Decision in Saints bounty scandal an example of playing both sides

Every parent and everyone who remembers what it’s like to be a kid under punishment should realize what former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue did in the bounty case appeal decision announced Tuesday.

Acting as the appeals hearing officer for the four Saints players challenging the findings and punishment dished out by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Goodell’s pal and predecessor came back with a ruling that’s about as CYA as any delivered in the NFL’s corporate history.

He went for King Solomon and wound up at Al Bundy.

Tagliabue wrote that he affirmed Goodell’s factual findings … but he was vacating all discipline against Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita.

Oh, wait, not all the factual findings.

On the juiciest accusation, that Vilma offered $10,000 to anybody who could KO then Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC Championship Game, Tagliabue said, “the evidence as to whether Vilma made such an offer is sharply disputed.”

Then, Tagliabue wrote, “the entire case has been contaminated by coaches and others in the Saints organization.”

Double talk

I find that you did most of what he said you did and for which he put you in an expensive time out, but I’m also saying you don’t deserve to be punished for it at all? Because somebody else obstructed my ability to get to the truth that I still claim I’ve found?

I can hear Judge Judy’s bark of derisive laughter now, both as a judge, parent and grandparent.

Remember those times you got accused of something and your parents laid into you, then punished you while you proclaimed your innocence or at least “it’s not how it looks?”

OK, remember those times that happened and you weren’t lying?

Once all got revealed, your parents knew they had overreacted. They knew they were wrong. They knew they had to make things right while saving face after raining noise, hellfire, brimstone (and maybe belts and shoes) in the aftermath of your alleged transgression.

An out-and-out, toe-scuffing apology would be proper, but too much of a hit to parental pride.

So instead you would get a little bit of “now, you were wrong when you, blah, blah, blah” followed by “but I realize there were others involved who made your behavior seem worse than it was” and “perhaps we were too harsh on you … want some pizza?”

Tagliabue just lacked the number for Lazaro’s Pizza & Po’ Boys.

The blame game

Wagging a finger at the New Orleans coaches and suits moves the blame safely. Those folks are more likely to just take their punishment because they want a long life on NFL sidelines and in front offices.

As the head of Pharmaceuticals Inc., played by Martin Scorcese, says in Quiz Show, “People have very short memories. Corporations never forget.”

Players know the guy behind the cash register serving their No. 3 (supersized) might have a longer life in his current job than they have in theirs. They’ll fight suspensions, fines and hurts to the good name they’ll need as currency once their career ends.

During the past few years, Big Rog slid easily into the role of Big Daddy, protector of the football house, provider of lucrative CBAs and TV deals to the brother wives and guiding hand to the children on the way to play. He has fined players aggressively for what he deems overaggressive play (if you’re on defense). Must protect the future of this house.

But this time Big Daddy reached too far, and the kids were not all right with that. They talked back and not just through the CBA.

Day in court

Vilma wants his day in another court, claiming defamation of character. Tougher to win that suit than to repeat as Super Bowl champions, but Vilma will be heard.

“In vacating their suspensions, I don’t in any way condone their behavior …” Tagliabue wrote.

Oh, stop insulting us. Tagliabue played both sides to keep from embarrassing Goodell, to mollify some angry players and put the issue behind them before February’s Super Bowl in New Orleans.

Nice try, Grandpa.