Monday, April 23, 2012

The Unsaintly Saints

I recall vividly the unglory days of the New Orleans football Saints; teams that were so bad that the fans started calling them the "Aints", and wearing paper bags on their heads to hide their embarrassment at being seen at games.  The team's recent Super Bowl victory and multiple winning seasons seemed to have wiped those ugly memories from the fan base's collective consciousness.

But there may be a whole new set of reasons to start wearing bags again, and this time the situation may be so bad that the fans will start using plastic bags in order to more permanently deal with their humiliation.

For it seems that there was some serious football cheating going on in the Big Easy.  We can start with the improper bounty system that targeted selected players on opposing teams, and was in play during the tenures of now suspended defensive coordinator Grggg Williams and head coach Sean Payton.  You can read the details and problems associated with that process below.  And then we have this latest gem from ESPN--that the Saints general manager, Mickey Loomis (who was also suspended for his role in the bounty system) was eavesdropping on opposing coaching staffs during games.  Allegedly, there was a hidden microphone system in the press box that the Saints' GM could monitor with the flip of a switch.  Obviously, this gave the Saints a potentially huge advantage--the ability to listen to the other side's analysis of the game, its planned adjustments, and comments on the opposing coaches's perceptions of your team's weaknesses would be invaluable.

Surreptitious electronic surveillance violates not only NFL rules, but a host of federal and state laws against eavesdropping, as well.  There appears to be some question of whether this practice stopped after Katrina hit the city in 2005, but the existence of such a practice certainly tells us a lot about what the Saints think of the rules that everyone else has to follow.  I'm sure the NFL Players Association is delighting in this news--it removes some of the pressure to discipline the players involved in Bounty-gate when the team management is so obviously over the top when it come to rule violations.

Those bags may be back a lot sooner than we thought.

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