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Walkthrough: The Taint

Walkthrough: The Taint
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Mike Tanier

For those of you keeping score at home...

It is now possible to claim that the Saints victory in Super Bowl XLIV was tainted. Not just possible, but fashionable: a few major football analysts have made off-the-cuff remarks to that effect in recent weeks.

It is also possible to use some combination of Spygate and the Tuck Rule to void any and all of the Patriots Super Bowl victories. The Tuck Rule is a non-starter among knowledgeable fans and writers; it was a poor rule that was poorly applied, but a rule is a rule, and the Patriots still had to tie the game and come back, blah, blah, blah. Spygate still lingers in the minds of many people who send me long e-mails, and the Giants' victory in Super Bowl XLVI provides ammunition to conspiracy theorists, who claim that the Patriots are 0-2 in the Super Bowl when they don’t have secret knowledge of the other team’s game plan, blah, blah, blah.

Super Bowl XL can also be nullified by those who think the officials nudged the Steelers to victory because they are a popular team with an international fan base, while the Seahawks are the Seahawks. Please, for the love of heaven please, do not rehash the particulars of this game in the discussion thread. I promise to not editorialize on my personal feelings about this or that call, or the specifics of Spygate or Bountygate for that matter, because the individual scandals are not quite the point here. I look forward to your thoughts on scandal-mindedness or the phenomenon of discounting championships, but if I see a frame-by-frame analysis of Darrell Jackson’s exact arm movements in the end zone seven years ago in the discussion thread, I will treat it like a penis enlargement advertisement.

That now potentially taints, nullifies, or otherwise disparages five of the last 11 Super Bowl winners. If you are conspiracy-minded, or scandal-minded, or you just like to be contrary and have a thing for dethroning champions, you now have the power to erase nearly half of recent NFL history and rewrite it the way you wish. And that is without digging too hard to find steroid scandals or blown late-season calls that affected the course of future events.

During editing, the guys reminded me that the Broncos were fined for circumventing the salary cap during their Super Bowl seasons. That makes seven of 15 championships! There have been debates on our message boards and elsewhere about whether CapGate was worse than SpyGate, where BountyGate belongs in the hierarchy, and so on. Usually, the rankings fall along strict fandom lines, with Seahawks fans abstaining and stomping their feet a lot. And of course, the whole -gate suffix phenomenon secretly makes me wish that Nixon tried to break into the Bandershit.

This is an alarming amount of nonsense fodder, and I fear it could cause an epidemic of the inane. It’s one thing to still have a handful of people treating Super Bowl III like it was the moon landing. It’s another thing to give an entire recent decade completely over to revisionists. All that’s at stake when we sprinkle winking little suspicions over championships is the credibility of the sport itself, plus the delicate joy of the fan experience.

Baseball fans appear to be okay with the fact that an entire generation of players, events, and championships has been briskly labeled "The Steroid Era," which basically turns many joyous memories of my early adulthood into a cesspool of homogenized filth. Baseball’s steroid scandal was a real, league-wide issue that was hijacked by bleating, ill-informed alarmists and sensationalists and flown directly to Crazyland. The NCAA does this sort of thing to our memories all the time, literally wiping teams and seasons out of the record book, but I think we all know that the first qualification for working for the NCAA is to read a lot of George Orwell, and the second qualification is to completely misunderstand it.

We are one big scandal away from allowing the same thing to happen in the NFL. What if we learn that Tom Coughlin has secret cameras, or the 2010 Packers had a bounty system, or the Manning brothers did something heretofore unimaginable but dangerous to opponents' health or competitive balance? Welcome to The Scandal Era. Or the Spygate-Bountygate-ManningVampireGate Era. The era when the team that won the Super Bowl didn’t deserve it, so that parade your father took you to might as well have been a tickertape parade for a serial killer.

Only cool heads can prevent such a thing.

So let us vow to be those cool heads. Repeat after me:

Bounties are bad. They are also probably much more common than most fans realize and nearly every NFL team has done something only slightly less sinister than the Saints did at some point. Whether or not bounties played a role in the Saints Super Bowl victory, championships are often won under unusual circumstances, and directly crediting "bounties" misleadingly oversimplifies a complex situation in the name of recklessly cheapening an accomplishment which brought excitement to millions of fans.

Videotaping opponents’ defensive signals was bad. It was also much more common than most fans realized at the time, and many NFL teams did something only slightly less sinister than the Patriots did in the Spygate scandal. Whether or not Spygate played a role in the Patriots Super Bowl victories, championships are often won under unusual circumstances, and directly crediting "Spygate" misleadingly oversimplifies a complex situation in the name of recklessly cheapening accomplishments which brought excitement to millions of fans.

Bad officiating is bad. It is also incredibly common, as most fans realize, and every NFL team benefits from dubious officiating at some point. Whether or not bad/biased officiating played a role in the Steelers’ Super Bowl victory, championships are often won under unusual circumstances, and directly crediting "officiating bias" misleadingly oversimplifies a complex situation in the name of recklessly cheapening an accomplishment which brought excitement to millions of fans.

Anything else? The Manning brothers are not vampires. Earl Morrall did not see Johnny Orr in the end zone. And since major league baseball did not ban steroids until much later, no one was cheating, because breaking the law is not cheating, nor is "violating the sacred sanctity of our green cathedrals blah blah pontifiblah."

Every champion gets lucky. Every team in history has leaned on a few rules, sometimes inadvertently. We all drive 70 miles per hour in 55-zones. None of us would dance to an IRS audit with a shoebox full of itemized receipts, whistling "I have nothing to hide," even if we are saintly accountants, because we know the tax code has dark corners where we can get lost, and that client dinner did not have to end at 3:45 a.m., inside a Tattletales.

Every champion earned its championship. We can conjure up acts of obvious cheating –- poisoning the opponent’s team breakfast, for example –- that could be cause to nullify a championship. But they haven’t happened, and probably won’t.

Let’s condemn bounties and praise the 2009 Saints. And let’s be angry about recent scandals for the most important reason: because we really, truly love football.

Meanwhile, in a bunker somewhere in Minnesota

FRAN TARKENTON: The meeting of the Forgotten Old Great Ex-Superstars of Yesteryear is now in session! Gentlemen, we have a lot to talk about today, including this whole Tebow phenomenon, with that kid riding on his white horse to New York. I think it’s an embarrassment.

CHORUS OF 1972 DOLPHINS: He doesn’t understand perfection!

TARKENTON: That’s correct, hive mind. But fear not: Agent Namath is on the case there. Our most important item of business is to deal with a turncoat among the ranks of ex-players. Sergeant at Arms, wheel him in!

GEORGE ATKINSON: I present to you ... Troy Aikman!


TARKENTON: Sergeant, remove the ball gag. Troy, do you understand what you stand accused of?

AIKMAN: Well, I’m not exactly sure what the big deal is. I just said that Tony Romo was a better quarterback than me.


TARKENTON: Silence! Heresy! Heresy! Unacceptable! Aikman, do you realize that Romo is a current player? What’s worse, he is a current player who has never won a Super Bowl...

AIKMAN: You never won a Super Bowl.

TARKENTON: Silence! Silence! Chorus of Dolphins, read the Retired Athletes Creed to this infidel!

CHORUS of 1972 DOLPHINS: All current players are inferior to former players. All current players are greedy and selfish. The game was much harder in the old days. Old players were tougher. We would all have played for free. The 1972 Dolphins will always be the best team that ever played. And no retired player with a Super Bowl ring can ever, ever be ranked below a current player with no ring.

TARKENTON: Let alone three rings. What do you have to say for yourself?

AIKMAN: Well, I honestly believe it. I think Romo is outstanding, and while I have a high opinion of my own skills, I know how lucky I was to play with such great teammates. The game has grown so fast and complicated since my day, let alone yours.


ATKINSON: Let me spear him, Fran.

TARKENTON: Easy, George.

ATKINSON: Please? I am sick of hearing about these modern players and their bounties. The old Raiders never had bounties. Oh sure, we had pools for big hits. And "big hits" at the time meant clotheslining a guy or driving a helmet into him when he was lying on the ground. And sure, we cultivated an atmosphere of disrespect for the well-being of our opponents that bordered on criminal. But we never said the word "bounty," and that makes us morally superior, as well as much tougher for some reason.

TARKENTON: ...We have drifted off topic, here.

CHORUS OF 1972 DOLPHINS: Use the Truth Scanner! Use the Truth Scanner!

TARKENTON: Great idea! The Sacred Truth Scanner of Bednarik will tell us whether you really believe this crazy Romo fantasy. If you do, you are insane, and we can blame concussions. If you are just trying to curry favor with younger fans, I will put you in my eight-month re-education clinic. Now, let me just hot glue this spaghetti colander to your temples ... there. Now, tell the truth as you see it.

AIKMAN: Tony Romo is a better quarterback than I was. Norv Turner is an offensive mastermind. Joe Buck is...

TARKENTON: Enough! I understand now. You have a completely warped view of reality.

AIKMAN: Yes. After all, who can accurately appraise his own accomplishments? I never watched myself play, after all. When I was watching my teammates and contemporaries, it was as a competitor, and I now have a whole different perspective. The only difference between me and you is that I am secure enough in myself to not retreat into a fantasy in which the world essentially stopped spinning in 1982 and I need to constantly reaffirm myself.

ATKINSON: No! Shut it off! Shut it off!

CHORUS OF 1972 DOLPHINS: Imperfection! Imperfection!

TARKENTON: No, he is right. Maybe we need to be a little more open-minded about modern football, and to take a longer look at ourselves. We got paid well. I had a television career, thanks to football. These players really do work harder and have more pressure than we did. Maybe we...

ATKINSON: Fran, I just received word that NFL Network is producing an entire Top 10 episode dedicated to Tim Tebow. The only other player to receive that honor was ... Brett Favre.

AIKMAN: Uh oh.

TARKENTON: Arrgh! Take this one to the lava pits! I must ... ruminate on this news.

Lions Running Back Top Fives

If you are wondering, I am doing one team at a time through the draft, as we have plenty of other things to talk about. That way, we can do two or more teams come late spring and summer.

1. Barry Sanders We now have DVOA and DYAR for most of Sanders’ career, and the numbers are about what we would expect. He finished second in DYAR three times, behind Emmitt Smith (1994), Jerome Bettis (1996), and Terrell Davis (1997). He finished seventh in 1995. He will finish second or third in 1991 when we finalize those numbers, because Emmitt and Thurman Thomas are the only players who can touch him, and he probably has another top-ten appearance or two among his early seasons.

Our numbers also show low Success Rates, which is exactly what we would expect; Sanders usually hovered between 44 and 46 percent. His value as a receiver comes out as replacement level, which will happen if you only average 5.7 or 6.1 yards per catch, as Sanders did in his best rushing seasons. Sanders had more receiving value early in his career, when the run ‘n’ shoot was new to the NFL. The scheme colors everything Sanders did before 1997, including those receiving numbers. Just as Sanders’ rushing output came against nickel and dime defenders, his receptions were all swings and screens, with no tight ends or fullbacks to block for him, against defenses spread out to stop the pass.

None of us here at headquarters, and none of you longtime readers, had any expectations that DVOA could solve an Emmitt versus Barry Sanders argument. I was pleased to see Sanders vindicate our methods, rather than vice versa: had Sanders finished 23rd in retroactive DVOA for 1994, I would probably have asked Aaron Schatz to give the mainframe a swift reboot. Those second-place finishes can be interpreted both ways: Sanders was always second fiddle, or it’s an accomplishment for any Lions player to consistently finish second in anything. I personally think Emmitt Smith was better than Barry Sanders, but there are so many factors to interpret that I think it is silly to argue with anyone who disagrees.

2. Billy Sims Four and one-half seasons of Beast Mode, then a knee injury. Every single Sims run –- every one of them –- looked exactly like this.

3. Dutch Clark Clark was an A-formation tailback, which means he took direct snaps and was the Lions’ leading passer a few times. He could be considered a quarterback, but he ran the ball 120-130 times per year and led the NFL in rushing touchdowns three times. As a rusher-passer-kicker-contributor, he ranks ahead of Sims. As a pure rusher, it’s hard to say. Clark was among the two or three best runners in the NFL in his best seasons, but so was Sims. I am sticking with the guy I saw leap on one defender’s back to kick the other in the face.

4. Doak Walker The gap between first and second place on this list is incredibly huge, as is the gap between third and fourth place. Walker was a college superstar, and he was a first-team All-Pro four times. Much of his All-Pro value came as a kicker, however: Walker was one of the two or three best field goal kickers of his generation, along with Lou Groza and a few other candidates. As a running back, it was not unusual for him to finish third on the Lions, sometimes behind quarterback Bobby Layne or the next guy on this list, albeit with more yards from scrimmage, some return value, and of course the value of being a reliable kicker in the era before specialists.

5. Bob Hoernschemeyer Bob Whoshenmeyer? A real square peg of NFL history, "Hunchy" Hoernschemeyer was an AAFC running quarterback who had the misfortune of not playing for the Browns, so some of his best seasons were completely forgotten. When the AAFC merge-folded, Hunchy joined the Lions as a running back, sharing the backfield with Walker and Laybe. Hunchy reached two Pro Bowls, as a running back and not a kicker/running back, and he had 96- and 85-yard runs, so he had a little Sanders in him. He was the leading rusher on two NFL champions.

There is not a lot of scholarship on "Hunchy’s" NFL career. The guy is kind of a blank slate. The following honorable mentions may explain why I ranked him fifth.

Lions history is filled with "Other Backs" who had long careers with the club. Dexter Bussey was the team’s leading all-time rusher for a while and still ranks third somehow. Bussey was a good little all-purpose player who led the Lions in rushing a few times in the 1970s, then hung around as Sims’ backup and sometime fullback. Nick Petrosante had a pair of great seasons in the early 1960s, then settled into a long career as an ordinary fullback. He could rank ahead of Hunchy, but their best years were only a decade apart, and Petrosante’s numbers are not significantly better, so I see no reason to pick him over a guy who out-rushed the Hall of Famer with whom he shared a championship-winning backfield.

Altie Taylor shared the backfield with Bussey late in his career and Steve Owens early in his career. He was a fine player who lingered through a bunch of .500 seasons. "Superstar" Mel Farr shared the backfield with Taylor and Owens late in his career. He was a big-play guy, better known for his auto commercials. Do you get the idea? The Lions have tons of guys with overlapping careers who rushed for 850 yards once and then 550 yards six or seven times, with some receiving value. Most teams have a few of these guys, and they would fill spots nine to 14 on any responsible list. The Lions have a dozen of them vying for the top five.

The last of these Lions Other Backs was James Jones, who was also one of the last pure fullbacks ever drafted in the first round. Jones replaced Bussey as Sims’ backfield mate, then became the featured back in 1984, because when you prematurely lose one of the most exciting backs of his era, it’s best to compensate by giving 300 touches to his blocker. Jones kept the lights on in Detroit in the years between Sims and Sanders by rushing for precisely 3.6 yards per attempt every year (look it up) while catching far too many passes. The Lions wrung every drop of production they could from Jones, then realized that they never wanted to see a fullback carry the ball again, so they switched to the run ‘n’ shoot.

So there you go: at least Hunchy was interesting.


185 comments, Last at 08 Apr 2012, 1:29am

1 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

On the Billy Sims run:

"Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself."

2 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Every champion earned its championship.

Well... maybe not the '85 Bears. I don't think beating that Patriots team qualifies as earning anything... :-)

66 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

That Bears team is known as one of the best in NFL history. What were you expecting from the Patriots? The Bears shut out the Rams and the Giants in the playoffs. The Patriots were the five seed, and beat the one, two and four seeds. At least the Patriots scored ten points against the Bears defense.

73 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Kind of. They scored a FG in the first quarter after a 0-yard drive after a Bears fumble. This would be Eason's longest drive (all others lost yardage) and the Pats' longest drive in the first quarter.

However, the Bears' 2nd-string defense outscored NE 2-0.

4 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Pure awesomeness, although I'll agree to disagree about Emmitt/Barry. And this transcends sports: "the whole -gate suffix phenomenon secretly makes me wish that Nixon tried to break into the Bandershit."

5 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

An Eagles fan defending Troy Aikman? The end is surely near

29 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Every time I see something happen in NFL news that makes me think the end is upon us, I just look to the Jets, and how they keep kicking their fans in the groin for some reason that nobody knows about yet. That assures me the world is still spinning.

6 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

The Saints never cheated in their Superbowl run. They played within the confines of the game. You can hit the opposing QB and players extra hard and dirty, just you can get penalized for it. They made the strategic choice to be really rough on Farve, hoping to disrupt or knock him out, calculating the benefits would outweight the unnecessary roughness penalties that they would get.

Against Manning in the Superbowl they decided it wouldn't be worth it and did the opposite.

The means of how the Saints motivated their players to engage in a strategy doesn't discredit the results. If someone felt the strategy went too far they should have said so at the time.

17 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

The bounty pool violated the salary cap. Obviously, most of the saint's most important players only signed with them because they knew they could make extra money there using this unreported slush fund. We should rewatch their victory eliminating 3 of their defenders on every play to compensate for all the players who wouldn't possibly have signed with them without this illegal benefit. My super-accurate simulation of such conditions changes the final score from 31-17 to 45-812.


112 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Well if Vilma or other guy injurs Favre then Williams have beyyer shot his defensse do good.

But yes was wrong about side bet thing. Meant it was thing on side. Like if you work near a guy who goes to bathrpom 12-15 times every day you could do side bet with other coworker. Two of you could bet money on hpw many times the other pwrsin goes to potty room everyday. Not good anaology. Point is Williams, Vitt amd the players did side thong where if opposong plauer hets takrn off field on syretcher somebody on saimts grtting some extra money after game.

The Saings did not cheat by tackling guys hard. They playerd within tules because if tackle after whistle or in unsporstamnlike way playrr would get big fine. Big fine money > boumty money. So whrn lool at equatiom like that does not takr Mensa member tobfigure out what is better deal. So definitely betyer way fo go is ptackling hardrr wothon rilds.

142 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

"Big fine money > bounty money."

RJ, that eloquently sums up why the media blowup about the $$ part of all this is WAAAAYYYY overblown.
[The FACTS have not been, nor has the outrage over the presence of the "bounty program"; just the $$ part.]

38 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

As long as money was put in by players, it's merely a redistribution of monies already accounted for under the salary cap, unless you believe a player chipped in more money than he made for that season.

If the coaches were contributing money, then they are subverting the salary cap. However, I doubt the coaches put in more money than the Saints had remaining cap space.

Either way, it's a weak argument.

27 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Generally penalties are assessed for breaking the rules or laws. Cheating is genrally defined as not playing by the rules. So being penalized does imply "cheating"

39 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

So in your world, uniform violations (which are met with fines) and TD celebrations (which are met with penalties) are cheating.


No, my friend. Cheating involves rule breaking as a means to gain competitive advantage.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

37 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Well, according to Peter King, league investigators talked to the Saints about their bounty program in between the NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl. So, that might have had something to do with them not going after Manning as well.

7 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I'm not so sure Aikman isn't better than he's giving himself credit for. That's exactly right.

9 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I remember hearing Aikman talk about Romo a couple years ago, when the Cowboys offensive line was really old and unathletic, and saying that he was thankful that he never had to deal with the protection issues that Romo faced every week.

10 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

One of the better Walkthroughs I've had the pleasure to read. Keep up the great material

11 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

"I am sticking with the guy I saw leap on one defender’s back to kick the other in the face."

I think I have a new favorite Tanier line.

12 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

billy sims sensational. Two moist fun guts to watch at RB bkth wore 20 fkr Detiot loins. H. McElhenny fun to watch too but before time. He also briefly play for Loins but at end of carer. Makr name wuth 49ers

85 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

RJ, I got to see Sims play in Boulder, Colorado in 1978. The backfield of Sims, Overstreet, future Raider King, and Watts (second only to the great Jamelle Holieway as the greatest wishbone QB of all time) was amazing. The O-line ran like a Swiss watch. My seats were at mid-field, so on one play I was looking right down the Sooner line. Watts took the snap and pitched to Sims right. He loped along the line and took off down the sideline (he glided with deceptive speed, much like Tony Dorsett). Mike Davis, whom you probably remember as the safety who went to to play with your Raiders in two Superbowls (and was, I think, an all pro in some of those years) came up to knock him out of bounds. Sims, without breaking stride, tucked his shoulder into Davis' chest and knocked him on his butt out of bounds. He took off down the sideline for a 50+ yd TD. I have never before or since heard an entire stadium gasp and become silent - even the OU fans. I rank him up with Terrell Davis as one of those "epic talent, short career" all timers.

13 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Is the NFL really having a Top 10 dedicated to Tim Tebow?

I'm only asking because I think I remember Schatz referencing this before. If so, it is really more funny given the events of the past ten days.

14 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

"The Manning brothers are not vampires."

He went to Knoxville yesterday, and stayed there all night. Today he came back, and almost bounded into the room at about half-past five o'clock, and thrust last night's "Denver Post" into my hand.

"What do you think of that?" he asked as he stood back and folded his arms.

I looked over the paper, for I really did not know what he meant, but he took it from me and pointed out a paragraph about children being decoyed away at Washington Park. It did not convey much to me, until I reached a passage where it described fused vertebrae in their necks. An idea struck me, and I looked up.

"Well?" he said.

"It is like poor Peyton's."

"And what do you make of it?"

"Simply that there is some cause in common. Whatever it was that injured him has injured them." I did not quite understand his answer.

"That is true indirectly, but not directly."

"How do you mean, Coach?" I asked. I was a little inclined to take his seriousness lightly, for, after all, four days of rest and freedom from burning, harrowing, anxiety does help to restore one's spirits, but when I saw his face, it sobered me. Never, even in the midst of our despair about poor Peyton, had he looked more stern.

"Tell me!" I said. "I can hazard no opinion. I do not know what to think, and I have no data on which to found a conjecture."

"Do you mean to tell me, friend Mike, that you have no suspicion as to what poor Peyton's time as a Colt died of, not after all the hints given, not only by events, but by me?"

"Of nervous tissue damage following a great loss or waste of blood."

"And how was the blood lost or wasted?" I shook my head.

He stepped over and sat down beside me, and went on, "You are a clever man, friend Mike. You reason well, and your wit is bold, but you are too prejudiced. You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are,that some people see things that others cannot? But there are things old and new which must not be contemplated by men's eyes, because they know, or think they know, some things which other men have told them. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all, and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain. But yet we see around us every day the growth of new beliefs, which think themselves new, and which are yet but the old, which pretend to be young, like the fine ladies at the opera. I suppose now you do not believe in clutch quarterbacking. No? Nor in running to win. No? Nor in momentum. No? Nor in the attribution of wins to quarterbacks. No? Nor in hypnotism . . ."

"Yes," I said. "Norv has proved that pretty well."

He smiled as he went on, "Then you are satisfied as to it. Yes? And of course then you understand how it act, and can follow the mind of the great Norv, into the very soul of the owner that he influence. No? Then, friend Mike, am I to take it that you simply accept fact, and are satisfied to let from premise to conclusion be a blank? No? Then tell me, for I am a student of the brain, how you accept hypnotism and reject the thought reading. Let me tell you, my friend, that there are things done today in electrical science which would have been deemed unholy by the very man who discovered electricity, who would themselves not so long before been burned as wizards. There are always mysteries in life. Why was it that Blanda played nine hundred years, and `Old Favre' one hundred and sixty-nine, and yet that poor Peyton, with two surgical interventions using modern techniques to relieve pressure on the pinched nerve, could not play even one game? For, had he played one more day, we could save him. Do you know all the mystery of life and death? Do you know the altogether of comparative anatomy and can say wherefore the qualities of brutes are in some men, and not in others? Can you tell me why, when other spiders die small and soon, that one great spider lived for centuries in the tower of the old Oakland church and grew and grew, till, on descending, he could drink the oil of all the church lamps and draft players based solely on their combine performance? Can you tell me why in the Pampas, ay and elsewhere, there are bats that come out at night and open the veins of cattle and horses and suck dry their veins, how in some islands of the Western seas there are bats which hang on the trees all day, and those who have seen describe as like giant nuts or pods, and that when the sailors sleep on the deck, because that it is hot, flit down on them and then, and then in the morning are found dead men, white as even Mister Peyton was?"

"Good God, Coach!" I said, starting up. "Do you mean to tell me that Peyton was bitten by such a bat, and that such a thing is here in Denver in the twenty-first century?"

He waved his hand for silence, and went on, "Can you tell me why the Groza plays more long than generations of men, why the Rice goes on and on till he have sees dynasties, and why the Matthews never die only of bite of cat of dog or other complaint? Can you tell me why men believe in all ages and places that there are men and women who cannot die? We all know, because science has vouched for the fact, that there have been toads shut up in rocks for thousands of years, shut in one so small hole that only hold him since the youth of the world. Can you tell me how the Testaverde can make himself to die and have been buried, and his grave sealed and corn sowed on it, and the corn reaped and be cut and sown and reaped and cut again, and then men come and take away the unbroken seal and that there lie the Testaverde, not dead, but that rise up and walk amongst them as before?"

Here I interrupted him. I was getting bewildered. He so crowded on my mind his list of nature's eccentricities and possible impossibilities that my imagination was getting fired. I had a dim idea that he was teaching me some lesson, as long ago he used to do in his study at Canton. But he used them to tell me the thing, so that I could have the object of thought in mind all the time. But now I was without his help, yet I wanted to follow him, so I said,

"Coach, let me be your pet student again. Tell me the thesis, so that I may apply your knowledge as you go on. At present I am going in my mind from point to point as a madman, and not a sane one, follows an idea. I feel like a novice lumbering through a bog in a midst, jumping from one tussock to another in the mere blind effort to move on without knowing where I am going."

"That is a good image," he said. "Well, I shall tell you. My thesis is this, I want you to believe."

"To believe what?"

"To believe in things that you cannot. Let me illustrate. I heard once of an American who so defined faith, 'that faculty which enables us to believe things which we know to be untrue.' For one, I follow that man. He meant that we shall have an open mind, and not let a little bit of truth check the rush of the big truth, like a small rock does a railway truck. We get the small truth first. Good! We keep him, and we value him, but all the same we must not let him think himself all the truth in the universe."

"Then you want me not to let some previous conviction inure the receptivity of my mind with regard to some strange matter. Do I read your lesson aright?"

"Ah, you are my favorite pupil still. It is worth to teach you. Now that you are willing to understand, you have taken the first step to understand. You think then that those fusions in the children's vertebrae were made by the same that made the fusions in Mister Peyton?"

"I suppose so."

He stood up and said solemnly, "Then you are wrong. Oh, would it were so! But alas! No. It is worse, far, far worse."

"In God's name, Coach, what do you mean?" I cried.

He threw himself with a despairing gesture into a chair, and placed his elbows on the table, covering his face with his hands as he spoke.

"They were made by Mister Peyton!"

16 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Good, but it is missing 1) a pasty emo boy, 2) a beefy underage teen who turns into a small German Shepherd and who middle aged women are allowed to ogle in an unseemly manner without being accused of being really creepy, and 3) A mumbly girl with a ridiculous overbite.

30 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I like your style, but sadly I'm subject to a court order prohibiting me from producing material aimed at encouraging teenage girls into abusive relationships.

52 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

All current vampires are inferior to former vampires. All current vampires are mopey and unintimidating. Blood sucking was much harder in the old days. Old vampires were scarier. We would all have bitten ugly people. Dracula will always be the best vampire that ever had fangs. And no retired vampire with a stake through his heart can ever, ever be ranked below a current vampire with no stake.

150 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Um, it's cute, but it's sort of the obvious substitutions applied to a passage from Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Click my alias for a link.

164 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

And it faked out the obviously well read Tanier, along with others. I thought it was brilliant, but now I feel duped.

It's plagiarism. Don't do this w/o reference to original author.

168 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Sorry dude - it was never my intention that people wouldn't realize it was Dracula. I mean, it's freakin' Dracula, for goodness' sakes, not some obscure hidden gem. I'm pretty sure Tanier got it (as several commenters below clearly did) but maybe I'm wrong about that. It was meant as an obvious jokey reference, not a rip-off.

But yes. Dracula. End of Chapter 14.

172 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Yes, that is in no way plagerism. It is clearly a parody, and a very good one.

I was pretty sure it was Dracula, Victorian dialogue style and all, though I never read it, because a few pages into most novels of that era and I am ready to start throwing elbows. But all vampire jokes are Twilight jokes until further notice with me.

173 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

There it is.

Traffic, regardless if it's brought by fraud or pseudonyms, is important. I realize that. But standards are too.

Good luck with it.

178 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I might be misreading you, but I take it you still think there was something wrong with the post (hence the "fraud" word)?

Parody of this form is completely legal, so there is no fraud, copyright violation, misappropriation or anything else going on. It's part of the fair use doctrine and is completely legal. (The usual caveat of IANAL applies here.)

179 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

From a legal point of view, Stoker's out of copyright due to having been dead for nearly 100 years, so that makes everything else pretty much moot, I think. I believe the poster's objection is moral, rather than legal, however, though I confess I don't really understand it.

33 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I concede the brilliance of this post, but I am unfamiliar with the reference/source materials. Can someone clue me in? My pop culture knowledge is more or less locked in 1998.

80 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

It has been a while since I read it, so I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure it's Van Helsing talking to an incredulous Jonathan Harker about Count Dracula from Bram Stoker's "Dracula." A really good book, if you're into english lit, btw. It's easy to see why the vampire genre is so huge, because the original is a scary bad-ass.

88 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I dunno. Likewise, it's been at least a decade since I read it, but I thought that while the story was certainly firstrate, the writing itself, well, not so much.

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I always rank it among the worst-written books I've ever read. I should point out, however, that, having grown up living with a college English professor and spent a lot of time her her father who held the same position, I have not read many truly poorly-written books.

105 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Trust me, while Dracula may not be well-written by the standards of books which are studied as literature, it's a masterpiece of prose style compared to most horror. Lovecraft, for example, is orders of magnitude worse. And Dracula at least has one tolerably well-observed character (Seward) which is one more than most of the competition.

Plus, yes, let's face it, it's popular fiction with a freakin' great story (though the hunting for boxes of dirt could stand some trimming).

110 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I think it's either an intentional stylistic choice or just that writing plot and writing prose are different skills. In Lovecraft's case, I actually really enjoy his prose. I wouldn't necessarily want to read a whole novel in that style, but it works well, for me, in shorts stories and novellas. Consider the opposite. Nabokov's Lolita doesn't have much of a plot, really. It has pretty good characterization and themes, but it has maybe best use of language I've ever read.

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"writing plot and writing prose are different skills"

This, big time. To the point of being almost completely unrelated.

I think there may also be two different phenomena to be considered within the realm of prose, as well: one might contrast . . . call it "functional prose", whose purpose is to communicate the story as elegantly and effectively as possible, and which is what nearly all bad or middling published writers and many superb writers (Orwell, Capote) are trying to do, with what we might term "prose-as-message", as practiced by, say, Proust, where the central content of what is communicated cannot readily be separated from the words through which that communication takes place. Bad writers (undergraduates, mostly) certainly do attempt this, and the results are by and large far more painful than bad functional writing (which can actually be enjoyable given adequate plotting). Happily, bad writing of this sort is comparatively rarely published.

I have no doubt that someone who actually studied English would have better, generally recognized terms to hand with which to discuss this sort of thing. There may also be some sort of Law of the Internet which mandates awful prose in posts discussing prose quality. That is, at any rate, my story and one to which I mean to stick.

Edit: Plot and characterization are also pretty dramatically different skills, come to that. Alastair Reynolds is my go-to example of someone who writes plots very well and people very badly. People who do the opposite tend to be playwrights rather than novelists - Alan Bennett, say.

116 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I get what you guys are saying, but I just feel that a person who is creative as Lovecraft was would manage to make his stories about space monsters easier to read than a technical manual. I don't think I've ever seen a wider gap (though I'm sure someone will now post examples).

I guess it should just make me appreciate the authors who can do it all that much more.

117 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Lovecraft in specific was intentionally using a style that was old-fashioned and dry even for his time, on top of which he had a predilection for recherche text filled with archaic terminology, some of which he just made up. Whether he used that style to good effect is open for debate, but I think the choice itself puts a lot of people off. Similar complaints are often made about Tolkien. I happen to enjoy both writers for plot as well as for writing, but tastes will differ.

An example of good plot, bad writing to me would be Ian Fleming's Casino Royale. Interesting story, as evidenced by the movies, but it's also nearly unreadable. On flip side are Lolita, which I mentioned above (although it's plot is passable), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which is wonderfully funny despite not much of anything really happening (most of the book is various asides), and Heller's Catch-22, which I'm not sure has a plot at all. On second thought, maybe I'm being a bit unfair to picaresque (HHGTTG and Catch-22) since they really aren't supposed to hang together all that cohesively.

Also, football.

123 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Tangents like this are part of the reason that this is my favourite football site. I learn more here than in University.


“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

124 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I've never tried to read any Fleming.

I almost brought up Tolkien myself as an author who was able to weave beautiful prose in with a strong plot and characterization as opposed to Lovecraft's dry style. Thought he does often meander and describe things in great detail that most people won't care about. So I guess you're right about tastes differing.

As for the Guide, I thought a large amount of the point of the book was the lack of things happening (and really one could argue the same for Catch-22 now that I think about it).

I think a stronger example of good writing with little plot would be number of Vonnegut's novels.

Now I'm off to finish reading William Gibson's Count Zero, which I'm actually enjoying more than Neuromancer, so I think I must have odd tastes. After devouring Martin's Song of Fire and Ice books, and this I think I'm just a sucker for the multiple first person perspective structure.

And that is how you get from Peyton Manning to cyberpunk in 12 steps.

127 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I almost did mention The Sirens of Titan. I've been meaning to pick up Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive, so it's nice to hear good things. And A Song of Ice and Fire is some of the best fiction I've read combining plot, characterization, and good prose (though even there I've heard complaints that he spends too much time in detailed description - especially of food, oddly). Another book that came to mind is Brave New World. I thought that the plot, characters, and writing were all fairly poor, but the book ends up great because of the ideas and the setting, which really feels more like the protagonist than any of the actual characters do.

128 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I really like the Game of Thrones series but to me it reads a little too much like the work of a screenwriter with the constant use of cliffhangers, which is a little annoying when he then waits for a couple of books before revealing what happened. He doesn't seem to be able to describe anyone eating without juices running down their chin and frankly I've heard enough about lamprey pie.

What I took away from Brave New World is that Huxley is a bit of a pervert and a horrendous snob.

130 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

A Song of Ice and Fire is crack disguised as ink and paper. My brother showed me the first two episodes of the TV series one hung-over Sunday back at my mother's house, and lent me the first book to read on the way home. When I got back through my door, I set the series to download, carried on reading till it had, finished both within the next few days at the expense of getting very little sleep and being useless at work, desperately tried to find a bookshop that I could readily get to between or near work and home that would sell me a copy of Clash of Kings, failed, ordered all the remaining books on Amazon immediately, taking out their free next-day delivery trial offer to do so, realized I still couldn't wait that long, pirated the e-books so I didn't have to, and ignored all my friends and everything else for several weeks until I'd finished.

This was all fairly recent, and I've been trying to manage the withdrawal through a combination of Tales of Dunk and Egg, speculating on future developments with the aid of the Westeros.org prophecy pages and TVTropes' Wild Mass Guessing page, and Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles. It's only sort of working, and any thoughts of cold turkey are rather nixed by the fact that the first episode of season two airs on Monday.

As to the food porn, I can actually live with that - and given that Martin's avatars in the books are definitely Wyman Manderly and Sam Tarly it's understandable. What drive me up the wall is the heraldry porn. Every time we're told there's a tournament, my thought isn't, "Cool, lots of really harsh people fighting," it's, "Oh God, now we're going to get page after page of crests and devices and tunics and barding, enlivened only by the need to play Which of These Random Knights and Lords Do I Actually Need to Remember the Names Of." Honestly, it's like Medieval Fantasy Vogue or the judging notes for a cosplay convention. And worst as all, it might be from the perspective of Sansa, because the tedious, insipid little prat actually likes all that rubbish.

The cliffhangers shouldn't work. They have no right to work. And they may possibly have jumped the shark a little with Arya getting hit in the head outside the Twins. But the thing is, even with that, they still really kind of do work. And based on the mean writing time of the last two books, we may be stuck with the one that's just taken place on the Wall until about 2017.

I'd better make sure I don't have anything important to do around then.

131 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I went through the exact same thing with SoFaI, I lost about three weeks to it with my kindle as an enabler (More book? Just press this button!). Martin claims that he'll have finished book seven by the time the TV show needs it, which gives him about five years. I don't believe him. He still hasn't finished book six, hasn't met a publishing deadline for any of the previous volumes and the books keep getting longer and longer.

I also found Sansa to be very annoying until I realised that she's just a complete idiot.

140 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

"Martin claims that he'll have finished book seven by the time the TV show needs it, which gives him about five years. I don't believe him. He still hasn't finished book six, hasn't met a publishing deadline for any of the previous volumes and the books keep getting longer and longer."

Indeed. And that's without making allowances for the fact that this was supposed to be a three book series, and is now aimed at seven. I'll be impressed if he can manage only one accidental additional book from here on in. And he's got the TV show and probably nine more Dunk and Egg novellae (also getting progressively longer) to distract him. There's also the possibility that he could die, or - at least as worryingly - start losing his writing faculties with age, either gradually or rapidly through early-onset Alzheimer's or some such. Reading Pratchett's last several books has just been depressing.

"I also found Sansa to be very annoying until I realised that she's just a complete idiot."

I realised that quite quickly. I still find her very annoying. The TV show's producers have done a remarkably good job of capturing that quality by casting an actor whose face and voice both give me a powerful urge to do physical violence. Worst of all, her plot armour seems damn near impregnable at this point. The only solace is that at least her chapters now feature quite a lot of Baelish, and the dude is pretty amusing. But yeah, Feast for Crows was a shonky batch, all cut with baking soda or something. Way too much Sansa and Brienne, and bugger all Tyrion.

Another problem the TV show's going to run into: even if Martin finishes on time (yeah, right), it's going to be filmed over 7+ years while covering two or so. Maisie Williams is going to be like 21 playing 13, Isaac Hempstead-Wright maybe 18 playing 11, and Emilia Clarke 31 playing 16.

143 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I agree on the complaint about Arya getting "axed" outside the Twins, that was a huge "really?" moment that took the series down a bad path. And there's only more of the same with Brienne and Catelyn. I'm still really interested in what happens to a lot of the characters, though. I actually thought Sansa got more interesting as she started getting caught up in Baelish's mind-games. I think the biggest problem (as many have pointed out) was that the universe got too large, so GRRM felt the need to put all his boring characters in Feast for Crows, although he might not have thought of it that way. The story is really about five or so characters - Jon, Danaerys, Tyrion, Arya, and Bran (I may be forgetting someone). They are the only 5 characters that I would be shocked if they didn't make it through alive, at least until near the end of the last book - and the last Jon appearance of book 5 was obviously another "just kidding" moment, although it is more defensible given what was already revealed about whargs. GRRM would have done well to narrow the focus down to that core, rather than waste time with adventures in Dorne, the Iron Islands, etc. (although I enjoyed the whole Theon-driven-mad-by-torture sublot). The last two books might be a little (marginally) easier for him to write, though, since many of the major plot lines are pointing towards certain directions that indicate likely conclusions. And never underestimate the ability of a writer as prolific as Martin to pump out massive quantities of words in a relatively short time-frame, although that doesn't bode well for their quality.

I think the chances that the TV show actually finishes the entire series in a form resembling the books are incredibly small. A Game of Thrones lent itself well to TV, because it had a sympathetic main character in Ned and a relatively tight focus on Kings Landing. As characters and locations multiply, TV audiences will lose patience quickly if they attempt to make it faithful to the books. I just don't see how it can work, unless there are drastic modifications to how many characters are given screen time, or even exist.

144 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Yeah I could see them cutting out the entire Brienne story, and shortening what happens in Dorne a lot. Well depending what Martin does with these arcs in the next two books.

Also, I doubt season 4 and 5 will follow books 4 and 5 in order. The events of the books are mostly simultaneous, so they could jump around more with the TV show. Or do something crazy like a double long season since the events are so separate they could film them simultaneously.

All this said, HBO has done a series with a huge cast of characters they followed in the Wire.

148 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I think that perhaps you should have put a big 'SPOILERS' at the top of that post. I found the Theon plot horrific, but it does really make me want to see some characters get their comeuppance.

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Yeah, I think he may at some point have realized that he'd gone too long without genuinely killing a perspective character, to the point where people weren't taking the threat seriously any more (sure, Jaime and Cersei will both die at some point, and Selmy pretty soon, Victarion etc. but . . .). He then tried to find a cost-free way out by creating a Diggory in the form of Quentyn Martell, which just exacerbated the problem.

I think it's really a consequence of the upshift in series length from three books to seven: in the structure as originally planned, there would never have been the same kind of big gap between meaningful deaths.

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I also found Sansa to be very annoying until I realised that she's just a complete idiot.

To be fair, it's hard to not be an idiot when you have two complete morons as parents. It's a miracle that any of their kids had any brains. At least she had youth as an excuse, and appears to be getting better.

(Also nitpick, SoIaF)

175 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Between the Starks and Danaerys (Stupid Good), Stannis (Lawful Stupid) and the Ironmen (Chaotic Stupid), I think it's fair to say Stupid is a key alignment in Westeros.

Am I the only one who reads the entirety of Dany's Slavers' Bay antics as a realist critique of liberal interventionism?

176 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

"Am I the only one who reads the entirety of Dany's Slavers' Bay antics as a realist critique of liberal interventionism?" - No, you're not, I'd thought he same thing. It also shows the folly of taking on entrenched interests without a sufficiently broad mandate or power base.

You forgot Cercei (Stupid Evil), Lysa Arryn (Stupidly Insane), Edmure Tully (Naively Stupid) and Robb Stark (Stupidly Naive).

161 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Very enjoyable, yes. I think there may be a few bits which have been spoilered by mainline ASOIF stories published after the D&Es in question (particularly in Jaime's reading of the histories of past Kingsguard commanders and some stuff Aemon says), but not so's it's a big problem.

151 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

To tide you over between Martin installments, you might check out some of the other authors from the Zelazny tree*. Zelazny himself of course, Glen Cook, Steven Brust, etc. A lot of Martin's early work is quite good as well. In keeping with the vampiric theme to the post, you might try Fevre Dream. Plus, The Great Book of Amber and the Black Company cycles are already finished!

*"Tree" might be too strong of a word, but each of them have acknowledged being heavily influenced by Zelazny.

162 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I may just do that. Funnily enough, the two writers whose similarities with Martin have most struck me (in very different ways) are neither of them working in fantasy: Bernard Cornwell and Peter F. Hamilton.

165 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

1. Loving this digression. To those guys above, and I'm sure they've realised by now, spotting the references is more than half the fun. Using something for a joke is not plagiarism, etc.

2. Peter F Hamilton: I get it. I think he is the worst writer whose stories have been enough to make them like crack. (I literally do not know what crack is like.)

3. I won't touch Martin because I'm too scared of my own frustration at it not being finished.

4. The series I lost a month to was Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond/Niccolo sequence. The first requires some effort, but I was told this by someone trustworthy. From a third of the way through book 2 to end of book 14 I did not go out. All I can say is do not be put off by preconceptions about genre - after all, we've all had to talk to genre snobs about fantasy, etc.

169 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

"1. Loving this digression. To those guys above, and I'm sure they've realised by now, spotting the references is more than half the fun. Using something for a joke is not plagiarism, etc."

Glad you see it that way. That was certainly my intention. It just never occurred to me anyone would think I'd written it.

"2. Peter F Hamilton: I get it. I think he is the worst writer whose stories have been enough to make them like crack. (I literally do not know what crack is like.)"

Tell me about it. He's an absolutely freakin' terrible stylist, but you just can't put the damn things down. Although you do sometimes want to rip out all the "Ozzie wanders the Silfen paths" bits and flush them down the toilet.

"3. I won't touch Martin because I'm too scared of my own frustration at it not being finished."

Fair. I'm going to live in fear until it is. Hell, I'll be pretty unhappy if he even fails to finish Dunk and Egg.

"4. The series I lost a month to was Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond/Niccolo sequence. The first requires some effort, but I was told this by someone trustworthy. From a third of the way through book 2 to end of book 14 I did not go out. All I can say is do not be put off by preconceptions about genre - after all, we've all had to talk to genre snobs about fantasy, etc."

Thanks for the tip. I will make a point of not reading them until I have a lot more free time imminent . . .

134 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Lovecraft was intentionally arch and overtly victorian, but he was also trying to describe creatures he openly acknowledged with beyond the scope of human comprehension -- some of which were not even tangible. He managed to convey a sense of corruption and fetid decay amazingly well, and more or less created the genre of cosmic horror, in which the "villain" often has no more idea the protagonist even exists than a man has regard for an ant whose hill upon which he trods.

He prose is fine in small doses, but you eventually grow weary of things being described as "eldtrich" or "unspeakable", especially when the narrator is openly speaking about them.

136 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Mega-props to Lovecraft for . . . I'm going to say developing, codifying and popularizing cosmic horror, because I'm not convinced it was completely original to him, any more than vampires were to Stoker. Hell, on Thursday I'm planning to head off to my writing partner's parents' house in the remote North to draft a play heavily influenced by old Howard. But I'm never going to be able to get on with his prose, or shake the feeling that he inspired better work than he wrote - often in other genres, media or both - Revelation Space, Matter, Mass Effect, Eternal Darkness, Neonomicon . . .

155 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Lovecraft satirizes himself in his short story "The Unnamable" which is simultaneously about an "unnamable" monster and about a short story author trying to write a story about the monster and unable to properly describe it.


96 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

It was Van Helsing talking to Dr. John Seward. With Peyton as Dracula and Norv as Franz Mesmer. Al Davis of course was referenced in the original.

15 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I think the outrage over 'Spygate' was less about the specific illegal acts of the Patriots coaches (because who in their right mind is surprised that Belichick would cheat?) than it about the NFL destroying the evidence and using vague terminology to describe what happened, and its extent while punishing the Patriots with a slap on the wrist that in no way affected their performance in subsequent seasons and didn't call into specific question their results from previous seasons.

I know you didn't want to delve into this, but I really feel that a lot of what people are angered about the Patriots scandal was the way it was handled rather than the specific role it may have played in the teams' success.

20 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Citations? My recollection is that the Pats recorded something every team has a right to record, but did so from the stands, rather than the field. In return, the NFL took their first round pick the next season, which was crushing at the time (they desperately needed to reload on defense). It didn't question their results because, again, the recorded information is something teams are allowed to record -- it was just recorded from a different angle.

Links to information filling in my apparently missing gaps appreciated.

56 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

From Mike Reiss in December 2007:

In a memo to NFL head coaches and general managers on Sept. 6, 2006, NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson wrote: "Videotaping of any type, including but not limited to taping of an opponent's offensive or defensive signals, is prohibited on the sidelines, in the coaches' booth, in the locker room, or at any other locations accessible to club staff members during the game."

Also, this less specific bylaw mentioned in the same article:

In the NFL's operations manual, it states that "no video recording devices of any kind are permitted to be in use in the coaches' booth, on the field, or in the locker room during the game." Furthermore, all video shooting locations for coaching purposes "must be enclosed on all sides with a roof overhead."

Here's about a 20 second clip of what the Patriots recorded during the 2007 Jets game.

25 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Agree with your general point...that a lot of the outrage came from the League's handling of the matter and less so the actual sin of recording signals from the sidelines instead of the endzone, and using a camera instead of a notepad.

However, if you really wanted to follow Tanier's request not to delve into this, you should probably avoid biased, somewhat inflamatory portrayals of facts (referring to it as "cheating" and referring to loss of a first round draft pick as "a slap on the wrist that in no way affected their performance in subsequent seasons").

(As a Pats fan who thinks the whole situation was overblown, I wish the league *hadn't* destroyed the evidence and instead had just told/shown everyone (or allowed the Patriots to tell/show everyone) exactly what they recorded. I'm quite convinced that the league didn't because they made this huge big deal about the situation, let the media blow it into a major scandal, handed down a harsh punishment because Goddell was pissed off at Belichick, and then realized that the Patriots had really done nothing significant and Goddell would end up looking like a vindictive idiot (more than normally, that is) if he made the Patriots' recordings public).

36 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I may have overstepped in my rhetoric (nonetheless, they did 'cheat' or they wouldn't have been punished) describing the Patriots actions and the subsequent punishment by the NFL, but the point remains that the anger over 'Spygate' was more that the NFL seemed more interested in covering up the misdeeds of a marquee franchise than it was in showing their evidence of how widespread the problems were and what, if any, effects of the spying they could prove.

18 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Re; j

Betwrrn sims.and Sanders team had James Gang backfield..
James Jones fullback amd Garry James tsilback. James play two years if recall right for Lons and then get traded to maybe 49ers but got injured in camp or something. Never play im nfl again. Decent RB but played behind crappy line on those 86/87 Lions teams. Real true crap teams those were

22 Re: Food Poisoned Team

Actually, many people think there was a team deliberately food poisoned before a championship - it took place in rugby back in '95.


97 Re: Food Poisoned Team

Some England football (read soccer) fans still believe that Gordon Banks was poisoned during the 1970 World Cup.

158 Re: Food Poisoned Team

And who could forget Tottenham's legendary Lasagna-gate incident in 2006


23 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Pretty sure the lions were fielding both a tight end (sloan) and fullback (schlesinger) prior to 97, so not sure how scheme colored everything about Barry's stats prior to that year.

24 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Reuters: In 2011, the Saints were second in the NFL with 17 regular-season defensive flags for violating rules intended to protect players from being hurt, just behind the Oakland Raiders' 18. The league averaged nine per team. As a result, violent penalties accounted for a league-high 37 percent of all the Saints' defensive penalties. The league averaged 21 percent. The Saints also led the league with 1.6 violent penalties per 100 defensive plays.

Reuters used data from Football Outsiders, an NFL statistics website that keeps detailed logs of each penalty.

26 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

football outsiders really hate the Dolphins I take it. Man every week.

45 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I think you'll find this article was penned by a man named Mike Tainer, not a collective hive mind known as "football outsiders." I think you'll also find that most non-Dolphins fans are irritated by actions and words of some members of the 1972 Dolphins, this does not mean they hate the entire franchise.

99 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Yep. And I am giving the Redskins a break by picking on the Dolphins for a few weeks. And there are 2 separate issues: 1) The current, silly Dolphins, who are obvious cheap joke fodder when three weeks of amazing QB and draft pick shuffling leaves them with ... David Garrard, and 2) the 1972 Dolphins, who sometimes sound like they think the NFL should have folded right then and there.

141 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Among my football as masochism collection of memories, I include my attendence at the game in '72, as a wee lad, that those insufferable Cetaceans came closest to losing, early in the season. On the very warm autumn day in Bloomington, MN, my mind, mostly devoid of the scars that decades of kicked-in-the-nuts losses would leave on my pscyche, had no idea that a late phantom roughing the passer penalty, and some other weird crap, culminating in Bob Griese tossing a winnning td pass to Jim Mandich, would result in forty years of tiresome, ponderous, bloviating by a bunch of aging fogeys, endlessly showered upon us by the yet to be developed four letter network, and the forthcoming curse of sports talk radio.

It's all my fault; if I had been alert to the dangers, I would have taken advantage of my spot in the first few rows of the endzone seats where Mandich caught the pass, to fling a Coke or mustard-laden hot dog, into the tight end's eyes, and saved civilization from nearly a half-century of Mercury Morris.

185 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

It's not like Morris and the rest of the '72s are buying airtime and column inches to continue tooting their decades-old horns. Better to blame Tanier and his ilk for shoveling it up over and over again.

32 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

The NFL doesn't have a rule against kidnapping the opposing QB the night before a game and tossing him into a river, but it would be cheating. Illegal activities shouldn't need rules against them in sports leagues. The steroid users were cheaters. Opinions can vary on how much that should be held against them, but they cheated, all of 'em.

34 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I will say tainted is different to me than necessitating having it stripped. Tainted is far more subjective, emotional. I can feel something is tainted, but still see its value.

I believe the Saints title is rightly theirs. I would be outraged if Roger Goodell even considered stripping it (or the Patriots titles for Spygate - that said, if what Matt Walsh alleged was true, I would be fine with it, but it obviously wasn't true). I would never want a title stripped for something like this. But that doesn't mean it has no effect on the way I look back and view what happened.

To me, the 2009 NFC Title Game was an epic. It wasn't particularly well played, but immensely entertaining and dramatiIc. I have the game saved, and I tried rewatching it after the bounty stuff blew up, just to see if I could see anything, and it was hard to watch. It just puts a black mark on the game. Same thing with Super Bowl XL (oddly, despite my personal dislike for the Pats, I don't get this feeling watching any early-era Pats playoff games, most likely because their offense was never even that good anyway). I don't fault the teams - especially not Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL - but it does change the way I look back at a game.

I don't think I will ever be able to truly enjoy watching the 2009 NFC Title Game, which is sad. This is my problem, and may not effect everyone else, but still for me it is a problem. So, the overall title is not tainted. But the memories are. They are the champs, but in my mind, the Lombardi trophy is just a little less shiny for them.

35 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

"I personally think Emmitt Smith was better than Barry Sanders, but there are so many factors to interpret that I think it is silly to argue with anyone who disagrees."

Considering you think Dutch Sternaman and his 4.0 yards per carry average and two non-descript fullbacks are superior to Feather's 5.2 career average, you seem to exhibit a consistent favoritism for plodding runners over shiftier ones.

I'm surprised you didn't have Vardell over Sanders.

119 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Since I'd prefer Campbell over any other RB in my lifetime, I guess I like the plodders as well. Although Smith was not better than Sanders.

41 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Vikings fans have a right to be upset.

That fans of 31 (or 32!) teams would jump all over the Saints for what happened doesn't make much sense to me, but I don't mind it because I hate those miserable bastards. It makes complete sense that Vikings and Cardinals fans would be upset about it though.

But you can't actually mean that fans of losing teams shouldn't complain about questionable officiating or the opponents' shady tactics, though, right? (cue tumbleweed)

If the Vikings ever when a championship (sigh), I fully expect the fans of the losing teams in the SB and conference championship game to find moments worth scrutinizing and complaining about. That wouldn't take anything away from my fan experience (unless it comes to light that the team actually did something that puts doubt in my mind about their legitimacy). While Vikings fans would largely argue with such points, I would understand the other teams' fanbasses NEEDING to have them. That's part of being a passionate fan. Love your team, yes, but hate the opponents also. Not all, just the jerk-faces.

and the entire NFC East

If a persons loves them some Vikings, they at least make a sour face at the mention of these teams because of the history.

75 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

...if the vikings ever WIN* a championship...

i think its funny that clowns like yourself think knocking out the opposing qb is a new and sinister strategy invented by the 2009 saints. i don't like marshawn lynch looking like jim brown or alex smith looking like aaron rodgers (even though he definitely does) against my saints.

94 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Thank you - I meant "win". That was a careless oversight.

I do not think the 2009 Saints invented knocking a QB out of a game. And Favre looked superior to Rodgers in that game. Minnesota's offense lit your Saints up.

My point is that if the Vikings had wrecked Brees in that game and you and your fellow fans Saints cried foul, I wouldn't have blamed you. Because you're a fan.

42 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I'm glad you wrote about this Mike.

I don't watch much ESPN these days, and I think I'm fortunate to have friends who don't seem to care much about these things, so I'm not subjected taint arguments very often. It's strikes me as pretty silly, and I think you could easily vacate half the Superbowl champions if you really wanted to find reasons to (The 70s Steelers and steroid use, or the Raiders and their "if you aren't cheating, you aren't trying" mantra just to name two big ones).

44 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

You seem to set up an equivalence between

"Bounties are bad"


"Videotaping opponents’ defensive signals was bad."

I'm just not seeing it. On the one hand, you have players intentionally injuring other players for money. On the other hand, you have people recording information given out by people who have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

If coaches are using signals in full view of tens of thousands of people, they have no reason to object when others make note of what those signals are.

You can make the argument that videotaping was bad because it entailed violating the rules. But that doesn't seem to be the argument you're making.

50 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

It may seem like semantics to you, but there IS a difference between:

"You get $1500 IF your hit knocks the guy out of the game,"


"You get $1500 TO knock the guy out of the game."

And that ignores the fact that the OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of the Saints' "bounties" were for big plays like fumbles, sacks, and interceptions--you know, just like every other team in the league.

Furthermore, where's the evidence that the Saints intentionally injured players? I mean, it's not like they're the 49ers, who actually injured an inordinate number of running backs this year. Or it's not like they're the Giants, who specifically said IN THE PRESS that they were targeting a player (Kyle Williams) because of his concussions.

The Saints are Goodell's scapegoat. Actually, Payton is Goodell's scapegoat. The punishment FAR outweighs the crime, but Goodell feels that he has to come down hard and send a "message" because the league is being sued over injuries. It's a PR move.

Suspending Payton for the year is analogous to giving a college team the Death Penalty. After SMU got the Death Penalty in 1987, no college football team has ever paid players, right? Right??? If you honestly believe that, then let's make a beachfront real estate deal in Utah...

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

55 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

When you are found to be doing something wrong, and your boss tells you to stop, and you lie to his face saying that you have, I think you deserve whatever you have coming to you.

58 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Where's the evidence that a lie took place?

By the way, do you HONESTLY believe that the punishment fits the crime?

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

62 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I haven't read the 50k page report, but Godell says the Saints told him the bounties stopped and says that they didn't.

Unless he just needs to take draft picks away from a team every couple of years and cause a scandal to inflate his ego, I see no reason to doubt these things.

64 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

And if the bounties went on without Payton's knowledge?

Again, it's not THAT the Saints were punished. It's the severity of the punishment that's outrageous.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

67 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Well Payton's defense was that he "didn't read his emails."

So that kind of ruins your argument. Hell, I could see a nice long suspension just for ignoring your bosses emails.

70 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

That's even worse than Belichick's defense.

"Part of my job as head coach is to ensure that our football operations are conducted in compliance of the league rules and all accepted interpretations of them," he said. "My interpretation of a rule in the Constitution and Bylaws was incorrect."

83 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

That's not a defense, it's an admission of guilt.

And really, the rule regarding videotaping, at least in its original form, was poorly written and open to the interpretation that Belichick made. The clarification sent by Goodell in 2006 was not ambiguous, and it's hard to understand what BB was thinking at that point.

82 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

There isn't a single thing outrageous about suspending a coach for a year or more, whose defense for such a program continuing, after its existence was denied, was that he didn't read his e-mail from his convicted embezzler buddy, in which the convict wrote of supplying money for the program. It is almost impossible to professionally punish such idiocy too harshly.

87 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

It's more corporate negligence, and not having Williams stop the program wreaks of loss of organizational control. You know, the same thing that essentially got Jim Tressel fired from Ohio St.

For as crooked as the NCAA is, they've basically forced out coaches left and right, or at least put pressure on the individual college ADs to do so. Compared to the what Payton just pulled, what Bruce Pearl did (lie to NCAA investigators about un-sanctioned contact with recruits at barbecues) was nothing. He lost his job. Again, it isn't totally analogous, because it wasn't Mike Slive that fired him, but the Tennessee AD, but I don't think Benson has even thought of firing Payton.

90 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I can still barely believe that Payton is such a moron. It defies description, and what is scary is that from some of post punishment remarks attributed to him, the bleepin' fool still doesn't fully comprehend why his behavior is so monumentally idiotic.

109 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Loomis and Benson seem just as dumb. How does a GM and owner allow a guy like Ornstein in so tight with the organization, even if he is best buddies with the head coach? There were endless red flags with Ornstein, yet the Saints couldn't get enough of him. And it's not like his crimes were a secret--he got busted for embezzlement while working for the NFL...he was the centerpiece of the scandal that cost Reggie Bush his Heisman...he got busted for scalping Super Bowl tickets and for a football trading card scheme.

57 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

How is suspending Payton for a year analogous to giving SMU the death penalty?

Most of us, and most people, believe Payton's suspension was that much because he lied to Goodell about the existence of the bounties, and then after lying, continued to have the bounty system and continued to lie. He showed little care for organizational control after getting directives from the commissioner, and apparently his own owner.

College coaches have been fired for less. Chances are "in the real world" if some employee tried to pull off what Payton did (for an example, a MD lying about something to a partner, then continuing to do whatever the partner wanted him to stop doing) they would mostly likely get fired. Sean Payton may have got too much for just not stopping the program, but you can make the argument that he got off lightly for lying and deceiving his boss and the commissioner.

63 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Why is it that people believe that Joe Gibbs had no knowledge of the bounty system that Williams ran on his watch, but they don't believe the same of Payton?

And again, the NFL has NOT made their evidence public on this, which is interesting.

At least there are FINALLY some people in the media who aren't afraid to call out Goodell for his excessive punishment.




And a legal opinion:


Look, neither I nor any of the people I've cited above think that the Saints should have gotten off with a slap on the wrist. Rather, what we're arguing is that the punishment is excessive, draconian, arbitrary, and only serves promote a certain image in advance of a suit that the league is facing. The penalty has nothing to do with justice or with what's right, and is all about PR and Goodell's hyper-inflated ego.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

78 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

"Why is it that people believe that Joe Gibbs had no knowledge of the bounty system that Williams ran on his watch, but they don't believe the same of Payton?"

That is a subject of debate here in the DC area. Some former Redskins are record to say that Gibbs knew everything going on with the team during his first stint. But his second stint with the team did not feature quite as much personal involvement on his part. Or did it? Well, he and Gregg Williams know.

In any case, we lack any evidence that suggests that Gibbs knew about such a program. Indeed, the evidence implicating Williams during the Redskins years is scant in comparison to what the NFL has on the Saints.

89 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint


The only part of the penalty that I think is excessive is Payton's 1 yr. suspension. (I have gone on record about this in 2 other threads, iirc.) While he still can appeal, I think he may just take his punishment so as not to dig his hole any deeper. IMO, he got 8 games for the "bounties", and 8 games for his alleged lies to Benson/Loomis and the Commish. If he did lie to the Commish, esp. multiple times as has been alleged, then he deserves his year. If he never lied to/misled/hid part of the truth/etc. to the Commish, then I think his penalty is too severe.
My personal analogy to this is: the rule in our house is that if you lie about whatever misdeed you have committed, the normal punishment is DOUBLED.

103 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

Was Joe Gibbs' agent funding the bounties? Because Payton's close buddy and agent was. It'd be several steps past gullible to think he didn't know about it.

86 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

It may seem like semantics to you, but there IS a difference between:
"You get $1500 IF your hit knocks the guy out of the game,"
"You get $1500 TO knock the guy out of the game."

Not to my eyes.

"Your honor, I didn't pay the hit man $10,000 to kill my wife. I just informed him that he would get $10,000 if he killed my wife."

65 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

It depends on what you mean by "bad." Bounties are bad in the normal, moral sense that intentionally hurting people is bad. (The fancy lads would call it "malum in se".) Obviously, spygate videotaping wasn't bad in that sense. It was violating an arbitrary rule, although it is the nature of games to be governed by arbitrary rules. On the other hand, to the extent the bounties encouraged or resulted in illegal conduct, that conduct was out in the open on the field and could be penalized. So long as the refs call the game according to the rules, the bounties could not give the Saints an unfair competitive advantage. Spygate was different. That was conduct with at least the potential to give one team a competitive advantage via the secret violation of a rule that could not be remedied by the on-the-field officials. Therefore, in terms the integrity of the on-the-field competition, spygate was worse than the bounty system. So I think Tanier was right to say that both were "bad," even though they were bad in different ways.

Obviously, nobody outside of the Patriots' building (and maybe the league office) knows to what extent the illicit videotaping provided an advantage. It's unfortunate that we're left with that uncertainty.

48 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

the worst pro sports scandal of my lifetime has to be the Tim Donaghy NBA officiating deal. he officiated games he had bet on, met with mob members to discuss it in conjunction with his own gambling debts, and claimed he wasn't the only official doing that kind of thing. and it all got swept under the rug and the league's ratings barely dipped at all. we sure do love our sports.

53 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

While this should have been a huge scandal, I don't think many NBA fans were surprised, much less outraged. NBA refs are awful (watch enough NBA and you'll love NFL refs by comparison). Many fans are already convinced the league has conspired to make sure certain teams win or lose in the playoffs (the 2001 Kings, the Suns team were Amare Stoudemire got suspended for leaving the bench area). So the average view is that the NBA was already either corrupt incompetent or both.

The NFL has a perception that it has always been more proactive in keeping teams on a level playing field. Since the NFL has far superior ratings compared to the NBA, it's hard to say this perception isn't helping them.

61 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I never got the conspiracy claims for the Suns bench thing. If anything, the league would want the Suns, a fast paced offense-first team to get past the Spurs, who had the perception of a plodding, defensive nameless team.

But yeah, I think we all assume the NBA refs, if not totally crooked, are at least told by someone to make games lean certain ways. I think it probably only is about extending series, but I think it definitely happens to some degree. It helps that the NBA is the sport with the most subjective fouls.

71 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

i agree with you both, especially on the subjectivity of fouls. basketball is team game but the NBA is an individual's league. it's pretty sickening to watch superstars get fouls called after their shots miss instead of as they're taken. but hey, at least it's not just the refs - david stern gets to commish and GM and the same time. wonder if he's drawing two salaries now.

the NFL is the gold standard of pro sports leagues, parity and competition. its own mind-blowing popularity is what breeds these attempts to take shortcuts to the top. say what you will about roger goodell, but he is very good at squashing that kind of thing out and making the product even more solid in that regard.

108 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

parity and competition

If the NFL had an 82 game season where they played every other team in the league 2-4 times, and where the playoffs consisted of best-of-7 series, parity and competition would plummet to NBA/MLB/NHL levels. One game series and the "any given Sunday" effect produce enough randomness to create the illusion of parity and competition. That's why it's much more important to get "hot" leading up to the playoffs than to be consistently dominating during the regular season.

Similarly, NBA refs look more incompetent because they have to make many more borderline calls (with a much lower threshold for illegal contact than football) at a higher rate than NFL refs have to during the course of game. Borderline calls will always piss off exactly one half of the audience. Don't confuse frequency of borderline calls with ineptitude.

72 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

It's generally assumed the NBA front office is petty and incompetent. The refs are widely acknowledged as either incompetent or corrupt. And it's not just Donaghy -- The Mavericks were 2-16 in playoff games (and 4-14 against the spread) in games officiated by Danny Crawford. They were 47-41-1 against the spread in games not officiated by Danny Crawford in the same stretch. That might be random chance, but it smells like a weighted coin.

79 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

The NBA's TV ratings have been in freefall since Jordan retired. It'd be hard to figure out how much of that drop is related to Donaghy and how much is related to other factors. You know, things like having the best player in the league in a rape scandal, having a fairly obvious recreational drug problem, etc. The worst problem is a lack of charismatic style of play.

The NBA has a huge image problem, and the Donaghy issue is part of it. More generally, the NBA has the worst officiating of all the major sports leagues. It's fairly obvious that the NBA has a star system whereby the big stars are treated differently than rookies are.

Personally, I blame the 3-point shot. The 3-point shot has killed the fast break, and the fast break was the most exciting part of NBA basketball. Instead of people hustling to get 2 points, we now have players meandering up court, with an eye either to setting up the star player for a 1-on-1 attack or to find an open shooter for a 3-point shot.

The NBA - it's fantastic! Not so much any more.

120 Re: Walkthrough: The Taint

I agree that the NBA has an image problem, but I don't think you're accurate in your diagnosis. The 3-point shot was introduced to the league in 1979, right before the so-called Golden Age of the NBA - Bird, Magic, Showtime, Celtics, Jordan, etc. I'm not sure how most people think, but I find 3-pointers really exciting, but I like the NBA more than most people. As for the star system, MJ gave birth to it, with Bird and Magic as the godparents. For the last four years or so, NBA finals ratings have been climbing. I think you are right about the reffing problem - there are far too many refs who are clearly incompetent or carry ridiculous grudges. I am less prone to believe that Donaghy was symptomatic of a league-wide problem, though, just because I don't give much weight to conspiracy theories in general. Incompetence always seems a likelier driving force than intentional maliciousness to me.

I think the biggest cause of the NBA's relative unpopularity between 1998 and 2008 was the de facto competitive irrelevance of the Eastern Conference and the indifference of many major media markets as a result, combined with the always-lurking issue of race. MJ was the huge crossover star who transcended it all, but he (along with the Fab 5) opened the door with his baggy shorts and general one-upmanship for the darker (in the eyes of white audiences) behaviors of Iverson, Spreewell, and others. As the Eastern Conference was restocked with superstars and contenders, the NBA has seen its ratings climb steadily.