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Bounty Hunting

This article is more than 7 years old.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, left, and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (now with St. Louis) have been placed under the microscope regarding the team's illegal bounty program. (AP)
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, left, and former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (now with St. Louis) have been placed under the microscope regarding the team's illegal bounty program. (AP)

Maybe it happens all the time. In all our games. Maybe in hockey locker rooms across the land, boys and girls and men and women from high school on up to the pros toss money into the pot with the understanding that part of the cash will go to anybody who knocks an especially significant player on the other team out of the game. Doesn't matter whether it's the Red Wings against the Maple Leafs or Jack's Aluminum Storm Door and Siding vs. Nicky's Lunch at midnight on Friday, because the ice is cheap.

Maybe all the coaches nod approvingly as the pot fills up. Even Nicky.

Maybe it happens in dugouts, too. Or in bullpens. Maybe relief pitchers pony up before the season begins and starting pitchers draw cash from the bounty bonus fund each time they plunk a .300 hitter seriously enough so that he has to leave the game, hence relieving the reliever of the necessity of facing said hitter.

And in the dressing rooms shared by basketball players, too? We don't have to wonder about that. Charles Barkley barked this week about having offered a bounty during an embarrassing loss several decades ago, and Cedric Maxwell, who played for the Celtics from 1977 until 1985, said that in the Boston locker room, the reward for knocking over Len Elmore, late of a variety of ABA and NBA teams, and stepping on his chest was $10. Maxwell would never have made the Saints roster, because he claims there was never any intent to injure Elmore or knock him from the game. So far no active NBA players have copped to trying to do that with an elbow to the ear, nose or throat.

Never mind boxing, where everybody understands that the point is to render your opponent unable to leave the ring without assistance.

But in all those other sports, the bounty would make the same sort of sense it makes in football, wouldn't it? Eliminate key players on the other team, you're more likely to win.

What about tennis? Or golf? Maybe the members of Davis Cup and Ryder Cup teams gather before competition begins to toss into somebody's hat money that one of their number will get if he can hit an opponent in the eye with a tennis ball, or hook a golf ball off the appropriate coconut with a not-so-errant five iron. Maybe they've always tried to do that, and we don't hear about it, because they just aren't good enough at mayhem.

This program aired on March 7, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.

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