Did anyone else feel oddly conflicted on Sunday when Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate hit Dallas linebacker Sean Lee?
I'd imagine many Seahawks fans rather enjoyed watching Tate send Lee flying to protect Russell Wilson as he scrambled, yet what I saw and continue to see each time I replay the hit really seems to bother me.
Years ago I probably would have thoroughly enjoyed this clip and mockingly added a voice over upon each viewing, "the hunter becomes the hunted," as you would expect in an old nature film.
Now, I'm honestly torn.
What if the shoe were on the other foot and if it were Tate that got whacked by Lee?
What would we all be saying now?
It's not that I'm looking to stir the pot or offer a stern warning of the dangers and brutality of football, but more to get a litmus test of where everyone stands on the whole issue of football, safety, concussions, etc...
To date many passionate arguments have been put forth by proponents and opponents of this on-going discussion, but the problem I'm dealing with is that it seems we all want to have our cake and eat it too.
Believe me, it's not like I'm giving my 'Hawks gear to Goodwill any time soon. I still very much love the game and will continue to watch, but it's getting harder when you know deep down that a play like the one we saw Sunday could have potentially hurt not only Lee, but also Tate.
If you'll forgive me, (I'm about to hike up my pants and sound like a cranky old man) but what happened there was downright dangerous and the replacement referees are only making matters worse by not exercising some measure of authority.
ESPN's Tim Keown put together his thoughts on the issue following this week's action and offered this interesting point:
"When it comes to understanding how far they can push, and how much of an advantage they can gain, professional football players are geniuses. The longer this penny-ante lockout lasts, the more chippy the games are going to be and the more cheap shots the smart guys are going to pull off successfully."
Honestly, I don't think Tate is a dirty player. At the same time he probably should have been flagged on Sunday and in my opinion deserves to be fined.
Of course, Pete Carroll, in response to the play defended Tate as any good coach would do to the seattlepi.com's Nick Eaton:
“I thought it was a great block. I thought it was a great play,” Carroll said after the game. “I think everybody questioned that block because you thought that’s what the penalty was. I didn’t see the late hit out of bounds, but I was told that early on, so I realized what that (flag) was. I think that (block) was just a great opportunity, and he knocked the heck out of that kid.”
Five to ten years ago I would have agreed wholeheartedly.
Heck, 15 to 20 years ago I would have relished the chance to make a play like that myself. As a player that was always undersized you looked for every possible advantage you could get and few plays were more satisfying than decleating someone.
Tate's hit was...
At the same time, few plays were more painful on your body and ego when you ended up on the receiving end. More often than not though you kept playing, as it was how we were raised and coached.
But now with the bloodlust of my youth well past, I find myself wrestling with the game and wonder how to deal with the topic when the time comes with my own son.
What do I teach my nearly two-year-old son when the time comes if evidence continues to mount against the game?
By the time he's old enough to take an active interest, will football still look and feel the same?
Right now, football couldn't be any more popular, but can it be safer without compromising the integrity of the game?
To me, the next five to ten years will be critical and whether meaningful adjustments are made or not could make all the difference.
Whether anyone at the NFL does anything about it remains to be seen, but the first place to start is to fine Golden Tate and put that money towards getting the real refs back on the field. This past weekend the Seahawks put the hurt on the Cowboys and lived to tell about it, but let's not forget that it's a double-edged sword that could come back to hurt them.