The recent incriminating audio recordings released Thursday by Yahoo! Sports about the bounty program the New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams put into place during his tenure with the team between 2009 and 2011 have gotten the attention of both lawyers and congressmen.

According to an article appearing in this week’s edition of ESPN The Magazine and written by Howard Bryant, Senate hearings on NFL bounties and safety are being organized. “Judgment day is coming”, according to Bryant’s article.

Monetary bounties placed on the heads of various players is nothing new to the NFL. Back in 1989 when Philadelphia Eagles’ coach Buddy Ryan ordered the “take out” of the Dallas Cowboys kicker of Head Coach Jimmy Johnson, it was almost taken as a joke.

In fact, a few weeks later CBS advertised the rematch as “Bounty Bowl II” whereby Ryan made no secret of his disdain for the Cowboys. Then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue even attended the second game. It was like one big joke.

However, 17 years later when Roger Goodell, who had been working 24 years for the NFL, succeeded Tagliabue as commissioner, he emphasized player conduct rather than player safety.

“Off-field incidents, from Ben Roethlisberger to Donte Stallworth to Michael Vick so threatened the game’s image and revenue that Goodell’s tough stance earned him the nickname of the law-and-order commissioner,” the article pointed out.

“But the NFL’s culture of violence simply isn’t funny anymore now that lawyers and congressmen are getting involved. Former defensive back Andre Waters is dead, suicide at age 44.

“So is former defensive back Dave Duerson, whose family is suing the NFL for wrongful death after his suicide at age 50. At 52, Jim McMahon, the former helmet-banging rebel quarterback, alleges in a lawsuit that his memory loss is attributable to the NFL’s willfully lying about what it knew about the long-term dangers of head trauma.”

According to a report last month by ESPN’s Lester Munson, the NFL is facing at least 659 lawsuits related to injury or concussion.

Bryant’s article continues, “Meanwhile, in the wake of revelations that the Saints offered their players financial rewards for injuring opponents and then lied about it, Senate hearings on NFL bounties and safety are being organized.”

Goodell severely punished the Saints by suspending head coach Sean Payton for a season, and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely for their roles in the bounty fiasco because of organizational arrogance and misleading him.

Goodell is pondering the future of what the NFL will look like in three to five years, of how the league will respond in court when it is asked about what it knew about head injuries and what it did about bounties.

The NFL is fully aware of what it sells—sheer violence, often brutal and always for maximum profit, in a cleverly-designed and masterfully marketed package.

NFL fans expect violence and often relish it as part of the game, just as knockouts are to boxing, extra-curricular fights are to hockey and blood is to the mixed martial arts.

“The commissioner obviously cares about players and their safety, but far less than he cares about money—how else to explain his previous insistence on an 18-game season?

“So understand the complexity of his challenge: He is faced with the difficulty of selling football without pain, to detach its violence, to profit from the commodity of aggression while attempting to distance his sport from the bounty mentality by making its Sunday violence impersonal,” the article concludes.

But it’s out in the open, a crisis the NFL has to address. And the league, knowing what it does about its business, already knows there is no easy solution.

KWICKIES…The Lamar Cardinals baseball team won its second straight Southland Conference series—this time on the road –over the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks last weekend. The Cards won the opener 7-4 Thursday, lost Friday 7-5 after building an early 5-1 lead and then captured the rubber game Saturday 6-4 to improve to 5-10 in SLC play and 12-18 for the season.

Three Kentucky Derby hopefuls were in the winner’s circle last weekend as Gemologist won the $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct for his fifth straight victory in as many outings, I’ll Have Another upset favorite Creative Cause in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby and Karlovy Vary won at Keeneland. Gemologist is the early favorite for the annual Run for the Roses on May 5.

It seems like more times than not whenever a Beaumont Independent School District high school team loses a sporting event on the field it takes their frustrations out on the opponent. The latest incident occurred March 23 in Bridge City when an Ozen girl allegedly struck a Bridge City player during the post-game handshake. Ozen suspended the players involved in the fighting for the rest of the school year while Bridge City implied to the media that whatever punishment if any was none of their business.

One good shot—a double-eagle on the Par-5 No. 2 hole—for South African Louis Oosthuizen and a bad one which led to a triple bogey on a Par-3 for Phil Mickelson dictated the finish for those two golfers in last weekend’s Masters Golf Tournament. But it was a flurry of birdies on the back nine Sunday that got Bubba Watson into a sudden-death playoff with Oosthuizen. A par on the second extra hole that earned Watson the prestigious green jacket. Mickelson finished two strokes off the winning 10-under-par score to finish in a four-way tie for third place and a $384,000 paycheck. Bubba, who played his college golf at the University of Georgia, pocketed a check for $1,440,000.

Former Houston Astros’ closer Mark Melancon seems to be having a problem holding leads for his new team, the Boston Red Sox, and sports an 0-2 record along with a 36.00 Earned Run Average after the Detroit Tigers swept a weekend series from the Bosox and stand at 3-0 going into Tuesday’s action. Wielding the big bats for the Tigers so far this season are outfielder Austin Jackson (.517), third baseman Miguel Cabrera (.455), first baseman Prince Fielder (.417), catcher Alex Avila (417) and shortstop Jhonny Peralta (.417).

And speaking of Detroit, the Tigers’ reliever and former Houston Astro Octavio Dotel set a major league record by playing for his 13th different major league team, the most among all active players. Dotel is in his 14th major league season.

JUST BETWEEN US…The Houston Astros, who are supposed to do as poorly or even worst than last year’s 56-106 finish, surprised their faithful followers on the opening weekend of the 2012 season by taking two-of-three from the Colorado Rockies. The ‘Stroes rallied from a 2-1 deficit Sunday afternoon by scoring two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to win 3-2 and capture the series two games to one. It was the Astros first opening series win since 2006 and allowed them to leave the field with a winning record for the first time in Manager Brad Mills’ tenure. The last time Houston was above .500 was on July 29, 2009, at 51-50. It also was the first save for starter-turned-reliever Brett Myers since Sept. 27, 2007. And as a long-time fan, this Korner enjoyed watching the weekend series probably more than any series during the 2011 season.