Bounty hunting in the NFL

Near everyone's favorite allegorical masterpiece portraying the slimy dynamics of monumental hypocrisy comes from the Hollywood wartime cinematic gem, "Casablanca."

You'll quickly recall it's that delightful scene when Looey, the corrupt Vichy gendarme superbly played by Claude Rains, uses his astounding discovery that there is gambling going on as an excuse for closing down Humphrey Bogart's Roadhouse in order to appease the local Nazi nut cake. "I'm shocked, absolutely shocked to find that gambling is going on in this establishment," Looey righteously bellows. Whereupon a lackey from the roulette table approaches him with a swag and says; "Your winnings, Sir!"

It's wonderfully rendered; a perfect demonstration of the repugnant piety that lies at the essential core of all the truly calculated deceit.

And now we have another such brilliant illustration drawn from our own bankrupt times courtesy of the National Football League. It has to with the soaring scandal stemming from revelations that the New Orleans Saints secretly allowed the funding of cash pools from which "bounties" were awarded to defensive players who delivered hits sufficiently brutal to injure opponents.

Reportedly, the going price on the Saints' under the enlightened direction of ex-Defensive Coordinator Greg Williams was a thousand bucks if your victim had to be helped or (better still) carried off the field (they called them ''cart offs''), and $1,500 if you knocked the sucker out of the game. Allegedly, the hefty "price" of $10 Grand was placed on the head of Packers QB Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC title game. A tough cookie, Favre got run into the ground on that occasion but escaped annihilation.

The mounting scandal has reputedly stunned people although for you to be "stunned" by this you must have either been residing on the dark side of the moon the last three decades or have spent all of your autumnal Sundays in a cave safely protected from the brainwashing dutifully performed every week by CBS, NBC, and ESPN. Given the ferocity that routinely characterizes every NFL game nothing should surprise anyone who has watched one for more than 15 minutes.

And yet the breast beating and protestations of shock and shame have been overwhelming while doubtless only just beginning. Everybody who is anybody in this game is being asked to react and the responses have been almost uniform. "It is absolutely SINFUL," they are essentially saying. Most confess to being utterly appalled while insisting, of course, that they had never heard of such behavior let alone imagined it possible.

But among the most anguished of football's good old boys now so piously declaiming this utter outrage is none other than John Madden. He wins my Looey the Corrupt Vichy Gendarme memorial award for righteous indignation beyond the call of duty, let alone conscience. Good old Uncle John! I could have predicted he would come up big on this one.

Most of you will mainly remember Madden as the amiable, often jovial, and always genial host of many of network television's most memorable football moments over a full generation. For some he became almost "lovable"; an avuncular presence full of wisdom. Sort of the Walter Cronkite of the color men. Only vaguely remembered is the fact that Madden in his earlier incarnation that made him successful and wealthy and a member of the Football Hall of Fame was as coach of arguably the dirtiest, most vicious, and least principled team in the history of the NFL, the 1970s Oakland Raiders.

John was a smart fellow; rather canny, in my estimation. He was pleasant and affable and ALWAYS great with the media even as the team he was coaching was being widely despised. These were the years I was a regular on the NFL beat covering the Patriots intensely and I was skeptical of the prevailing wisdom that maintained Madden was a swell fellow. It was nothing he ever said or did to me; only the assumption that Al Davis, owner of the Raiders and then the game's de facto "Darth Vader," wasn't in the habit of putting jolly St. Nick in charge of his football team; nor would the brigands of this particular sporting penal colony -- including such engaging characters as Jack Tatum, Butch Atkinson, Phil Villipiano, Otis Sistrunk, Marv Matuszak, and Ted "Mad Stork" Hendricks -- have wanted to play for one.

It all came down to that unforgettable evening in Oakland in the late summer of 1978. It was a meaningless, totally irrelevant, pre-season exhibition having no issue or purpose for the veterans other than to get them in shape and yet Tatum, who was a mad dog on the field no matter the circumstances, found it necessary to nail the Patriots' fine wide receiver Darryl Stingley with a brutal helmet to the base of the spine shot on a simple pass reception that left Stingley paralyzed. He never walked again, spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair, and died in his early '50s. I knew Darryl Stingley. I knew him well. He was a heck of a fellow. What happened to him changed my view of the National Football League. Permanently!

Madden was contrite at the time, even remorseful. He said all the right things, for which he has an obvious talent. Interestingly, he quit coaching at the end of that '78 season although he'd been wildly successful in Oakland for a decade and there was no doubt a connection. I'm not suggesting his regret was not genuine. But I don't recall him ever embracing the fundamental point that as captain of that ship of sociopathic football fools he was essentially responsible for all their manic excesses including the Stingley tragedy.

The late Jack Tatum was out of control before he landed in Oakland and doubtless not much improved after he left. But on the Raiders, Madden sharpened and cultivated Tatum's fury, and skillfully orchestrated it, and deployed it with malice aforethought. There were no "bounties" on the Raiders; no slush funds. Tatum and his buddies got no bonuses for maiming opponents. John Madden was too smart for that nor would Al Davis, in all of his legendary malice, have tolerated it.

Bounties are stupid. These guys weren't stupid. But if there were no bounties back then the players still benefited in other meaningful ways. They knew what was expected of them and they knew it was greatly to their advantage to deliver it. And they also knew what would happen if they didn't.

Today, it is an august John Madden -- retired as well from the broadcast booth -- who in his role as an elder statesmen serves as co-chair of the NFL's so-called "Safety Panel" and chairman of the coaches subcommittee of the influential "NFL Competition Committee." In the entangled bureaucracy of the multi-billion dollar industry that the NFL has become this is mighty important stuff.

It's in these exalted capacities that Madden is being called upon to denounce the bounty business and all the bad boys involved in it and he's doing it well, sounding almost like a guy running for office. He says he's confident that his good friend Roger Goodell, the Commissioner, will come down hard on the culprits. He expresses no mercy for Saints Coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis. With the lodge brothers defecting, you may expect both to eventually walk the plank. He says new regulations to protect quarterbacks and running backs are necessary because they're so vulnerable. But he did not mention wide-receivers. Of Goodell, he says "When he puts some teeth in the rules this won't happen again." He sounds angry.

Isn't it nice to have John Madden onboard in the campaign to clean up this nasty business and it's especially nice to see all those NFL warlords suddenly so hot and bothered about their dear game's ever mounting violence and frightening dangers.

But you'll pardon us if we snicker when they suggest there is something new about all this and I'm sure you will understand if we find it even harder to accept John Madden having much to say about this game's issues of safety and codes of conduct. For the friends of the late Darryl Stingley, that is just a bit too much to swallow.

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...

Book tells about behind-the-scenes search for St. Peter's bones

HOUSTON (CNS) -- Two Houston men shared a journey through centuries of history and a decades-long archaeological dig under the Vatican to unveil a story ...

Update way priests are chosen, accompanied, pope tells new bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The best way to help the Catholic Church, Pope Francis told new bishops, is not by pointing fingers and creating scapegoats, but ...

Vatican confirms ongoing Sistine Chapel Choir finance inquiry

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican confirmed an ongoing investigation into financial irregularities involving the directors of the Sistine Chapel Choir. ...

After meeting pope, cardinal says he's hopeful about addressing crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston struck a determinedly hopeful tone after his long-awaited meeting with Pope Francis ...

DA clears Indiana bishop of misconduct, says claim has harmed prelate

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend welcomed findings by a Pennsylvania district attorney that cleared Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ...

Cardinal DiNardo calls meeting with pope lengthy, fruitful

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo has called a Sept. 13 meeting between Pope Francis and leaders from the Church in United ...

What do Church abuse policies mean by 'vulnerable adult?'

Denver, Colo., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- A Vatican summit this February will gather the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world. While ...

'Elitist, clericalist' church allows abuse to thrive, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sexual and physical abuse by priests and religious and the scandal of its cover-up by church authorities thrive in countries where ...

Cardinal Wuerl to ask pope to accept his resignation

Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- An archdiocesan spokesman has confirmed that Cardinal Donald Wuerl will soon ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation ...

Pope accepts resignation of West Virginia bishop as inquiry into abuse claims launched

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Pope Francis Thursday accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield from the pastoral government ...