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The Problem with the “Press”, the New Orleans Saint’s “Bountygate”, and Energy Policies

March 28, 2012 Leave a comment

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

Contrary to popular belief, that isn’t a quote from the Bible nor did Shakespeare write that sentence. That’s an Edward Bulward-Lytton quote from his 1839 play, Richielieu;  if you know anything about the historical Cardinal, you know why I still believe it.

I’ve recently understood the importance of language and its misuses in the press (namely the lack of accountability for one’s writing), when I began studying how Fossil Fuel opponents write about the industry and more broadly, the current school of press behind the desks.

Policy Wonk Steve Everley said,

“Apparently it’s okay to (falsely) accuse the industry of not being transparent, even while hiding crucial details of opposition studies.”

Everley nailed the problem with that mighty pen. It seems that the press has a selective tolerance. They aren’t lying “per se”, they just exaggerate certain claims at the expense of being transparent.  As long as the ratings go up, the public is buying.

They have become word salesmen, headline jockeys, conjurers of cheap tricks with lots of flash powder and little substance; they are like newsboys from the pre-Pulitzer/Hearst Newsboy strike of 1899 screaming “Man Found Floating in Oyster Bay! Authorities Suspect Fowl Play!”

In this hypothetical, say the patron rushed to the newsboy to buy the paper, only to find out that the man floating in Oyster Bay was a chicken farmer. I hope you caught the homophone/heterograph.

So, did that headline sell papers? Yep.

Was it true? Sure, just not the way he said it.

Did the buyer get to read the news he thought he paid for? Nope. The newsboy already had his penny.

I aim to draw attention to the use of language because it is how the press writes that costs us the straight truth. When we buy into all of the overstatement at the expense of the facts, we are stuck holding an armful of junk news and we stop asking about the truth, it’s just not sensational. We stopped chasing down the newsboy who sold us the junk because the writers realized that this inflated strategy worked, so, now, they write the junk. Time after time, we still give them our penny.

The conundrum here is that the press creates the news now, it’s not the other way around.

As Edward Hirsch said in How to Read a Poem,

Language is an impure medium. Speech is public property and words are the soiled products, not of nature, but of society, which circulates and uses them for a thousand different ends.

A great example of this point is the current “Bounty-Gate Scandal” associated with the New Orleans Saints and how the press chose to handle that “scandal”. A parallel to how the press is handling Hydraulic Fracturing.

The power of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell,  and how the press have chosen to cover this story is the real story.

Think about it, Goodell just effectively fined one man (Sean Payton) $7.5 million dollars (that may be the largest fine in the history of sports on earth), suspended a head coach for an entire season (which has never been done in the modern NFL), suspended GM Micky Loomis for eight games without pay, the Assistant Coach Joe Vitt for six games without pay, fined the New Orleans Saints $500,000, penalized the team two second-round draft picks for the upcoming season and the next, and the NFL hasn’t yet handed down the player penalties. They suspended Gregg Williams indefinitely.

The same press that rallied behind the Saints in 2009 because of their Phoenix-esque rise from the ashes following Katrina, the same press that praised the defense’s aggression for their ability to create turnovers (for which they were second in the league), refuse to speak about the Saints without the word Bounty attached to their name.

That one word encapsulates the entire problem similar to the way O&G detractor’s use of “toxic cocktail” and the unprecedented actions levied against the Saints are similar to the moratorium imposed in the Gulf.

Bounty is the hook, Bounty is the heavy. Bounty is a heck of a lot more interesting than “non contract bonuses”, which is the official language used in the NFL Constitution.

Bounty is the word that maligns the Saints by judging their intent, a strategic use of language which calls to memory “Wanted” posters from the old West where vigilantes would take men dead or alive or take scalps for a cash reward. That one word changes the way analysts report: that the Saints’ desire wasn’t to tackle, but to injure.

Why use the word? Why add a underlying reference to Watergate?

Add Bounty+Gate and it’s a scandal. Remember, there was no scandal during the 2009 season; we all watched the same games. Scandals sell papers.

In 2009, the Saints were still America’s team, and America’s Team, the NFL’s Cinderella, won the big dance. The press was writing about Natural Gas as a cleaner bridge fuel three years ago too.

Jabari Greer said it well in an interview with Rich Gannon on Sirius radio:  “they are judging our intent”.

Bounty creates a false reality. The question: “Was there or was there not a Bounty program in place?” forces the persons who answer to agree with the Bounty terminology.

Greer refused. Players like Jabari and our industry are guilty until proven innocent because of the press.

The Press who’ve covered the Saints, like those who enjoy the benefits that O&G provide while protesting its use, have chosen to forget crucial details to prove a point. They criticize both organizations for failing to disclose information when they routinely do the same thing and or fail in the investigation. That’s what is known as a “double standard”.

The NFL commissioner missed this (another similarity to those who protest O&G) and created glaring problems.

By penalizing the Saints in this fashion, the NFL has completely undermined the function of their officials because the officials did not eject players for hits during the 2009 season while the games were actually being played. They didn’t believe the Saint’s defense was doing anything out of the ordinary at the time; if they did, they called those penalties and the NFL fined the players. It is the official’s job to enforce the rules created by the NFL on the field. They are well trained and well paid to do so. They are the primary means of enforcement, the ones who actually “write the tickets” and “make the arrests” on the ground level. These new penalties come in addition to the fines already meted out by the NFL.

I can’t help but think about the EPA and how it undermines the authority of state organizations in places like Wyoming and Pennsylvania. Did Lisa Jackson mean that she trusts the states to do the regulating? As of now, the EPA, like the NFL, has repeatedly undermined those who are doing their jobs by giving their vote of no confidence.

As NBC Sports reported,

In each of the 2009-2011 seasons, the Saints were one of the top five teams in the league in roughing the passer penalties. In 2009 and 2011, the Saints were also in the top five teams in unnecessary roughness penalties; in 2010, the Saints ranked sixth in the category. In the January 16, 2010 divisional playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals, Saints defensive players were assessed $15,000 in fines for fouls committed against opposing players. The following week, in the NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings, Saints defensive players were assessed $30,000 in fines for four separate illegal hits, several of which were directed against quarterback Brett Favre.

This means that the Saints were playing physical but they were not the only team to do so. It also means that the league already assessed their play and fined them as they felt was appropriate. What does this mean for the other 4-5 teams that, as of yet, haven’t been charged with illegal activity?, the teams that outranked the Saints in unnecessary roughness penalties?

Nothing, so far.

At the very least, it means that without additional incentives, there were teams with higher instances of roughness penalties who were playing nasty defense for the sole purpose of playing nasty. Which is worse?

The officials did call penalties on players like Haynesworth, Harrison, and Suh for acting with the intent to cause injury. These men acted in a way where it was a cut and dry case.

Haynesworth kicked a man without a helmet in the face, Suh stomped on a lineman for allegedly untying his cleats, Harrison clearly blasted Colt McCoy, Cleveland’s quarterback with a head shot that caused a concussion.

This is what the NFL wants to be rid of, not aggressive defenses, not defenses who play hard. .

There are bad apples everywhere. There are bad apples in the Oil & Gas Field. This is why state regulators, those on the ground should be responsible for regulating without the larger broader, less informed federal oversight of the EPA, especially when they’ve already proven that they are willing to stand behind reports that undermine their own authority in violating the SOP.

State environmental regulators are the ones who actually see what is going on, in real time. Penalize those who are guilty and non-compliant, not an entire industry with wide-spread bans pushed by ignorant politicians. Don’t institute moratoriums that penalize an entire industry when the platform in question and the company who owns it (BP) were penalized.

Peter King ended his article in Sports Illustrated by proving this point.

Far away from the furor, the object of much of that January 2010 mayhem didn’t seem particularly ruffled. Reached on his 465-acre ranch just west of Hattiesburg, Miss., on Friday, Favre told SI, “Since that game, I haven’t gone a week without someone asking me whether I thought there was a bounty on me that day. Now it’s come out to be true. But it’s football. I’m not going to make a big deal of it.” The commissioner will.

Favre’s statement provides more perspective than any other statement I have read. “But it’s football. I’m not going to make a big deal out of it.” Favre, one of the most decorated football vets in history, a player who through his 20 year football career gained the record for consecutive starts at 297 as a quarterback on the receiving end of the hits knows that this is just a part of the game. He didn’t miss a start in 18 1/2 years, not even when his father died. The man with the most informed opinion about what it feels like to play against a team with incentives for hitting him knows that it is a part of the game. You show me one defensive player who doesn’t strut around after a brutal sack and I will show you 799 who will.

Think about it. “22-27 players”, players who signed contracts allowing themselves to be governed by the NFL, who have played for other teams were the ones who put together the pool. If this was such an anomaly, such a new and evil thing, would all of those players have condoned it? They know what violations of policy look like in terms of fines and penalties. Some players are more than willing to defy the league with preplanned extensive touchdown dances. Something must have made them feel like the league couldn’t possibly view it as harshly as they did. Do you think they, understanding how fragile their stay in the game , would intentionally injure another player for $1500? If they’d wanted to, they could have just done what Haynesworth, Suh, or Harrison did and remove all doubt.

I can imagine Sean Payton or Gregg Williams saying “Are they serious?, everybody does this.” Goodell’s penalty is a response to the press’s rhetoric. Buy that.

Of course the Saints were looking to annihilate players like Brett Favre, Tom Brady, Kurt Warner etc. At that level of play, at that point in the season, being that near to the Big Show, a defense has no desire to allow any player of that caliber a chance to stick around. Hit him fast, hit him hard, hit him often; break his rhythm. Don’t let him get comfortable in the pocket. That’s a pretty sound strategy.

Peter King’s wry response: “The commissioner will.” shows that suits like Goodell and professional writers are out of touch with the essence of the game that the players understand. Football’s essence is violence. It’s why they wear pads and a helmet to work instead of a coat and tie. It’s a risk those who work in the Oil & Gas Field are familiar with as well, that’s why they wear flame retardant clothing.

Players get that messing with the nature of a violent game will do nothing but hurt football culture.

Why does it seem that the NFL’s decision reflects the opinion of the media rather than players like Brett Favre? That’s a mystery in the same vein as the press dismissing O&G experts because they are “on the payroll”. You can’t just discredit those with expertise, expertise that you don’t share, because you disagree with their informed statements.

Speaking of making an example for the purpose of making a statement. Will the Obama administration declare a moratorium that costs billions in lost tax dollars, forces multiple companies and people their livelihoods, each time their is an accident? I wonder if bad apples in the O&G field will be more or less likely to be forthcoming if they know their entire industry will be shut down as a result. The thought is that they will quit practicing lax maintenance policies but bad apples are bad apples. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

Like the inherent risk in football, there is an inherent risk in drilling. Nothing is perfect. People will get injured and their will be mistakes. The same can be said for farmers, steel workers, construction workers, and sky divers.

Goodell chose to pounce on the Saints before doing a league-wide investigation. Obama chose to pounce on all O&G GOM platforms before doing the same thing.  They’ve both created a kangaroo court.

The penalties have just decimated the Saints’ chances of having a level playing field with other teams in the NFL. The ramifications of knowing that the deck is stacked against the Saints should have been more thoroughly considered by the NFL. Are the fans wrong for supporting their team?

As for the related energy policy, how can our lack of an Energy Policy, aside from one that fights O&G tooth and nail, create a level playing field for our Capitalist Country. Why is there a push to remove their subsidies, increase their taxes, and cripple them with over regulation? Are O&G employees wrong to be outraged at this penalty? According to Obama, one can side with O&G, or it can side with America.

For a man who makes anywhere from $1-18.5 million a year, what does 10K really mean? I don’t think the NFL is bent about money. They are bent about intent; intent that the press has done a wonderful job of defining for them. With the word Bounty now forever attached to the Saints’ defense, can their intent get a balanced and relative view? Impossible.

Notice how the lack of a fair and balanced review is missing in O&G as well? Thanks to the press, we pump “toxic cocktails” and “poison” directly into the drinking water of innocent people. We irresponsibly shoot oil into the ocean because we don’t care about sea life. We cause earthquakes, destroy the ozone, and melt glaciers. We give people cancer and sucker punch lease holders with cryptic language that comes out of the forked tongued mouths of land men. You think O&G gets a fair shake?

Neither do the Saints. What’s the common factor? The press.

There is an apparent disconnect between our energy policy and our use of fossil fuels. O&G are the lifeblood of the world. Period. Acting like that isn’t true is like saying football shouldn’t be violent.

It doesn’t matter what the Saints do now, Goodell has destroyed their 2012-2013 season and created in them a whipping boy for a strong handed agenda.

So, what does that have to do with Energy Policy?

I believe the parallels are uncanny. Maybe that says something about the idealism of our culture, a culture aloof, like the NFL commissioner with the nature of the NFL. I am at a loss to understand the causal factors. What did the moratorium do to all of the platforms and companies with impeccable safety records?

As a New Orleans native, the Saints’ penalty seems strangely similar to a moratorium enacted on the Gulf of Mexico by the current administration. Instead of costing a few men a football season and millions of dollars, it cost the United States $24 billion in taxes. This is not the only example of penalties enacted that cost money.

All you need to see the commonalities between the two issues is a perusal of popular articles on both. Rolling Stone’s Jeff Goodell (ironic, no?) recently wrote an article about Chesapeake Energy entitled:

The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind the Gas Boom

It’s not only toxic – it’s driven by a right-wing billionaire who profits more from flipping land than drilling for gas.

In which he depicted Chesapeake Energy’s Aubrey McClendon as the creator of a Ponzi scheme styled company. He even used an energy consultant named Arthur Berman to support his position. Arthur Berman made a statement saying he completely disagrees with Goodell’s conclusion, Jeff’s that is. Jeff went on to bash the industry using the same old arguments used by Ian Urbina in the New York Times, arguments that attack Hydraulic Fracturing for reasons that have already been debunked. He is a year late. It’s in Rolling Stone.

And as for Peter King and his SI article entitled: Way Out of Bounds, I would have expected a man who writes so much about sports to be more willing to look at it a little longer before jumping on the hater bandwagon.

I see so many parallels. Am I just nuts or do I just happen to be one of the most disgusted people on earth.

Goodell and Obama both like to forget that they live in a world wherein attempting to destroy the fabric of a thing makes it a different thing entirely. By the time the two of them are done, we will be watching touch football while driving by a windmill in an electric car.

I think the problem is the press and the people who chose to believe that how they paint a portrait is the gospel truth.

It’s the presses fault for dirtying the reputation of the Saints and O&G on a global scale. The men with the power believed the hype and acted in a manner that is completely over the top.

Now that’s “earth shattering.”

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