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Sports commentary: Po' athletes

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New Orleans is home to financial nincompoopery

By Mike Forster

  New Orleans is noted for many great things: music, Mardi Gras, beignets and po' boys among many others.

Now the Big Easy is also known for its pro football team's "Bountygate."

According to a lengthy article in Sports Illustrated, New Orleans Saints players were paid cash bonuses for sundry plays and hits.  The amounts ranged from $100 for tackling a kickoff return man inside his 20 yard line to $1,500 for knocking a player out of a game.

The average defensive player earns about $1.2 million for plying his trade in the NFL.

So, the maximum bounty  ($1,500) that a player could earn is 0.125% of his salary.

The $100 bonus works out to 0.0083%.  This is an incentive?

Let's say that you work at a job that pays 12 bucks an hour.  That means you gross about $24K a year. 

If you were on the Saints maximum incentive plan, your 0.125% bonus works out to a whopping three dollars.  That's not enough to buy a gallon of gas.

In other words, the Saints coaches were getting their players to risk life and limb for (comparative) peanuts.

Do they not have calculators in New Orleans?

The whole sordid affair reminds me of when I lived in a state other than Virginia.  Decorum precludes me from identifying which state.  I will only provide clues, such as: The state is noted for its college basketball fanaticism and it hosts a huge horse race in May.  This state cranks out rivers of bourbon.  And its name rhymes with Rentucky.

I had a friend who was empaneled on a grand jury in this mystery state.  It turns out that this body was charged with giving the thumbs-up/down on charges related to a bribery scandal that was rocking the state's legislative body.

Afterward, my friend told me that he wasn't so much blown away by the evidence of rampant corruption as he was by the paltry amounts that could buy a legislator's vote.

He further told me that, by his math, it took about $5,000 to buy yourself a law in this state.  He also told me that the laws involved swings of fortunes that were in the millions.

Sean Payton, the head coach of the Saints, and his associates, deserve the banishment that was meted out to them.  They deserve it for a gross violation of league policy.

But, should they also not be punished for taking advantage of the financial nincompoopery that seems rife on the New Orleans squad?

*****

Speaking of New Orleans, that city was the host of the most recent NCAA men's championship basketball Final Four.  Fittingly, those Wildcats of Rentucky (I mean, Kentucky) won the crown.

I don't know of anyone who ventured down to the game.  What I found surprising is that tickets to the final game seemed relatively reasonable.  Five days before the final, nosebleed tix could be had for about $75.

Of course, going to the game entailed making a trip to New Orleans.

I've been to the Big Easy twice.  If I were more of a fan of drinking and sweating, perhaps I'd have come away more favorably impressed.  I will concede that the food (particularly the oyster po' boys) was quite enjoyable.

Here's one of my more memorable Bourbon Street encounters.

Street hustler:  "Hey, Mister. I bet you five dollars I can tell where you got your shoes."

Me:  "Beat it, Pal."

Hustler:  "Seriously.  I can tell where you got your shoes.  Five bucks?"

Me:  "Seriously.  Get lost."

Hustler:  "OK, then.  You got them on your FEET.  Ha!  You owe me five bucks."

Me (reaching for my wallet):  "Whoa.  You got me on that one, my man!"

*****

Speaking of wise bets that I've placed in the past, I was able to cash in on this year's NCAA tourney bracket.

I'd like to think that it was my superior knowledge of all things sports that led to my win.  But that wasn't the case.

By the way, if you happen to be an IRS agent, or are from the vice squad (if such things still exist), and are reading this column, please note that I participated in the pool only for entertainment's sake.

In fact, I had such an entertaining time winning it that I'm going to treat the wife to dinner in the not-too-distant future.

Oyster po' boys, alas, are not to be on the menu.