Vai's View: Vai's view: Incentive for big plays? No problem. Bounties for injuries? Problem
According to reports, the money used by then-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was collected amongst the players. That may seem odd to some, but I assure you the practice is not uncommon. Players collect money all the time for this and more altruistic things like tipping the ball-boys, clubhouse attendants, equipment men and giving the practice squad guys a little more money during a playoff run.
As I see it, the only place where the Saints crossed the line was paying for injuring opponents.
Financial incentive for big plays, including clean hits? I have no problem with that. That may be football's dirty little secret, but it happens more often than you may think. As a player, I was always fascinated with the extraordinary lengths my millionaire teammates would go to collect a $100 bill for doing something beyond the call of duty.
A game driven by emotion thrives on peer recognition.
A lot of colleges use special T-shirts to motivate players. Some, like BYU and Ohio State, use helmet stickers as incentive for making big plays. Players love to earn them for making the key plays that turn momentum or spark a win. Jim McMahon loved them so much, he removed the "Y" on his helmet in order to fit all of his Cougar stickers on. And don't think for one minute that stickers aren't awarded for the violent hits that make a stadium gasp.
NFL football is routinely the highest rated programming on television every year because we love the strategy, performances and for many, maybe even the violence. Sometimes, as was the case in New Orleans for a few years, it's over the top, so, commissioners, coaches and officials will reel it back in.
They should and they will. I'm an advocate for concussion testing, improved equipment and rule changes that can safeguard players' safety, including severe penalties for those who violate rules of common sense as the Saints did.
But in the end, football is a violent game played by violent men. What they do and how they do it to prepare for that violence each week for our entertainment would be a breach of people's decorum for decency. And I'm just speaking for those who do it the right way. It's grueling and excruciating.
When we order filet mignon, we're not really interested in the details of how it ended up on our plate, just that it does and at the temperature of our choosing.
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