You call Raiola dirty, I call him a football player
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
It was awful, heinous, despicable and barbaric, and it has no place in a civil society.
I refer not to any of the atrocities that go on daily around the world but to Dominic Raiola’s stomp of Ego Ferguson’s ankle. That has been the disproportionate public reaction to the Lions center’s apparent cheap shot of the Bears defensive tackle. I say “apparent’’ only because Raiola has proclaimed his innocence, while polishing his brass knuckles and sharpening his hidden belt-buckle knife.
I’m always amused at the angry response to dirty plays in the NFL. Players, fans and media are outraged – outraged! – that someone would operate outside the rules of a game based on violence and do something that might cause injury. You know, like players do every other play.
A man who is 6-foot-1, 310 pounds and makes his living trying to obliterate the person across the line from him did WHAT? He stomped on an ankle of a man who is 6-2, 315 pounds? How dare he!
Raiola, a 14-year veteran, stepped on Ferguson, a rookie, in the third quarter of the Lions’ victory over the Bears on Sunday. He wasn’t penalized on the play, but the league suspended him for a game without pay.
He was unlucky enough to be captured on camera doing something blatantly wrong. I’m sure that’s how he and other dirty players are looking at it. He got caught on camera, the video became a national sensation and here we are, shocked and upset. It’s like being shocked that a man who enjoys stealing panties is sporting a thong under his jean shorts when he’s arrested.
Look, we all understand that there’s a distinction between dirty and clean play, but to say that the line is anything other than fuzzy would be dishonest. NFL violence is arbitrary, in a way. Somebody decided that it’s not OK for a wide receiver or a quarterback to take a blow to the head from an opponent’s helmet, but until last season, it was OK for a running back to use the crown of his helmet as a battering ram outside the tackle box. Walter Payton made a career out of delivering that kind of punishment to would-be tacklers. Now it’s worthy of a fine.
Do you have any idea of what goes on in the pile during a fumble? Unspeakable things. Gouging, clawing, scratching and strangling of body parts not limited to the neck. It goes on because officials can’t see what’s happening in the massive blob of bodies.
They miss penalties all the time; it’s why players like Raiola are willing to take part in “extracurricular’’ activities. Whatever they can get away with is their guide.
What do you think these people do for a living? They try to inflict pain and suffering on opponents in the hope that it will help their team win. So it’s no surprise that a game predicated on violence would attract people with violent tendencies. The highest level of the sport is filled with very large, very strong men, some of whom have difficulty telling the difference between right and wrong – on the field and off.
To be clear, I’m not condoning Raiola’s behavior. Somebody’s season could be affected by that kind of act, an admonition that is football for, “You’ll shoot your eye out!’’ But I am chuckling at the wild-eyed response to Raiola’s stomp. What type of personality does the NFL attract? Raiola’s personality, the kind of personality that would do anything to get an edge, the kind of personality best described as “not quite right in the head.’’
And yet, dirty plays somehow are an affront to all that is good in the world.
Bears receiver Brandon Marshall spoke for the outraged on his ESPN 1000 radio show Monday.
“This guy is a dirty player, and he’s a worse human being,” he said. “He has no respect for himself, and [a] one-game [suspension] is freaking terrible. This was clear. This was clear. This guy literally jumped and stomped on this guy’s ankle. And we give him one game?’’
Many of us watch football for the visceral thrill of it. We watch the hand-to-hand combat from the safety of our homes. We’re not the ones with the bloody nose or the twisted knee or a broken arm. We’re not the ones whose brains will look like porridge in 25 years. We have a very easy time ignoring that.
But a cheap shot? Watch us be appalled.