antiheroes. Or, in rasslin' parlance, the "cool heels." The guys who, while they may be a little sleazy, at least we can all relate to their thumbing their noses at The Man. Hell, back in the 70s, Al Davis made a living doing just that.

They're gonna get boned in the meantime though, that's for sure. And it's gonna hurt. But I'd wager it's not gonna hurt nearly as badly as we're all anticipating right about now. The Saints will survive this.

(Assuming this is the extent of it, that is. Which, for as long as they continue to insist on letting Ornstein hang around, might not be the wisest of assumptions.)

So far, Loomis and Payton have survived it, and that's very good news.

Wait, what??? GOOD news?!? Yes. Good news.

If it were much worse than we know now, one or both of them would already be gone. The Old Man would have done it of his own accord, or Herr Goodell would have made him do it. Hell, if it were even anywhere near as bad as we're already assuming it is, there would already be YouTube videos of Benson himself throwing Payton's and Loomis's personal effects out onto the parking lot at Airline while shouting "GET OFFA MAH PROPPITY!" at nobody in particular. Don't take my word for it, ask Randy Mueller. Or Arnie Fielkow.

But he hasn't done that. Which in and of itself is a bullet dodged. Because we all know he would if it were that bad. Florio can bray on and on "from a strictly business standpoint" (and we all totally believe Florio's angle is "all business" and he's not the least bit biased, right?) about how Benson ought to fire both of them for blatant insubordination at the very least, and gross negligence at worst.

But it ought to do our hearts good that even Tom Benson realizes that it's bad business to cut off your nose to spite your face. That 62-34 in the regular season, four playoff appearances and a 5-3 playoff record in six years, two NFC Championship games and a motherfucking Lombardi kinda trump all this bullshit by juuuuuust a little.

So the fuck what if they're a little sleazy? What Roger Goodell is desperately trying to keep you from figuring out is that it's all "a little" sleazy. (…wait for it… wait for it… in this league.)

At least the job's getting done. So we've (still) got that going for us.

The Saints will survive whatever Goodell throws at 'em. Hell, they were 14-4 last season, and they've still got Drew Brees. (More on that particular trainwreck to come in the not-too-distant future. I'd write about it now, but you already stopped reading about 500 words ago, and I'm still not sure there won't be more crazy shit coming out later today on that whole issue.) Fines are all-but-irrelevant. Suspensions of veteran defensive players who have been around since 2009 might actually be a good thing. Suspensions of Sean Payton and/or Mickey Loomis will be easily overcome. Loss of draft picks will hurt, but they're not fatal. Not even close.

And as much as he might wanna, Goodell simply can't go all scorched earth with it anyway. He can't just burn one of his 32 franchises to the ground. It would be counterproductive to the league to do that. It's gonna be one hell of a slap to the wrist, but that's all it's gonna be. And then it'll all be swept under the rug before the whole thing goes league-wide and becomes too big to "manage" without dropping the hammer on half the teams in the league. Goodell will take his victory lap, proclaim "problem solved" and that'll be the end of this particular dog and pony show.

Hopefully some other team will star in the next one.

It'll probably be the Saints though. Again.

But until then…

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