The bad thing is when we take our instructions from scrolls discovered in a madman's crypt and cease all reason and logic. Creatures of the Kool-Aid generation, we lap up everything good about our team and we reject any suggestions to the contrary. And that rejection often comes with great umbrage toward the critics. How dare they criticize our team? Some good examples of this suspension of logic have come this week in the wake of the double-dose of bad news involving the Saints, to wit the "Bounty-gate" revelations and the imposing of the franchise tag on QB Drew Brees.
One letter writer to the Times-Picayune opined "to think that any professional athlete in this day and age would sell his soul for $1,000 is ludicrous." Another suggested the NFL is "picking on" the Saints and points to the franchising of Brees as additional evidence. Fans have rationalized that the Saints coaches and players must be forgiven because "everybody does it." Even the local wipe of record chipped in with a remarkable editorial page comment when a Times-Picayune staffer suggested Saints critics should get off "their high horse" and accept what has happened.
What tripe! Take off the rose-colored glasses and clown masks, Who Dats! Mardi Gras is over! This is not oppression by the NFL. Saints players and coaches betrayed you and themselves. What they did was wrong because it was against the rules and they knew it. Their actions may very well kill the hopes of Who Dat Nation in a year that their heroes could be the first team to host a Super Bowl in their home stadium. Their actions, as outlined in the NFL report, betrayed those hopes.
Betrayal of fans is not new. Pete Rose betrayed baseball fans when he bet on games involving his teams. Oil Can Boyd betrayed Red Sox fans when he pitched while high on cocaine. Do you think Miami Hurricane fans didn't feel betrayed at the revelations of the booster and his $100 handshakes? You don't think Ohio State fans felt betrayed when Jim Tressel lied about extra benefits his players were receiving by another rogue booster? Damn right I felt betrayed when an Emery shipping envelope busted open to reveal cash that was intended for a Kentucky recruit back in the late 1980's.
Some of the above examples resulted or will result in penalties that prohibit postseason play, which is the most valid reward for fan loyalty. The NFL will not ban the Saints from the playoffs next year, but the likely penalties may have the same result. Loss of draft choices alone certainly will retard the team's ability to replace starters lost in free agency. With penalties looming, some free agents might feel differently than they did a few weeks ago when the Saints organization was a fuzzy, feel-good and attractive place to be. Add to all this the possibility of lingering hard feelings from Drew Brees because the Saints did not bow to his agent's demands, and this year of betrayal could quickly turn into a season of disappointment.
Jim Miller is a former journalist (Baltimore Sun), NFL executive (Saints, Bills and Bears) and college athletic director (University of New Orleans). See Jim's unique perspective of sports and more on his website: www.JWMillerSports.com.
Bayoubuzz is pleased to announce that it will be republishing on a regular basis the columns and opinions of Jim Miller. Please visit his website on a regular basis for more information.