I suppose it was inevitable this would happen. When the best Saints blog on the planet finds itself smack up against its bastard spawn in a cage match for dominance—or even just when Dave finally disagrees with me—the occasion calls for discretion instead of snark, careful reasoning instead of sarcasm, and, of course, a Photoshop job. My one advantage. Gaze on my works, ye mighty, and despair. One point for me.
The occasion of which I speak is, of course, that of Dave’s reason slipping from his grasp, and its screaming plunge into the abyss of Jeff Pash’s brain. Or maybe Pash kidnapped Dave and has locked him in his rare New Orleans basement. As we speak, a crack team of WhereDats is conducting a search for the real Dave Cariello—although, unaccompanied by a single HowDat, it’s questionable that they’ll be able to effect a rescue. So it’s up to me. I shall now attempt to talk Dave back into the light.
Yo, Saintsational: are you nucking futs?
Okay, some back story. When it was pointed out that no one could really tell who it was that uttered the infamous “Give me my money” phrase on the Saints’ sideline in the NFC Championship, Pash—insisting that it was Anthony Hargrove—said this:
What that video tape rather clearly demonstrates is two things: one, there was a program and it corroborates rather clearly that there was a program where a player could be rewarded for making a play that resulted in an injury to an opponent.
Dave just happens to agree. He thinks it’s time Saints fans (certain of them anyway) “stop making excuses and start thinking more logically.” I wholeheartedly concur. There are some aspects of the post-Bounty argument that make my ass twitch, since I hear them coming from my own side. For instance: Roger Goodell has it in for the Saints. Well, it might appear so, but consider the big picture: Roger Goodell appears to have it in for everyone not Roger Goodell. Besides, we don’t know Goodell hates the Saints. It might look that way, but it can’t be proven. And that describes the accusations against the Saints in a nutshell: it might look that way, but it can’t be proven.
Take the sideline incident itself. Hargrove insists it wasn’t him who said it. Mike Florio opined that the most logical suspect would be Remi Ayodele, since he was also in the frame, and since he was one of the two (Bobby McCray being the other) who seemingly had provided the knock-out hit on Brett Favre. In that context, it makes no sense for Hargrove to be the speaker—what did he think he had earned, and how? Ayodele is the guy—but now he’s come forward and denied it as well. We don’t even know who was speaking, let alone what they meant.
Dave ain’t having that:
We really don’t know what is being referenced by whoever said “give me my money.” That video is in no way direct evidence there was a pay-for-injury program. If it were the only piece of evidence available, Bountygate as we know it would have never even existed.
But it’s not the only piece of evidence, and that’s the problem. The PowerPoint slides and ledgers prove there was a bounty program in existence. The handwritten notes suggest money was being wagered to injure Brett Favre. Which makes the “give me my money” soundbite too fortuitous not to be a reference to a bounty pool.
Well…as Dave so rightly points out, before anything else, “We really don’t know.” That’s all that I have been saying, and a lot of people stand with me. I don’t contend that the Saints are pure and innocent as fresh young unicornlets; I only contend that the NFL hasn’t come anywhere close to proving their case. And along the way, in addition to missing their exit, they drove seven cars off the road and ran over a pedestrian.
The PowerPoint slides? I’ve seen them. They burned my eyes, but I looked anyway, and I didn’t see anything that made me believe in an organized, sanctioned program of payments for the injury of targeted individuals—which was, dare I mention it, the original accusation against the Saints. The ledger? What ledger? The one the NFL claims to have but never showed, and described only in hints that turned out not to match the reality of the games? The handwritten notes? Didn’t see them, either…just a typed transcription that, among other things, accused Joe Vitt of putting up $5,000. But Vitt has vehemently denied doing so, and the NFL apparently admitted that his denial is true.
Can the NFL’s evidence be trusted? How many of its tasty tidbits have to turn out to be toxic before you give up on the whole thing and just go get a po boy?
Dave also points out that this controversy isn’t playing out in court, where there are definite rules of evidence and stringent standards applied to the prosecution. And again, he’s right. It’s being played out in Roger Goodell’s kangaroo court—but also in the court of public opinion. Goodell gets to have his way; but we get to withhold our approval, if we so choose. The only truly relevant questions are: what standards do we use to make our judgments, and are those standards reasonable?
Here’s my own standard, and while it differs quite a bit from Dave’s it also includes—inevitably—situations where not every fact is known, and it’s necessary to make a guess, a judgment call. Dave makes his call, and his gut tells him the Saints had a bounty program. Fine, but notice: this isn’t logic. Don’t try to tell me I’m being unreasonable because my head disagrees with your gut. If you believe in the NFL’s evidence…well, less power to you.
I don’t believe it, because I don’t trust the NFL. If they came forward with new evidence that the Allies won World War II, I’d start being skeptical. So far as I’m concerned, the league has so damaged its credibility that nothing they say is believable on its face. In order for me to believe the Saints are guilty, I need to hear confessions.
And there have been confessions, too. Both Sean Payton and Gregg Williams admitted their culpability and apologized for causing this controversy; but neither of them admitted, in so many words, that the team had organized a system to target opposing players for injuries and pay Saints defenders for taking them out. In stopping short of admitting the full truth of the accusations, their words were carefully-crafted, non-denial denials. The defenders themselves have consistently and vociferously denied it, all along. It all comes down to, “Who do I believe? Whose word is reliable?”
To Dave, the answer is: Jeff Pash. To me, the answer is: Jonathan Vilma. Scott Fujita. Anthony Hargrove. Joe Vitt. My guys. The ones with rings. The ones who brought this city the only success it’s ever had on the field, and who now need us to stand by them. Call it, benefit of the doubt.
Where’s the soundtrack when you need it? Anyway, logic is fine. Gut feelings can be okay, too. I happen to believe I have both on my side, just as Dave believes they side with him. But loyalty shouldn’t be underrated. Until I know—until my side owns up, admits the charges, pleads guilty—I’ll stand with them. Hell, I had to stand by this team once until Hell froze over. I handled that; I can handle this. I can handle it alone if I have to.