First, let me say that what I am about to write, for your consumption, is not in any way intended to offer a justification for Greg Williams' "Bounty Program". Furthermore, this is not an opportunity to "make excuses" for Williams, or any of his former players who may have intentionally tried to injure fellow players. What this is, then, is a slap in the face to all the sanctimonious do-gooders out there who openly voice displeasure in Williams' actions, but secretly take pleasure in the results. Let me explain.
Since ancient times, warriors, or gladiators if you prefer, have been used as spectacles for human consumption and entertainment. You don't need a boring history review, and I am not educationally prepared to offer one, but we have all either read the literature, done the requisite historical research, or seen enough movies depicting ancient Rome, to get a sense of the concept. Its origins go back even further than that. In any case, in that context the "performers" were required to either kill, or be killed. Death, then, was the end result for someone or something. It was a different time, and a different place, but the concept remains the same, even today. We, at least some or many of us, enjoy watching people beat the crap out of one another.
For those that may have played football, even at the junior high or high school level, you know the thrill of "killing" someone, or delivering a devastating blow that visibly, and in some cases audibly, hurts someone. I am not a violent person by nature, but I remember once "blowing a guy up" as he came over the middle and standing over him with pride as he lay there in obvious pain. I later found out that I had broken 2 of his ribs. I felt bad. For less than a minute. I also smiled.
Even before that, I remember being a kid, and feeling blessed for being lucky enough to have been born in such a year that it made it possible for my formative sports watching years to coincide with the boxing dominance that was Mike Tyson. I remember that at that time, not all my friends' families had cable, so my friends and I would convene in my parents' living room, glued to the TV, in anticipation of Mike facing the next unlucky soul who agreed to have the crap kicked out of him for a few minutes. We didn't watch to see, as Turkish so famously expresses in 'Snatched', a tickling contest. We watched to see greatness, but greatness in the form of one man unmercifully beating another man. It was a thing to see.
Fast forward to today. I am not a fan of MMA/UFC, but I recognize its success. I have seen my fair share of windshield size TapouT stickers adorning late-80's model Ford Fiesta Hatchbacks, and older, overweight men wearing form-fitting Affliction T-Shirts which scream and shout, as if they had the ability to fully communicate their wearer's intent, "MID-LIFE-CRISIS!" But, good for MMA/UFC. They capitalized on a need. And it's not just an American need, it's a human need. During UFC 10,257--or whichever one is next--millions around the world will pay a decent amount of money to watch grown, perhaps steroid enhanced, men try and destroy one another. Sure, they don't have swords and battle-axes. Sure, the referee stops the fight once a fighter is immobilized, or "taps out" because their opponent is applying stress to a limb which is causing impending long-term damage, but the intent is the same as it was long ago, when men were thrown in a ring together and told to kill, or be killed.
Admit it: you like watching "big hits". You may not like it when a player gets hurt, especially when that player plays for your team, but you move on. Guys sustain blows constantly in the NFL that cause immediate, and sometimes, long-term damage. But we, as fans, move on. Because we pay to see that. We watch to see that. When you put men on a field of battle, and tell them to hit one another very hard, injuries will happen, like it or not. And in the heat of battle, those same men will try to "kill" one another, or knock each other "out". If you watch football, you contribute to this, whether implicitly, or explicitly. You may sit there passively watching when JL55 lays a guy out, yet feel a slight tingle inside. Or, if you're like me, you jump up high, and high-five the guys in the room with you, and say something like, "Damn! That fool got knocked the fuck out!" Then you feel bad when you realize that the player actually did get knocked out. But that feeling of guilt lasts less than a minute. And then you smile.
This is all just a long-winded way of saying: stop it. If you don't like watching big hits, then fine. But like it or not, they are a part of football. And the difference between a big hit that causes short-term vs. long-term, or career ending, damage is nil. Nothing. Nada. And if you think the intent is different, it's not. Many, or most, NFL players are on the field to hurt each other. Sure they are playing a game, and there is strategy, and their primary objective may not be to hurt one another, as much as it may be an unintended consequence. But when you take very big, strong, and fast men and tell them to strap on a helmet and pads and hit each other, it's going to get violent. And we support it. Greg Williams may have handed out thousands of dollars over his "bountiful" career, and he may have encouraged his players to, "take a guy out", but it's far less than we, as fans, pay to see those players execute that vision. And even football itself has a history of it that goes way back. Ask an old-time fan about Dick Butkus and his propensity for violence on the field. Ask them if Butkus ever intended on hurting opponents. And we revere him for that. If you want a passive NFL in which guys lay off and do everything they can to protect their opponents, then fine. But my guess, is that you will find yourself in the minority. I, for one, like the big hits. It's a mans game, and the men who are paid to play it, are paid well. It is their choice. And it is your choice to watch. Or not.
I used to ask myself how much money it would take to get in the ring with Iron Mike, and the answer would generally be something in the, "Shit-Ton" neighborhood. I would see guys get in the ring, even experienced guys like Michael Spinks, and get beat to shit. Quickly and definitively. And I would think to myself that you would have to be a fool to subject yourself to that, or just really like money. But then I grew up and I realized that there might have been another reason: For some people, it is what they feel like they were born to do, or they don't know how to do anything else. NFL players have devoted their lives to the game. For many of them, they don't know anything else. Peyton Manning doesn't have to play football anymore to prove he is a great QB. Brett Favre didn't either. But they were born to play and they don't know life without football. So, let them play the game they love. They know the consequences. When a WR catches a ball over the middle he knows he is going to get hit. And maybe get hit very very hard. But he does it, because it's his job and he gets paid very well to play it. How much would it take for you to catch a high pass over the middle within square sight of a hard-charging, maliciously-intented JL55? "Shit-Ton"? Why? Because he would hurt you. Badly. And you might die. And that's why many of us wouldn't do it. But, for those of you who would, you would do so knowing full well that JL55 might break you. Because that is what he does. It is his job. And in a roundabout way, you are his employer.