Thursday, November 5, 2009

Writin' Dirty: When Football Does (and Doesn't) Go Too Far

Hines Ward and Ric Flair now have something in common. Namely, the title of "Dirtiest Player in the Game." Different games, but one thing is the same: in both wrestling and football, calling someone dirty is essentially thinly veiled whining.

Sports Illustrated recently gave us a poll where almost 300 NFL players voted on who they felt was the dirtiest player in football. Ward got 11.6 percent of the vote, almost twice what runners-up Albert Haynesworth and Joey Porter received. Remember, that's the same Albert Haynesworth that tried to give Andre Gurode some free plastic surgery.

You'd think that, a decade into his career, people would be used to Hines Ward by now. The guy's a linebacker who runs pass patterns, and he has no qualms about lowering the boom on somebody. If the other guy's not looking (as Keith Rivers apparently wasn't when Hines broke his jaw), that's the other guy's problem.

The "Dirtiest Player" poll is essentially little more than an excuse for players to whine about people that have historically made them look bad. Is it a coincidence that the top ten vote-getters here have a combined 30 Pro Bowls between them?

Jared Allen (2 Pro Bowls), Troy Polamalu (5), Harvey Dahl (0), Richie Incognito (0), Cortland Finnegan (1), Kevin Mawae (7), Roy L. Williams (5), Joey Porter (4), Albert Haynesworth (2), and Ward (4) were your Top 10.

No defensive player likes the idea of getting put on his ass by a wide receiver, most of whom are the most likely players to come out of a game because "OMFG, I SO broke a nail!" Especially when that wide receiver played QUARTERBACK in college. Ward's not supposed to be anywhere near heavy contact, and yet he's often the one seeking it. That damages the ego of a defensive player, who must instantly call the contact "dirty" to make his own psychic boo-boo feel better.

For my money, Haynesworth's head stomp to Gurode is one he'll likely never live down, and Williams' popularizing the horse-collar tackle led to one of those rare safety rules that I can totally get behind.

Likewise, griping about offensive linemen like Mawae, Incognito, and Dahl is pointless, as just about anything can happen when the lines collide. In there, it's pretty much anything long as you're not attacking the eyes and the testes. More on that in a moment.

Hines Ward is a tough bastard. If you think otherwise, it's probably because your team's defense is filled with pussies who just got stuck in the dirt by a QB-turned-WR who forgot he's supposed to be a little priss.

Far as I'm concerned (and I'm fairly far from a Steelers fan), Hines can keep doing what he does all the way to Canton.

Now, back to the eyes and testicles.

Specifically, the eyes of Georgia running back Washaun Ealey being nearly introduced to the fingers of Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes.

You want dirty? There it is, kids.

There's no way to sell that as an accident.

Spikes claimed it was retaliation for similar treatment earlier in the game. Possible, but still...the best way to retaliate in a football game is still to stick your shoulder pad in a back's chest, separate him from the ball, and then lay on top of him and talk about how he just hocked up his manhood when your team recovers the fumble.

Brock Lesnar and Georges St. Pierre, two leading practitioners of what John McCain once called "human cockfighting," aren't allowed to go for the eyes. There's no call for Brandon Spikes to be doing it, either.

And Urban Meyer doesn't get a pass on this one, either. I'm a bit of a Meyer fan, but ye gods, what the hell do you gain by suspending someone for a half? By halftime against Vanderbilt, most of the starters wouldn't be in anyway, so what's the point?

Spikes has now "suspended himself" for the entire game, and it seems like a nice gesture. To whom, I'm not sure, but still. I highly doubt that it was Spikes' idea. Urb's probably gotten a whiff of the whole teapot tempest that his limp-wristed "punishment" started and needed a way to cover himself without LOOKING like he was covering himself. This way, Spikes looks like a "responsible young man" seeking atonement for his actions, and the Gators get a few extra bonus points for "overcoming distractions" and beating Vanderbilt shorthanded.

Since, you know, Vanderbilt's 2-7 record is pretty intimidating and all.

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