Let's re-affirm the core issue with the NFL's "bounty" scandal: It is not a sports story; it is a "Today Show" story.
Translated, that means this is one of those issues that goes beyond the interest of hard-core fans -- it is too easy to translate and understand (or, perhaps, misunderstand) to casual or non-fans. "Bounties" seem unfair and against the spirit of competition; that the players impacted by the bounties include the biggest stars in the league -- Brett Favre and Peyton Manning -- only makes them that much more accessible to average folks out there just trying to figure it out: "You mean the coach paid them to intentionally hurt Peyton Manning?"
That makes it even more of a p.r. problem for the NFL than it is a competition problem. Oh, make no mistake: The two are intertwined. Everyone is going to get punished.
But it means that it is in the NFL's best interests to frame the issue around a core bad actor (Gregg Williams), with levels of punishments dished out in concentric circles (suspensions for GM Loomis, coach Payton and players; lost draft picks at the organization level).
I have been saying that I think that Gregg Williams will get a lifetime ban from the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell (whom Williams meets with at NFL HQ today, in a conversation that will likely be frank and brutal -- and better include 100% transparency from Williams).
Let me revise that, slightly: I think Gregg Williams is finished in the NFL. Whether the NFL gives him a lifetime ban (which is as harsh of a punishment as they could deliver) or merely makes him unemployable (via onerous suspension or implied warning to teams that might hire him), his career is over -- it is a de facto lifetime ban.
The many layers of the story -- what will the punishments be? how will they impact the season? will other teams emerge in the story? does it reach to the college and h.s. levels? -- means that Friday was only the kickoff. Today it will get bigger, and when the punishments are levied, it gets even bigger than that. It is the biggest scandal the league has dealt with in a generation (maybe a few generations), and because of the NFL's place in sports, it means it is massive.
Keep up with the Bounty story through Quickish's stream.
More from an absolutely loaded sports weekend:
-Northwestern might have moved off its hyper-tenuous spot as "Last Team In" to merely the top of "Last Four In," but their Tournament hopes still depend entirely on a (winnable) first-round Big Ten Tournament win over Minnesota...
-It doesn't seem fair that the loser of the Drexel-VCU CAA title game will get shut out of the NCAA Tournament; the loser deserves an at-large spot. (Should this year's runner-up get credit for last year's run by VCU? Hell yes.)
-Kentucky (which decisively beat Florida to finish 16-0 in the SEC this season) will be the overwhelming favorite to win the national title (as they should be) -- I could see upwards of 80% of people nationally picking UK to win it all. It's hard to look at the landscape and see another team that could knock them off; even if Kentucky's shots aren't falling, its defense is so good that it will stay close enough to muscle its way past anyone. But in dismantling Duke, UNC seemed to showcase the profile to get it done (even if they couldn't on the deck of the aircraft carrier in November).
*Rory is No. 1: You can guarantee that Rory took a special (and immense) amount of pleasure in beating Tiger Woods in as close of a head-to-head match-up at the top of the leaderboard as they have ever had, especially because it vaulted McIlroy to No. 1 in the world, a spot Tiger used to have a lock on.
*NBA: Take your pick of great stories -- Deron Williams scoring 57? Rajon Rondo pulling out one of the most dominant triple-doubles of the past few decades? Kobe leading the resurgent Lakers past the Heat? Sunday was an amazing day in the NBA.
*NFL Offseason: Texans lock up Arian Foster. He is the face of the franchise and one of the most valuable players in the NFL, but that sure defies the trend that overinvesting in a "franchise" running back is an outdated idea.
*MLB: Pirates lock up Andrew McCutcheon. Even the woeful franchises need a centerpiece star, and McCutcheon is one of the best young players in the league. Still buy into a notion popular on Twitter when the deal was announced that it's unlikely he makes it to the end of the deal in a Pirates uniform; he is too valuable and could bring way too much back in return.
Big weekend behind us. Big week ahead. Pop by Quickish to keep up with all of it.