The Steelers’ Troy Polamalu used the term this past week to describe the modern NFL, after Hines Ward’s fine total reached $15,000 for separate incidents of “excessive roughness”.
Polamalu is further quoted as having stated that “… the Ronnie Lotts, Jack Tatums. These guys really went after people. They were that way because the game was physical. Now, they couldn’t survive in this type of game. They wouldn’t have enough money. They’d be paying fines all the time, and then they’d be suspended for the year after they do it two games in a row. It’s kind of ridiculous.” (heraldstandard.com, 10/18/08).
I heard a discussion on this topic this afternoon on ESPN radio between host Freddie Coleman, and commentator and former player Eric Allen, who wholeheartedly agreed that league attempts to protect player safety were misplaced, and indeed were turning the NFL into a “pansy” league.
A few years ago, the league wised up, and began implementing a measure of protection for players all too frequently injured seriously due in great part to the mentality of NFL players, and to the fact of today’s bigger, faster, stronger athletes, and modern equipment providing players the aura and misplaced belief of invincibility. Does that measure of protection – fines and other discipline for “excessive roughness” - actually work?
Well, in today’s Cincinnati-Pittsburgh game, during the opening drive, Mr. Ward put a legal block on Bengal rookie Keith Rivers, and broke Rivers’ jaw, ending his season. Will Ward be fined again? Who knows, but what difference does it make? The league can impose fines and suspend players, but it will change neither the attitude of players, nor their actions. Maybe that’s not a bad situation. NFL players go into professional football realizing full well the risk of injury, and gladly exchange that risk for large sums of money.
The American public actually owes a debt of gratitude to the NFL. If the league did not exist, and the core of NFL players who currently exercise their innate propensity for violence and mayhem would no longer have a legal outlet for such aggression, the incidence of violent crime throughout the US would increase immeasurably. Players like Pacman Jones, Rae Carruth, O.J. Simpson, Michael Vick, and untold others have engaged in violent activities, dangerous to innocent, law-abiding citizens who may get in the way, for decades. How many more Simpsons and Carruths would be in the news headlines instead of the sports headlines, were it not for the violent outlet of NFL football?
A league of pansies? I think not.