Sunday, October 19, 2008

Got a problem, Commish?

It will be interesting to see what reaction the NFL commissioner's office has to the latest hard lick delivered by the Steelers' Hines Ward, who is regarded as the best-blocking wide receiver in the league. Ward, who was fined twice recently by Commissioner Roger Goodell for what the commissioner regarded as unnecessary roughness, laid out Cincinnati linebacker Keith Rivers with a perfectly timed block in Sunday's game. Rivers was on the ground for quite some time, and the television announcers said blood was coming from his mouth. Tests later revealed he has a broken jaw and is likely out for the season. The supposed transgressions for which Ward was fined before were not penalized when they occurred. Nor was a penalty flag tossed for Sunday's hit, which was perfectly clean and legal. This brings us to the comments that Ward's teammate Troy Polamalu made after Ward got his "bills" in the mail from the commissioner's office following the Jacksonville and Baltimore games. The hard-hitting safety bemoaned the trend toward what he called "flag football" and said the league is quickly losing "the essence of what real American football is about." Polamalu said the NFL "loses so much of its essence when it becomes like a pansy game." Goodell called Polamalu's remarks "very disappointing." What's really disappointing is the direction in which Goodell is trying to take the sport. Football is a game of hitting and bursts of violent action. Few object to rules that have been put in place to protect quarterbacks when they are in a defenseless position, but even that has gotten ridiculous. Players are being fined for hits on quarterbacks that are in no way flagrant or designed to injure. The Steelers' James Harrison was just recently the victim of one of those phantom penalty calls. And Jets safety Eric Smith was suspended for a game and fined a whopping $50,000 for a hit that knocked out Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin, even though there appeared to be no intent to hurt Boldin. Boldin was going for a pass, Smith was trying to break it up and they just happened to hit helmet to helmet. It's interesting to me that a league that makes money by selling videos of heavy hits goes out of its way to fine players who are simply playing the game the way it was intended to be played. The NFL is the most powerful and popular sports enterprise in the country, by a wide margin, but they should take note of the dwindling interest in NASCAR racing. NASCAR drivers generally are behaving better on and off the track. Some of the short tracks where the drivers swapped paint have been shut down in favor of big superspeedways, there is less rough driving and there are fewer physical altercations among the drivers, and the result is that the sport has drifted so far from its rough-and-tumble roots that many people are tuning out. The NFL has been called the No Fun League for banning what it considers excessive celebrations. If Commissioner Goodell keeps fining players like Hines Ward for doing what they're supposed to be doing, we may someday be calling the NFL the No Football League.



Blogger Ellipses said...

It was nice to see that both Hines and Troy played Balls-to-the-wall football yesterday... hopefully Troy doesn't have a dinger (concussion)... and hopefully Hines can clear some actual wages after he pays his fines for this week :-) Ward needs a big endorsement deal to secure his financial incentive for playing... then he can just prepay his fines from his salary and crush some skulls!


October 20, 2008 at 7:49 AM  
Anonymous Steelerfan43 said...

Troy was right, this No Fun League is definitely becoming a pansy league. I am not sure what Goddell has in mind for football but I thought that this was contact sport, so why in the hell is he going around fining everyone for making CONTACT. No, I don't want to see any player purposely injured but these men knew when they started playing this game as young boys that injuries were a definite possibility. They are not surprised when they are injured, the expect to be injured a time or two. Roger Goddell has got to be the worst Commissioner yet. He really needs to hit the bricks and start walking.

October 20, 2008 at 9:42 AM  
Blogger PRIguy said...

I actually like Goddell for the way he has handled some of the troublemakers in the league. But I agree with the fact that fining players for legal hits is turning the league into a pansy league. That the soft-spoken, straight-arrow Polamalu said a comment like that tells me that more than just a few guys think things are going into the toilet. And Ward and Troy aren't even really big men by NFL standards. There are some real monsters on the fields these days. How are they supposed to contain the kinetic energy they have when the hit someone?

Brant's right about NASCAR. And hockey has calmed down a lot too. There's nothing wrong with monitoring the hits, but a clean hit is a clean hit. I doubt that anyone of the players truly want to break bones on the guys they hit, and that goes for any sport.

October 21, 2008 at 8:43 AM  
Blogger Roger said...

Slightly off topic, but nobody has said one word (at least that I've heard) regarding the radio signals for one defensive player on the field. Much was said about his before the season. I large article described the process, equipment, security (somebody from the NFL stands guard over a box with one extra helmet equipped with a radio, to be exclusively used by a defensive player). The cost for each team to implement the radio was $28K ($38K?) per team.

What impact did all this technology have on the game? It seems the needs of tackling, running, blocking, passing, etc. are just as important as somebody getting some signals spoken into their helmet between plays. This seemed like a whole bunch of nothingness at the time. Now, after a few weeks of the season, and nothing has been said how great the idea was, perhaps the nothingness is even greater than before (if that is possible -- can nothingness grow in size?)

October 21, 2008 at 8:28 PM  

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