Last year, I was nearly brought to tears at the story of a college softball player. Western Oregon and Central Washington were playing in the world softball championships when an Oregon player hit her first-ever home run but blew out her knee rounding first base. The umpire ruled that she had to round the bases to earn the point, but her teammates could not touch or help her. In an amazing display of courageous sportsmanship and self-sacrifice, two Washington outfielders picked her up and carried her around the bases. Washington lost the game.
You’ll never hear such stories in pro sports in this country.
I’m reading a lot today about James Harrison’s 100-yard game-stopping touchdown. Near the end of the second half of Super Bowl XLIII yesterday, Kurt Warner, two yards from a touchdown that would have put the Cardinals ahead, threw a beautiful, perfect interception. James Harrison darted out in front of Anquan Boldin–Warner’s intended target–and snatched the ball out of the air, then ran all the way from the Cardinal’s end zone to the Steeler’s, widening the gap to 17-7. Who knows where most of the Cardinal’s linebackers were; it was Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinal’s magic man receiver, who finally took Harrison down just inside the end zone.
Everyone’s talking about Harrison’s play today, calling him the hero of the game. But I don’t see a soul talking about what Harrison did in the second half. After taking down Kurt Warner (after the pass was released, mind you, something the Cardinals were penalized for earlier in the game), Harrison held
Warner* on all fours, punched him in the back, then picked him up and threw him back to the ground.
It wasn’t the only unbelievable behavior of the Super Bowl this year. Three fights broke out on the field, all started by Steelers players, one started on the sidelines in front of coach Ken Wisenhunt. Harrison started one after taking down Tim Hightower.
Vicious attacks on the level of what Harrison did normally result in far more serious penalties than an “unnecessary roughness” call and an automatic first down. The instant the referees saw what Harrison really did, they should have ejected him from the game and the NFL commission should have sharply reprimanded him. Football is a contact sport, but there is nothing in this world that justifies attacking a player after taking him down.
I’m not bitter about the Cardinals’ loss; Warner made some pretty embarrassing mistakes in the beginning. Allowing Harrison to run unchecked for the longest touchdown play in NFL history was absolutely inexcusable. My problem is with the juvenile behavior of the Steelers, and the ridiculous calls against Arizona that were never called equally against the Steelers.
Message to professional athletes: kids are watching. You’re setting an example that they will follow. When you behave like neanderthals, it not only puts a bad light on you as a sportsman, it sends your younger fans the message that it’s okay to behave that way. Grow the hell up. And to the NFL commission: do something about your brats.
I was incorrect in my recollection of the attack. I seemed to remember Warner being the object of Harrison’s rage after a pass; it was Aaron Francisco, #47 on the Cardinals’ special team, and it was after a kickoff. What’s worse than what I remembered, though, is that not only was Harrison NOT ejected from the game, the Steelers were not given any penalty. First down was upheld. Here’s the video: