Recently Steelers linebacker James Harrison, one of the most ferocious players in the NFL and former Defensive Player of the Year said he does not want to injure anyone. “There’s a big difference between being hurt and being injured. You get hurt; you shake it off and come back the next series or the next game. I try to hurt people,” said Harrison. In his mind there is a distinct difference between trying to hurt people and actually putting an opponent on the injured reserve list. If he was trying to injure players it would be inherently evil but Harrison maintains he was merely “geeking things up.”
The fundamental problem with Harrisons’ argument is so much is still unknown about the lasting affects of concussions. While a concussion today may leave you with feelings of “dizziness” and “general fogginess” as Bears Quarterback Jay Cutler described, the verdict is still out on the future impact and implications of concussions; it is however, becoming apparent that concussions may be more dangerous than expected. A study conducted in 2007 by the University of North Carolina’s Center for the Study of Retired Athletes found that football related concussions are linked to depression, dementia, memory loss, and the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. So when Mohamed Massaquoi is 45, slurring his words while reading a bedtime story to his daughter, taking pain killers to manage the pain in his back and neck, suffering from memory loss and contemplating suicide should James Harrison be held accountable? No, because evil supposes intent. Just as premeditated murder is nothing short of evil; vehicular manslaughter, while awful and tragic, is bad, not evil. Harrison’s claim draws a $75,000 fine line between evil and badness. In a sport where each play develops so fast and each action is fueled by instinct it is impossible to say Harrison’s hits are premeditated.
On concussions alone, a reader at deadspin.com, compiled the following list of players who have been diagnosed concussions in 2010:
PRESEASON: Ryan Grant, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Joseph Addai, Mark Clayton, Nick Sorensen, Aaron Curry, DJ Ware, Louis Murphy, Scott Sicko, Mike Furrey, Darnell Bing, Freddy Keiaho
WEEK 1: Kevin Kolb, Stewart Bradley, Matt Moore, Kevin Boss, Charly Martin
WEEK 2: Clifton Ryan, Jason Witten, Randall Gay, Craig Dahl, Zack Follett, Evan Moore
WEEK 3: Anthony Bryant, Cory Redding, Jason Trusnik
WEEK 4: Jordan Shipley, Willis McGahee, Jay Cutler, Asante Samuel, Riley Cooper, Sherrod Martin
WEEK 5: Aaron Rodgers, Darcy Johnson, Jacob Bell, Landon Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Rocky McIntosh
WEEK 6: Josh Cribbs, Desean Jackson, Mohamed Massaquoi, Zack Follett, Chris Cooley
What unifies this group? Individually, they all make at least $300,000 to $16 million more than I do a year. So while critical of Harrison’s performance Cleveland Browns’ Tight end Benjamin Watson hits the nail on the head. “At the end of the day it’s football and it’s what people want to see,” Watson said. “It’s why the game is so popular, it’s why we get paid great salaries to play this game, because there’s a desire in the American public to see this type of violence.” The same reasons that MMA has knocked out NASCAR as the world’s fastest growing sport are the exact reasons football is so beloved– violence, brutality, and unpredictability.
Instead, it is the actions of the players off the field that should have the attention of National Football League Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson: Brett Favre waving his dick out of his Wranglers, Junior Seau driving his car off of 30-foot cliffs after a brief stint in jail for domestic abuse, and Jerramy Stevens recently arrested for felony marijuana possession.
Let us not forget that Michael Vick is now the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, Pacman Jones will be welcomed back by the Bengals when he returns from surgery, and Albert Haynesworth is the highest paid face stomper in history (7-year, $100 million deal). Dog fighting, gun fighting, and face stomping were all blatant acts of evil. Lewd pictures, domestic abuse, and intent to sell are premeditated acts of immorality; James Harrison going 100 mph and taking off a few receivers’ heads while bad is forgivable, and for a fan of big hits much is appreciated.