On Friday, the NFL upheld the suspension of Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison, making him unavailable for Monday Night Football against the San Francisco 49ers. Allow me to fly a personal flag for a short while, and tell you that not only was it the correct decision to uphold the suspension, the NFL should have taken it a step further and put him out for the rest of the season.
It's a somewhat frustrating issue for me, as a fan of the National Football League. I really do understand where the "Let them play!" crowd are coming from when they talk about how soft the league has become. I get it - referees are making stupid calls (they can't properly follow the helmet-to-helmet rule because collissions are so high-speed in the NFL) and the new kickoff rule has neutered one of the most exciting plays in football. These are all very bad.
But can anybody actually say that a violent helmet-to-helmet play should be allowed? Those that do think that often use the excuse "Well they signed up for this, they know the NFL is a rough sport." That's true, they do know that the NFL is a rough sport. They also know the history of brain trauma that surrounds the league and they also know that helmet-to-helmet hits are not allowed by NFL rules and these rules are part of any contract that a player signs.
Say you sign up to work at, say, a carnival as one of those people who dresses up and either gets shot by a paint ball gun or get baseballs thrown at you or something. While this is a dumb decision, mostly because your rights aren't likely to be held up at a carnival, your job description is still pretty clearly defined. Then someone brings, say, a real gun and shoots you. Well, that's not allowed, right? Those same people who say the players know what they're getting into would give the equivalent of "well look, it's a dangerous job! You should be expected to get shot with a 9MM, same as a paintball gun!"
It's not a very good analogy, but it will suffice here. Folks are mindlessly begging for blood to be spilled - which is fine by me, but said blood should be spilled as per the NFL rules! Honestly though, I do truly get being upset with the way the rules are applied. Referees these days mis-apply the rule and they're too damn slow to realize what actually is helmet-to-helmet. I think the rule should be altered, to allow it to be reviewed.
That being said, I wanted to talk specifically about this incident. Harrison is a dirty player - there's no way around that statement. He's a repeat offender, and while I think he has gotten the short end of the stick before, he's committed more than his share of penalties and has shown zero remorse. More than that, the guy has stated before that he's not going to change how he plays. It's just unacceptable.
I'm interested to know what you folks think about all of this. Is it getting closer to flag football? Sure is, but I don't think suspending people for brutal helmet-to-helmet hits is something that we can despair over, is it? Obviously, I'm very passionate about it - so much so that my thoughts are really scattered about this article, but I'm sure you can understand.