21 March 2012

Cruel and Unusual; Or, an Ode to Al Davis

Understanding the medieval sanctions levied upon the Saints in light of the bounty scandal requires just one premise: Roger Goodell is in charge and he won't be defied. 

While this punishment was surely about both an institutionalized system of pay-to-injure and the overarching drive to craft the perception--hollow as it might be--that the NFL cares for the safety of its players, it was equally so a retributive curbstomp to a team who dared not follow Goodell's orders. 

Judge, jury, and (foremost) executioner. 

To be certain, this was a seething guillotine of cold justice to a franchise perceived, and perhaps rightfully so, as renegade, arrogant, and unwavering in its philosophy to relentlessly push the envelope of its hegemonic mission statement. 

As it stood for Roger Goodell, the ducks all aligned in a perfect little row for him at an opportune moment: taking a phony stand for player safety in order to protect his entity from the prevalence of mounting lawsuits; disciplining a rogue franchise that had veered off path; and reminding any traitorous dissidents in his midst that you do not ever fuck with Roger Goodell.  

A perfect storm of Goodellian justice. 

But the limits of power only go so far. And the autocratic, single-entity justice system of the NFL is not immune to abuse nor is it perpetually free from righteous assault. The issuance of the excessive penalty to the Saints' franchise, not to mention the immense wrongdoing hurled upon its loyal fan base, underscores the fact that in the NFL Commissioner's Office, cruel and unusual punishment is an accepted practice regardless of the poignant hypocrisy with which it's done so. 

None of this is to suggest that the Saints are innocent or undeserving of punishment. The Saints willfully disregarded the Commissioner's office and then tried to cover it up in an act of either desperation or hubris. Punishment was deserved and expected. 

But to savagely punish the legion of loyal fans who faithfully serve as a recurring, massive stream of revenue, to capriciously undermine the competitive landscape of the league by attempting to castrate one of its elite teams, and to set such a dangerous, punitive precedent is a stark revelation of the sadistic nature of Roger Goodell. 

Unfortunately, it was rained down upon the New Orleans Saints. 

So where do the Saints go from here? 

To start with, they can summon the ghosts of Al Davis. 

If the Saints are going to be demonized, outcast, branded as evil and punished accordingly, then they might as well start taking some cues from the late, great Davis

In case you don't remember or didn't know, Al Davis doggedly sued the NFL for years under then Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Eventually Rozelle resigned, tired of the unending battles with Davis and the Raiders. Davis was no saint, and had flaws aplenty, but what he also had in droves was panache and chutzpah. Instead of cowering to the self-serving whims and heavy-handed dictates of the NFL during his career, Davis righteously and ferociously fought back, branding himself as an outlaw and attracting a cult-following of loyal fans everywhere. 

And you know what? He won a bunch of Super Bowls along the way. 

And so here the Saints and their loyal fanbase stand today, a bit bewildered and mostly pissed. At this point, what other choice is there but to punch back against the cruel and unusual retribution delivered by the league? It's certainly not time to timorously shrink into the night. Instead, it's high time someone occupied the hallowed spirit of the mercurial and iconoclastic Davis. Might as well be the Saints.

In the end, one misdeed should not induce a worse one, especially from a governing body intent on suddenly proving its beneficence to the world at large. It's beyond the realm of reality to rely upon fairness or restraint from a billion dollar corporation single-mindedly focused on protecting its brand and revenue stream at all costs. 

The only choice now is to assume the villainous mantle and fight back accordingly. 

Just win, dawlin'

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