The Huffington Post has posted an audio recording of New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams exhorting his players to inflict a concussion and a torn ACL on specific members of opposing teams for money. I think this earns Williams a lifetime ban from football at any level. What does it say about football in general?
The value of sports is twofold: physical and moral excellence. It is not about winning. It is about doing one's best and demonstrating sportsmanship.
On the physical side, we engage in sports to push ourselves to the limit - to do our best - to train our bodies to compete with others. We test our resolve, our determination, our will.
On the moral side, we play by the rules - we acknowledge that our competitor has as much right to win as we do - that they are worthy of respect as brothers and sisters in the magnificent enterprise that is sport. We win generously and lose gracefully.
The contrasting view is that sports is all about winning at any cost - or rather, for any price. It is all about money. Williams' practice of offering bounties for injuring other players is indistinguishable from point-shaving, throwing a fight, bribing an official, or recruiting high school athletes by paying them under the table.
It is also cheating. Injuring the other player is a short-cut to winning. The beanball, the upraised spikes, the low blow - those are no different from the spitball, the corked bat, or steroids, except more violent. Williams proved that the Saints couldn't win without cheating.
It's more than that. Williams dishonors the great game of football and destroys the very meaning of sports. We watch sports to be inspired - to see men and women who have the courage to perform and compete in front of all of us, to succeed or fail before their family, friends, and all the world. We identify with them. We want to be courageous. We want to be determined. We want to be great-hearted. We want to be good sports. Williams and those like him - and those who tolerated his behavior - dishonor all of those ideals in pursuit of the almighty dollar.
Moreover, this practice contains the seeds of its own destruction. If football cannot eliminate this conduct the sport will disappear. If it is shown that teams were encouraging intentional assaults on opposing players and that professional football deliberately closed its eyes to that fact, there is not enough money in the world to compensate the men who were injured.
Wilson Huhn has coached special needs sports teams for 28 years.