The desire to win can blind people to right and wrong.
The season is over, but the National Football League is back in the news following reports that Commissioner Roger Goodell is about to crack down on coaches and players who put bounties on the stars of opposing teams.
What's a bounty? It's a cash bonus given by players and coaches to teammates who knock a star opposition player out of a game or even a season.
It's a nasty business, and one, according to NFL lore, that is standard but largely unmentioned practice across the league. It should be no surprise that Buddy Ryan, the former Chicago Bears defensive guru, was one of the best known practitioners of this black art.
Gregg Williams, the former defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, has acknowledged running a bounty program at the Saints and expressed regret over his conduct. The NFL is investigating reports that he did the same thing with the Washington Redskins and the Buffalo Bills. Expect a big suspension for Williams.
At the same time, however, this is no great surprise, except perhaps for how the program was administered by the Saints. Knowledge of it went all the way up to the general manager and team owner.
Commissioner Goodell is right to target this institutionalized excess. The desire to injure opponents has no place in any sport. But in a professional sport where winning is the only acceptable result, it's no surprise that anything goes.