Mickey Loomis is back in the news, making a hard charge from the outside for the distinction of Most Disreputable Person in Sports.
It’s a crowded field, bunched with the likes of Bobby Petrino, Lenny Dykstra and the creep formerly known as Ron Artest, but Loomis has staying power.
You might remember Loomis from the 15 years he spent with the Seahawks. Or you might not. Loomis kept tabs on the franchise’s finances. Even after his promotion to executive vice president, he worked in anonymity. Covert snipers on midnight assassination missions keep more of a public profile than Mickey Loomis did with the Seahawks.
When Loomis, whose competitive sports background was as a basketball player at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Ore., replaced Randy Mueller as general manager of the New Orleans Saints in 2002, offensive tackle Kyle Turley donated a thumbs-down review.
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“The guy spent 15 years in a back room,” Turley told Sports Illustrated, “and now all the sudden he’s a GM? He has no clue about a 40-yard dash, a pass set, a tackle or a throw.”
Yet Loomis prospered, as did the Saints. He won the NFL executive of the year award in 2006, three seasons before his team won the Lombardi Trophy. The Super Bowl victory, achieved in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, culminated a heartwarming saga that almost seemed too good to be true.
Or maybe it was the other way around. Maybe it was too true to be good.
Behind the facade of a football team that helped revive a community’s broken spirit, the Saints were marching in muck. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams arranged a bounty system that rewarded bonus money to players who injured opponents.
(Williams’ locker room “pep talk” this past January, before the Saints playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, was recorded by a documentary-movie crew. Listening to Williams imploring the Saints defense to target the ankles and knees and heads of opponents is to hear the essence of evil.)
When Saints owner Tom Benson learned of the bounty system, he ordered Loomis – responsible for all aspects of the football operation – to shut the pay-to-hurt program down. Defying a direct order from his boss, Loomis never intervened. This stunning act of insubordination should’ve cost the general manager/executive vice president both job titles, but all it cost Loomis was an eight-game suspension, implemented by league commissioner Roger Goodell.
Now Loomis is under fire for possible participation in a scandal alleged to have occurred between 2002 and 2004. According to an ESPN “Outside the Lines” report that aired Monday, Loomis used an electronic device to eavesdrop on coaches in the visiting locker room at the Louisiana Superdome.
Because the source who shared the information with ESPN wasn’t identified, the story requires the let’s-not-rush-to-judgment resolve of a skeptic. Furthermore, Loomis is denying the accusations, as are the Saints, who are threatening to sue the network.
If the report alleged eavesdropping by anybody else – well, OK, anybody else but New England coach Bill Belichick, who once oversaw a sideline spying scheme that relied on video cameras – I’d be willing to give the accused a fair shake.
But Loomis doesn’t deserve a fair shake. He lost all credibility when he assured Tom Benson that the bounty program would be discontinued, only to allow the raunchiness to fester.
Loomis has revealed himself to be no more trustworthy than a street thief with four wallets in his pockets. He wants us to believe he wasn’t privy to the conversations of visiting coaches?
Sorry, Mickey. Can’t do it. Won’t do it. You knew all about a defensive coordinator’s sick motivational theories, and when you were told to tell the defensive coordinator to knock it off, you blew it off. And then you slept soundly at night.
Here’s what I don’t get: ESPN fills much of its daily programming cycle with the equivalent of junk food – sportswriters dissing each other on weekday afternoons, expressing opinions with a passion that is embarrassingly fake – but “Outside the Lines” is serious, earnest and legitimate.
“Outside the Lines” realizes the rarely tapped potential of a sports network employing reporters gifted at gathering news.
And “Outside the Lines” is risking its reputation – and inviting a lawsuit – to humiliate the cad that is Mickey Loomis? Why would it do that? What’s the motivation?
On the other hand, I can understand Loomis’ motivation for listening in on visiting coaches: Here’s an accountant by trade, a small-college basketball player who suddenly finds himself the architect of an NFL roster. His credentials as general manager have been mocked.
Gaining inside information on a home opponent, by any means necessary, is one way to silence the mockery.
If it’s proven that Loomis eavesdropped on visiting coaches by wiretapping – a federal crime, incidentally – his career as a sports executive is done.
Then again, it should’ve been done the moment he was exposed as an enabler for a defensive coordinator who craved the sight of watching elite athletes, in their prime, removed from the field on a stretcher.
If it’s proven that Loomis eavesdropped, his mistake wasn’t so much a federal crime as one that violated common sense and decency.
The fool. He was tuned into the wrong locker room.