Here we go again.
In their never-ending quest to ruin the greatest sport on earth, the NFL has decided to crack down on hitting. “Wait,” you may ask, “Isn’t football a game of large heavily muscled men slamming into each other at a high rate of speed?” Yes it is. But the NFL is doing their best to remove as much contact from a contact sport as possible.
James Harrison was fined $75,000 for his knock out blow on Cleveland’s Mohamed Massaquoi last Sunday. It was a thing of beauty, a vicious yet perfectly clean hit. The fact there were no flags on the play confirms that it was well within the rules. Harrison was simply doing what players are taught to do from the time they first strap on a helmet.
Predictably, Browns fans were in an uproar over that play and Harrison’s equally clean leveling of Josh Cribbs. They even circulated a laughable petition whining because their incompetent players got jacked up. I’m not bothered by that since it’s pretty much to be expected. Losers cry when they lose and there are no bigger losers than the Cleveland Browns.
What upsets me is the media seized on Harrison’s actions, as well as several similarly violent hits this past weekend, and blew the issue entirely out of proportion. The unbearable weekend wrap-up shows all beat to death a similar theme of, “Something must be done!” Naturally, the image conscious NFL sprang into action in the worst possible way.
The league’s chief of football operations, Ray Anderson, has declared from this point forward suspensions will be handed out for “dangerous or flagrant hits.”
Let’s analyze that wording a bit. What exactly is a “dangerous” hit? Call me crazy but isn’t a 275 monster crashing into you at full force a tad dangerous? So basically every tackle is a dangerous play. Now let’s look at the word “flagrant.” A flagrant foul by definition is something which is obviously illegal. If Harrison’s tackles were so clearly illegal, why did seven officials keep their flags in their pockets?
James Harrison was fined for playing the game the way it should be played. Head coach Mike Tomlin called the plays, “Legal hits. Not fineable hits. He played good football.” Harrison said it would be “a travesty” if he were fined. Since the ruling came down, his agent has said he was going to appeal this miscarriage of justice. Seventy-five grand is a decent chunk of change but I ordinarily wouldn’t worry about it because Harrison is paid to destroy and these annoying little fines are just the cost of doing business.
What does worry me is the prospect of some day losing our star linebacker for one game, possibly more, due to a suspension. The Pittsburgh Steelers already lost their quarterback for a month as a result of an arbitrary and totally unwarranted suspension. Now we’re facing the prospect that the next time Silverback clobbers the daylights out of somebody, he could miss games over it. What’s worse, we’ll never know when that line is crossed because the rule is so vaguely worded, nobody has any idea what’s legal and what’s not.
James Harrison is 110% in the right on this one. Not only were both his plays perfectly acceptable, the fact his fine is unreasonably high when there were far far more egregious rule violations last Sunday is ridiculous. The only reason the league repeatedly comes down on him for playing football the way it should be played is they don’t find him marketable. He doesn’t like interviews and he doesn’t like the spotlight. Maybe he should start acting like a clown for NFL Films and on commercials like Ray Lewis so the the NFL would stop giving him these big fines. In the meantime, the league’s punishment policies continue to be a joke.
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