Sporty Spice: The Saints go marching down

April 26, 2012

Since Hurricane Katrina crippled their city in 2005, the New Orleans Saints have transitioned from a relatively unrecognized team to a media darling. In their oust from the Superdome, their ascent into the NFL’s elite with their 2009 Superbowl title, and the addition of devastatingly handsome Drew Brees as head of their squad, the Saints had all the makings of a Cinderella story. Right down to Prince Charming, rubbing Vick’s VapoRub on the most adorable child in the world.

But the Saints became much more than that. They were representative of the ravaged community, a larger allegory for the people of Louisiana. They would persevere, they would overcome, and they were New Orleans.

But after the scandals of past few weeks, the Saints have lost some of their dedicated fan base. Most recently, the Saints franchise has been tainted by its own version of the “Spygate” scandal, with General Manager Mickey Loomis bearing most of the allegations.

Loomis, who left the Seahawks in 2002 to join the Saints, claims innocence in this scandal, calling allegations that he listened in on opposing teams’ coaching staffs “1,000 percent false.” Interim head coach Joe Vitt defends him as well, saying that the accusations are “ludicrous.” Vitt has been suspended for six games, and Head Coach Sean Payton is facing a year-long suspension because of his involvement in the scandal.

But despite the active defense that the Saints have leapt to, the media has taken the claims very seriously. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell assures that a thorough investigation is in the works, and Louisiana police and the FBI currently are looking into the eight-year-old case. Still, solid evidence concerning the wiretapping has not yet surfaced. Some believe that the sheer bizarre nature of the claims must give it a kernel of truth, because even we couldn’t make that shit up.

Loomis himself couldn’t be in deeper. He has already been suspended for eight games for his role in the bounty scandal, which rocked the NFL and its fan base just a few weeks prior. With the eavesdropping allegations, this case has resurfaced with fast-approaching sanctions.

To the sports fan, this accusation may seem more serious for the league. However, the allegations also come at a time wrought with the undercurrent of sports becoming more and more physically dangerous. With this week’s Metta World Peace suspension, and the recent heart attack of Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba, the Backyard Baseball feel of sports has greatly diminished over the past decade, at least in the professional domain.

In an interview with Mike and Mike radio last week, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker said that he heard more about bounties at the beginning of his career than he has in recent years. The bounty charge against the Saints though, was apparently well-received by the players.

It can be mutually agreed on, by players and fans across the nation, that intentionally harming other players for monetary incentives is detestable, but unfortunately does not contradict the recent trend across sports. With increasing athleticism and competition, players and franchises have turned to other means of achieving goals and making quotas. “At all costs” has become a mantra of coaching staff, trending worldwide.

While the coaching and managerial staff may have given the orders, the players were complicit in following their instruction, and, according to some ESPN reports, “enthusiastic” in their participation. Primarily because of this enthusiasm, NFL fans are outraged. Even fans of the New Orleans team feel like their championship in ‘09 has been tainted by the Saints.

As terrible as both accusations are against the Saints, I think that they are mainly due to timing. Timing and trending. While that does not mean that they are absolved of fault, they have experienced this unfortunate downfall as a result of their extended Cinderella reign. And, of course, some misguided leadership from GM Mickey Loomis and his supporting cast, but all in all, it was their time to fall.

Just as my precious Pats have been hit by scandal and the Giants have lost Plax (and been accused of assigning bounties—but those were quickly laid aside), teams at the top only have one way to go. Unfortunately, over the next few weeks, we’ll all keep watching sadly as the Saints go marching down.

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