Saturday, March 3, 2012

Retirement Issues — Bounties on Retirees

Yet another scandal has been unmasked in the world of sports. Turns out the Super Bowl winning New Orleans Saints have a bounty system that rewards inflicting serious injuries on their opponents. This flies in the face of league management, which has been actively discouraging such behavior.

For those who haven’t caught the details of this latest exposé, here’s a summary. The Saints’ bounty system paid their defensive players $1,000 if they injured an opponent badly enough for him to be taken off the field. If that player had to leave the game altogether, the reward was $1,500. No word on whether an injury time out that benefited the Saints gained bonus money.

At its height, the pool, which was funded by the defensive players and at least one administrator, reached as much as $50,000. Supposedly, one high profile quarterback had a $10,000 price tag on his head were he to be conked out of the conference championship game. The Saints even have a name for these hits: “Remember Me” shots.

Some of you may have your mouths agape upon reading this, but here’s an even bigger newsflash. My crack investigative reporting has uncovered a far more sinister plot involving a bounty system on retirees. The funders are orthopedic surgeons, chiropractors, physical therapists and GPs that specialize in geriatrics.

Best as I can tell, they go after retirement communities that are known to have feuds percolating among the residents. Prime targets are developments where elections of board members are particularly contentious or where recently proposed changes to the condo regulations created internal factions. The bounties are generous enough to motivate someone on a fixed income to commit mayhem.

While the sports injuries of greatest concern are ones to the head and neck, the retiree injuries that gain special recognition are broken hips and sprained backs. The typical bounty for breaking your neighbor’s hip is reportedly $2,000, while a back sprain can earn you $1,500 in some parts of the country. Lesser injuries such as severe bruises and gashes requiring at least six stitches command bounties of $100 and up. Some funders offer volume bonuses on the business sent their way.

It’s rumored that car services are getting into the act with payments for any injury that will have the recipient unable to drive for at least three months. You can imagine who might join the program next. Grocery delivery companies. Cleaning services. Anyone willing to make house calls. A policeman from Burlington, Vermont said the trend is getting out of control up there. “In a word, it’s ugly,” he told me via phone interview.

South Burlington, which goes by the moniker Chittenden Condo Central, has seen dramatic increases in injury reports tied to bounty payments. Most retirees are familiar with the battle cries “Remember the Alamo” and “Remember the Maine.” Golf-club-wielding pensioners in search of bounty prey are running amok in the Vermont National Country Club area, thwacking their condo neighbors and shouting: “Remember Me.”

One enterprising retiree has a thriving business selling T-shirts emblazoned with those two spine-chilling words. Another has begun offering protection insurance to his neighbors. His clients pay him; he pays off the ruffians to leave them alone. Unfortunately, he’s now in a bidding war with those paying the bounties. Oh yes, it’s getting ugly.

And you know that when it gets ugly, there’s only one thing to do. Find a comfortable chair. Pick out a good book (or pick up the remote). And of course, pour yourself a nice, big glass of vino.

You might also want to watch your back.

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