I used to be a boxing fan. Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake LaMotta were boyhood heroes, and the highlight of my week was the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports, telecasting fights every Friday night. The program was top-rated until more and more fans—eventually including me—gradually came to understand that the object of the game was to cause brain damage, hopefully temporary but occasionally permanent and cumulative, as happened to thousands, most famously Muhammad Ali.
I became an even bigger pro football fan, until being turned off by the violence—not the inherent violence of the game, but the intentional maiming of marquee players like Brett Favre, DeSean Jackson, and Tony Romo.
It was no surprise when earlier this month the NFL disclosed that the New Orleans Saints had paid bounties for injuring opposing players, with extra money for “cart-offs” –when the injured player had to be carried off the field in a motorized gurney.
But today there was a surprise—a welcome one: the league came down with crushing punishments for the practice: Saints head coach Sean Payton was suspended without pay for the entire 2012 season, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (who apparently initiated the practice) was banned indefinitely (more…)