Saints Fans

There's nothing wrong with being proud of your team, but it's time for all of New Orleans to eat some humble pie. Photo courtesy Jason Getz/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In an AP article published on NFL.com, Saints fan Karen Buckles leaned on her team’s quarterback, Drew Brees, for strength. “We don’t need Payton, all we need is Drew Brees,” she said. And she’s right, Drew Brees IS the Saints. If they have him, they will always have a chance of competing. It’s a good thing to, because with all the suspensions handed down yesterday by the NFL, Drew Brees was about the only incumbent leader on that team that walked away unscathed.

But then Buckles said something really interesting. She said, “They can hurt us, but they can’t kill us.”

What an interesting choice of words in the wake of a scandal where her beloved Saints were caught giving cash bonuses to players for maiming their colleagues. I wonder if Gregg Williams and his Saints defense had that same talk. “Okay guys, we can hurt them, but we can’t kill them.”

I kid, of course, but Buckles was one of the few Saints quoted in the Associated Press article that actually had an upbeat tone. Brent Ardeneaux, who takes pride in being a Saints fans for the last three decades, is so furious that he is demanding a boycott of anything and everything licensed by the NFL. And that’s where the fans in New Orleans and the rest of the world stand starkly divided.

Saints fans, for the most part, think the NFL is the enemy in all this. They won’t defend their team by saying what they did was right, but they refuse to accept any of the consequences, either. The rest of the football fans, on the other hand, think the culture of violence that ultimately helped New Orleans capture a Lombardi trophy WAS the problem.

Another fan in the AP article, Gail Thomas, said, “We’ve always known the NFL doesn’t like the Saints so when they got the chance, they took it.”

If that were even remotely true Roger Goodell wouldn’t have let New Orleans limp away, he would’ve, as Buckles mentioned, killed them. That is, figuratively, of course. And believe me, he could have.

Quirky costumes aside, the Saints aren't big fans of whistleblowers right now. Photo courtesy Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune

But all this fan outrage has shifted focus away from the real problem. Or maybe I should say the real PROBLEMS. Because, no doubt, Gregg Williams is definitely one of them. His defensive philosophy was to cause injury and slash X’s through the names on his opponent’s depth chart. He was a cancer that Goodell HAD to remove from the NFL. I’m not sure how anyone can defend G.W. at this point.

But Williams wasn’t the only problem. Rather than realizing their former defensive coordinator was a parasite embedded deep in their franchise, the New Orleans Saints allowed the venom to spread. At best, Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis turned the other cheek and allowed Williams to operate unchecked. At worst, they enabled the ‘Bounty’ program themselves.

What is even more troubling is that, when the stuff started getting real (and it did real fast), the Saints clung to the desperate notion that they could smother the flames and put out the fire. Sean Payton even lied straight to Roger Goodell’s face. If I know anything about the NFL and this current Commissioner’s administration, I know that is the last thing you want to do.

But Goodell’s punishment handed down to Payton wasn’t revenge, and I think a lot of Saints fans don’t understand that. Goodell wants to judge what kind of character the men in his football league possess. He knew, thanks to his NFL Security, he ALREADY had the Saints dead to rights ever before the story broke. He wanted to know, facing trouble, how Sean Payton and the others conducted themselves. Simply put, they failed.

That’s what it boils down to: the New Orleans Saints failed. They failed to hold themselves to a higher standard, they failed to play fair, and, when they got in trouble, they failed to do the right thing and come clean. For that reason, in my opinion, there is almost no punishment that could’ve been too harsh.

But you say “Bryan, what about other teams? We’re hearing that all these other players NOT on the Saints have said they’ve heard of this sort of thing happening before. Where is the justice being levied against them?”

To that, I would say you answered your own question. That’s all any of that is: hearsay; lawyer-speak for unverified rumors. The NFL didn’t hear a couple guys in a Bourbon Street bar telling war stories and come out throwing handing down punishments. No, the NFL conducted an INVESTIGATION and found PROOF of an organized Bounty program within the New Orleans Saints franchise. If the NFL finds that same level of proof with other NFL teams the punishment will be the same. You can count on that.

That’s another thing some Saints fans, at least the ones like Mr. Thomas, don’t seem to get. The NFL wasn’t playing favorites in this. No, I take that back; they WERE playing favorites. The NFL favored teams where it was not proven that they had been cheating. And, considering the fact that it is THEIR football league, who can blame them for that?

That’s why I’m glad the NFL handed down suspensions in this case. It’s a hard, solid punishment that hinders a team’s ability to compete. Time and time again, the NFL has handed thousand-dollar fines to millionaires and billionaires and then stood shocked when it made almost no difference. The NFL, unlike the New Orleans Saints, finally figured out there are some things in this world money can’t buy.
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NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t standing on a soap box, he is on twitter! Follow him @bclienesch!