Nichol(s) Slots: Bounty edition

Roger Goodell suspended New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton a year for his role in the Saints bounty scheme… ESPN is going gaga of Tim Tebow going to the Jets and VCU’s Smart pulls a “Shaka” at Illinois. More on a wild 48 hours in another version of Nichol(s) Slots — crush-for-cash edition.

Crush-for-cash

THE MINT — Don’t think for one second what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did with the Saints yesterday was wrong by any means. Suspending Saints coach Sean Payton for a season for covering up a bounty scheme without his $7 million pay was an unprecedented hammer to say the least, but a hammer and hard stand that was surely fair in this instance. Goodell isn’t messing around about his players safety and isn’t tolerating any sort of crap whatsoever.

In his David Stern-Pistons-Pacers-Malice at the Palace moment, Goodell had to nail home that his league has no room for this type of behavior — which in my eyes and definitely in Goodell’s mind is unprofessional and unethical. He has to protect his investment which directly deals with the overall safety his players. If the players aren’t safe, if the players are crippled, what does this say about the league? What does it mean for the league’s future?

With concussion-related lawsuits building and its recent moves to protect defenseless players by outlawing cheap shots, Goodell isn’t stupid to realize his league can’t go forward without the proper safety of  its players. It’s absolutely wrong and just plain disturbing that Saints players and the organization not only supported, but covered up a scheme where players could have possibly suffered life-threatening injuries. Just because the sport is violent doesn’t mean bounties are OK. If bounties are rapid throughout the league, the threat becomes greater. More players can sue; players could possibly die and suddenly the NFL becomes a joke.

But one thing is for sure: the franchise that got all the publicity for their Super Bowl win in 2010 that finally brought a city full circle after it’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina really has lost its innocence. What was once such a touching story in New Orleans is now just a sorry act of professionals, a team who has lost credibility. Here, they were the little guy everyone cheered on. Now they’re the bully on the block everyone hates. All for a couple of extra bucks…

If you ask me —  that Super Bowl, Sean Payton’s career and many others — are tainted.

More on why this situation was the right move coming up in Fastest Five, tomorrow.

Saints guidelines for crush-for-cash

– Knockouts: $1500

– Cart-offs:  $1000 *which doubled or tripled during playoffs

– Price for any player knocked out during 2010 NFC championship: $10,000

Payton’s lost salary due to all of this: $7 million.

Also don’t think for one second that since the bounty program really didn’t hurt anybody, it had a no ill-effect whatsoever. Look at the hits in the Saints’ NFC championship win over the Vikings in 2010. The outcome of that game could have significantly changed if New Orleans were penalized for a third hit which they got away with — the play that busted Brett Favre’s ankle.

Takes a little bit out of that Super Bowl win, doesn’t it?

Tebow first a Jet, than not, then Jet again

The first deal hit a snag. The second deal, unfortunately for all of us, and possibly everybody in New York, went through. And may be Joe Namath summed it up best on Wednesday about the deal that sent Denver’s Tim Tebow to the New York Jets for a fourth round and sixth round draft pick:

“They don’t know what they’re doing over there,” Namath said of the Jets. “I think it’s just a publicity stunt. I can’t go with it. I think it’s wrong..” And Namath couldn’t be more right.

If the Jets are looking at Tebow as their ace in the hole in their wildcat scheme, I can understand that. I can even understand if it’s supposed to pep up Mark Sanchez (who’s going to be the starter after that extension) to increase his play.

The problem is — he ain’t any good. John Elway was never sold on Tebow. And the fact that his show has gone Broadway is more benefiting ESPN rather than Jets fans, us or the game of football in general.

What I don’t understand about this deal — besides the fact that the Jets asked for Tebow — is what Denver agreed in exchange.

After you sign Peyton Manning for 5 years, $94M, you trade Tebow for a fourth and sixth round pick?

The thought of Tebow going to New York is ridiculous, but the chips in the deal are just hysterical.

Hopefully New York City eats him alive because Tebow is a joke. And so are the Jets.

ESPN’s Tebow-mania 

What’s even more disgusting is that every 2 seconds on ESPN, Tebow is everywhere. Enough is enough. ESPN is ruining sports. If it isn’t about LeBron or Tebow, it’s Tiger, or some story milked for all its worth and more. ESPN beats a dead horse and truly doesn’t understand the realm of  real sports journalism. They focus on what they want to focus. It’s ratings. Talking heads. Insufficient reporting. Wallpaper. If you’re glued to ESPN, if that’s all you watch, if you feel you’re smart and a know-it-all because of ESPN and SportsCenter — you are the dumbest, stupidest sports fan ever, who doesn’t know what true, real sports journalism is.

I’m sick of watching ESPN take the reigns as the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” when it’s nowhere close to being a worldwide leader. If I have to watch a Bulls game or Monday Night Football — fine. But ESPN is absolutely ridiculous. Please, save yourself time and energy and find a new source of sports news. And if I have to sink the mothership myself with my own network someday, I’ll do it.

Bears sign Bush

In another solid move, the Bears have bolstered their offense by signing running back Michael Bush to a four-year, $14M deal with $7M guaranteed.

Bush, a backup to Darren McFadden in Oakland last season, rushed for 977 yards and 7 touchdown — all career highs. He can also serve as a safety valve for Jay Cutler in the receiving department, as Bush had career highs in receptions (37) and receiving yards (418). He’ll join Matt Forte in the backfield to give some sort of thunder and lightning type of tandem.

But Forte doesn’t seem the least impressed. In fact, the Bears star running back, who was given the franchise tag by the Bears, feels absolutely disrespected by this signing and took it to Twitter to voice his opinion.

“There’s only so many times a man that has done everything he’s been asked to do can be disrespected! Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last….”

Think of it this way, Matt — at least the team didn’t bring in Tebow.

What a Shaka 

For weeks now it has been widely know that VCU’s Shaka Smart was Illinois’ top man to replace Bruce Weber… but Smart pulled a “Shaka” by turning down the Illini’s offer to run their basketball program Wednesday.

Smart, who will stay at VCU, could have significantly upgraded his standard by coming over to the Big Ten.

You just have to wonder if AD Mike Thomas’ personality and decision making had something to do with this, plus the fact that the Illinois job is widely known as a 5-year coaching stop.

Logically, Brad Stevens would be next in line, but would that even be the right move for Stevens? Illini nation wants it, but Stevens might follow Smart in his footsteps.

Lookout NHL, here come the Hawks

The Hawks and Canucks were back to their old ways again last night in a 2-1 OT victory the Hawks so badly needed, as they won a gritty game against a foe who looked like they wanted to play this game in a bar, not an ice rink.

The win made it five-straight for the Hawks and they’re 9-1-1 since acquiring Johnny Oduya, who’s shot in OT was redirected by Andrew Shaw’s shin for the game-winner. It’s no secret the move for Oduya is one of the reasons the Hawks are playing better. Supplanting him into the defensive rotation and allowing the Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook tandem to reform has strengthen the Hawks D and made Hawk fans’ lives easier — so too Corey Crawford — who looks as if he’s regained his job in net. And with the offensive stars finally aligning, this Hawks team looks like the team before the nine-game skid in late Jan/early Feb and that was a top team in the league.

Technically, the Hawks are still sixth overall in the West, though they are tied with Nashville at 92 points and a point behind Detroit for fourth. Two huge games with Nashville are on the table coming up and there’s still one each against Detroit and St. Louis. Strange things can happen. No. 4 isn’t out of the possibility and if St. Louis some how falters down the stretch, a top three seed isn’t out of the question either.

Streaking at the right time, this is a deadly team opponents will want to avoid in the first orund. But for those who want the Hawks to stay in the sixth spot, you might not see it happen. As Joel Quenneville touched on in a presser the other day, the Hawks have to keep on winning and losing on purpose is something that you just don’t want to do in the NHL. The overwhelming concern is that if they can stay at 6, an easier date with Dallas plays into the Hawks favor in the first round.

But think about it: put the Hawks in the fourth spot, they’ll get Nashville or Detroit. Whoever it is, the series will be a grind. The advantage — possibly home ice — is the only one but if the Hawks are clicking, nobody should stand in their way.

Pick your poison, I guess, but the Hawks are hot and they look like they can continue to tear throughout the playoffs, with or without Jonathan Toews.

Boeheim calls Barkley an idiot

This is funny, stupid drama right here: Charles Barkley disagreed with the referees calls in Syracuse’s win over No. 16 seed UNC Asheville last Thursday and believes Syracuse should have been the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim thinks differently, and not much of Barkley. Here’s his response:

“Charles is an idiot. … You have to call calls. If they’re there, you have to call them. If a foul occurs or whatever happens, you have to call it. It’s as simple as that. If referees start doing that, we’ll have a chaotic situation. They have to make the calls that are there. If it’s a little touch foul away from the ball, a good referee won’t call that.”

Let’s see what Boeheim has to say when the NCAA comes down hard on his program someday. I can’t wait.

NCAA Tourney Thursday 

Hopefully Syracuse can lose tonight (although I’d hate to see it happen to Wisconsin), but some marquee teams are in action, including Michigan State and Ohio State The battle of Ohio between the Buckeyes and Cincinnati looks to be the most interesting to me, whereas Marquette and Florida should be a good matchup.

Any upsets? Louisville could pull one on Sparty and Florida might give Marquette a scare. I like Cincinnati and I like the rest of the top seeds to advance.

Cubs home opener gets sexier

If the weather holds up, this year’s opener at Wrigley has potential to be just stellar between the Nats and Cubs. But now that Steven Strasburg was named to start the opener for the Nationals on April 5, boy does that ticket really climb in value.

That’s unless it’s 40 degrees, the wind is blowing in and there’s a 70 percent chance of rain.

Anybody see this story out of London with Bolton Wanderers’ Fabrice Muamba? He collapsed during the middle of a FA Cup quarterfinal soccer game (futbol as they call it) last Saturday and was basically dead for 78 minutes as doctors tried numerous efforts to revive him.  Miraculously, Muamba recovered and is his life isn’t in any danger for right now, but its unclear if he’ll ever return to the sport again. And just as shocking as him beating death from what it looks like, one of those first things he asked is if his team won its match.

Unbelievable story.

Five little nuggets … 

1. Coldplay’s “Paradise” and Gotye’s “Somebody I Used to Know” are two songs playing on my iTunes constantly right now. Check those out if you can. Awesome alternative rock songs, for sure.

2. The Raptors wore some camo unis against the Bulls and I say we should leave the camo up to the armed forces, not on our NBA jerseys.

3. Anybody see the women who bungee jumped off a birdge while still strapped to her wheelchair? It reminds me of the Tosh.0 video of the handicapped man on top of a mosh pit… but that one didn’t go so well…

4. Rick Reilly was on the Herd Thursday and he had an interesting story about Tiger Woods. When Woods tore his ACL years back, apparently Woods blamed it on jogging. Apparently, if the story was true, Woods did so parachuting because he was interesting in joining the Navy. Crazy stuff. Also — he’s like no tippin’ Scottie Pippen when it comes to being cheap. That’s supposedly your greatest golfer… oh Jack Nicklaus, are you looking even better now.

5. Last but certainly not least — my condolences go out to the Lacy J. Banks’ family, after the famed Sun-Times columnist past away the other day. He was someone I read growing up and I had the up most respect for him. Such a talented writer who I thought was one of the best Chicago had ever seen. RIP, Lacy, you were a pioneer.

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