Tuesday, March 27, 2012


"Bounty" is an ambiguous term. "Nature's Bounty" makes me think of delicious fruits and vegetables. In Patrick O'Brian's novels about the Royal Navy of the late 18th Century, we learn that there was an elaborate system for a ship's crew to share in a bounty awarded for the capture of an enemy ship. Fair enough!

"Bounty Hunters" aren't exactly lovable characters, but we understand why society may well decide to reward those who bring about the arrest of persons on a Wanted list.

Now we learn of suspensions and fines assessed on those involved in a bounty scheme for professional football players and coaches. For example, a cornerback whose aggressive play knocks an opponent out of a game would be rewarded by a "bonus" of (say) $1,000.

I find the crocodile tears of the NFL officials somewhat unconvincing. They are presiding over a "contact sport" which results in frequent injury. It is a big moneymaker for owners and players alike. So the hypocritical fiction is maintained that no serious injury results from "good clean football". We are just learning about the effects of repeated concussions, caused by blows to the head. Running backs, in particular, inevitably take a lot of physical punishment. Their average career duration is just five years, I read somewhere.

In my lifetime I have seen foxhunting and staghunting banned in most of the U.K. The League Against Cruel Sports has been quite successful, and on the day I wrote this I read of the prosecution in Colorado of two college students for beating a pigeon to death. The actions against the perpetrators of the bounty scheme is good, but it is really window-dressing. Professional football will continue to reward those who are "tough tacklers", but not so blatantly.

The reality is that many people--mainly, but by no means exclusively--men will pay high prices to watch "contact sport", in which performers do their best to injure their opponents. That will always limit the efforts of those who try to reform such "sport".

What about professional boxing? Two persons (usually, but not always, male) earn huge "purses", trying to injure each other. Shouldn't that be banned?

I'm not holding my breath...

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