By Kerry J. Byrne
Cold, Hard Football Facts pawn of the jungle
Lily-livered political correctness has infected every level of American society, from the campus to the board room to the military.
So it's no surprise that political correctness has infected the national blood sport, too. Yup, the USA's grown weak, folks. It's too bad. Sixty-five years ago guys like Tom Landry and Chuck Bednarik (pictured) carpet-bombed entire nations into ruin and then returned home to pound other hardened war veterans into submission wearing chintzy leather helmets.
These days, seems like lawyers and suits have spoiled all the testosterone-fueled fun in both krieg und spiel.
As we learned after a brutal Week 6 of the 2010 NFL season, the nation's generously remunerated modern-day gladiators can't even deliver a vicious hit anymore without causing a national outcry from the politically-correct crowd in the chattering classes.
In the wake of the outcry, the NFL announced Tuesday that it has fined Pittsburgh's James Harrison ($75,000), New England's Brandon Meriweather and Atlanta's Dunta Robinson ($50,000 each) for delivering particularly gruesome helmet-to-helmet hits on Sunday. The NFL also said that "future offenses will result in an escalation of fines up to and including suspension."
It's a good thing Bednarik is still alive, or else he'd be rolling over in his grave.
The sissification of pro football has been years in the making. And days like Sunday bring the PC crowd out of the woodwork.
Consider Kevin Blackistone of AOL Fanhouse, who wrote of Cold, Hard Football Facts favorite Harrison
: "Who knows how many players there are like Harrison who can't control their sadistic urges ... Fines absolutely are no longer enough of a punishment and certainly aren't what the game really needs, which is a deterrent."
Wow, "sadistic urges?" How's the weather up there on the high horse, Kevin?
But fans aren't buying it. They still covet their blood sport.
And we love the thread on the CBS Sports message board, titled "To All You Marys
." Writes one poster: "It's not poker and it's not Barbies and Matchbox cars. IT'S FOOTBALL! ... It is meant to be violent."
They players aren't buying the hypocrisy, either. In fact, they seem to covet the blood sport more than the fans.
Just ask New England's newly-fined safety Meriweather and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. If you listen to them, it seems the safety's big hit on Baltimore tight end Todd Heap was the talk of the day in the Patriots locker room.
Both players appeared with "Dale & Holley" on sports radio WEEI in Boston Monday, a day after New England's 23-20 win over Baltimore.
Wilfork was asked about the turning point in the game (audio here
"To be honest with you, I think it was Brandon Meriweather's hit, to be honest with you. ... It was like, wow! Somebody's out here trying to play some football and trying to be physical ... something happened in that play and I think after that everybody was like in tune. We was in tune. That's one thing I see happened."
Meriweather not only agreed, he seemed to indicate his impending fine would be worth it (audio here
"What were the stats after that hit and before? I think they was a lot better after that hit than before. If that's what we gotta do to get our team going and to get our defense be more aggressive and be better on third down then I'll take it."
Fascinating. Not only did teammates agree in separate interviews that a controversial hit had changed the course of the game, Meriweather even acknowledged that he (and apparently his teammates) knew that his hit had produced a quantifiable statistical impact on the outcome of the game.
Curious, we crunched the numbers after hearing the interview. Meriweather made a helmet-to-helmet hit on the truth: Baltimore's production, especially in the passing game, declined noticeably after he laid out Heap in a, well, heap.
The most profound impact was found on third down, a problem that Meriweather acknowledged in the above quote and a problem that we discussed last week
: the Patriots entered the Baltimore game dead last in the NFL in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert an incredible 55 percent of chances. The trend continued against the Ravens, who converted three of their first five third-down chances.
Then Meriweather launched himself violently at Heap and Baltimore was never the same. The Ravens suddenly starting dumping off a lot more underneath, and largely reined in their long-ball attack that was so successful early.
The Ravens in other words, got the message: attempts to get the ball deep downfield against New England's previously soft pass defense were going to be met with extreme violence.
In football, that's how messages are sent: with violence. It's the law of the jungle. It's the law of the NFL. Teams win when they impose their physical will upon their opponent. The Ravens certainly covet their own reputation as physical intimidators.
We imagine all football players do. Certainly, Pittsburgh's Harrison was speaking the truth when, after violently wiping out two Cleveland players Sunday, he was quoted saying: "You don't want to injure people. I don't want to injure anybody. But I'm not opposed to hurting anybody."
There's a reason, folks, Harrison is a two-time Super Bowl champion, the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year and a leader of what's consistently one of the best defenses in football (tops this year at 12.0 PPG). There's a reason his team dominated the Browns Sunday, 28-10. And it's not because Harrison sits around a Parisian cafe writing poetry.
The bottom line is that football is a violent game played by tough, vicious, brutal, physically and emotionally hardened young men groomed from childhood, like contemporary Spartans, to mete out punishment and sacrifice their own body for the sake of the greater good – in this case for the sake of the team. They are trained from youth to be violent on the football field. So we should not be surprised when they exhibit violence on the football field.
They are, quite simply, modern gladiators. These days, they're well compensated for the risks that they take. We're fairly certain NFL players have a much better medical plan, too. But we could be wrong. And, unlike the gladiators of the past, they have the choice not to play.
Yet they choose to play, they choose the violence and they choose to take all the risks involved.
More importantly, they know that they law of the jungle rules on the gridiron, where there are tw
o kinds of people: those imposing their physical will upon another man, and those being imposed upon.
Given the choice to be one or the other, even the lily-livered PC crowd would choose to be the former.
Hardened young men make it to the pros only because they know and accept this law of the jungle: the strong and the fast survive. The weak and the slow are eaten.
Given their physical gifts and their profession of choice, football players must certainly like it that way.
Remember when the ESPN Monday Night Football pre-game crew used to do a segment called "Jacked Up!" They'd show the most brutal hits from that Sunday's NFL action, and the entire crew would say, "Billy Smith got ... JACKED UP!!"; "Jimmy Jones got ... JACKED UP!!"
Great segment. Highlight of the day's broadcast. But ESPN cancelled it because, apparently, some people are such frauds that they can't admit that they watch the human equivalent of NASCAR's Bristol Motor Speedway
to see the car wrecks. So they raise hypocrit hell just to feel better about themselves.
We knew the PC crowd was getting a little too uppity when they forced ESPN to ixnay the spot.
"Jacked Up!" was replaced by the sissified segment, "C'Mon Man!" The original "Jacked Up!" segment focused on legalized, popular and well-compensated physical carnage. The more recent "C'Mon Man!" bit focuses on much less telegenic mental mistakes.
We don't have the Cold, Hard Football Facts in this instance, but we're willing to bet Chris Simms' spleen
that "Jacked Up!" was far more popular.