Ndamukong Suh is the debate this week.
With descriptions of "dirty player", "lame excuses", "stomped on" and "smashed his head into the ground", criticism is seeming negative about a player who is playing, well, negatively.
I guess if we could imagine us standing around the water cooler today, this is probably what I would tell you:
I tried to take a respectful approach to this whole "Suh Saga" that has now engulfed the NFL. I wrote an article about the 5 Defensive Lineman Who Changed their Franchises. That was my subtle way of expressing to you all that I honestly don't think Suh is a dirty player.
Now, before you scroll down to the comments and call me everything but a white girl, hear me out before you rush to judgment of what you think I may say.
Ever Changing the Game of Emotion
I don't do well with change. It's one thing to force a $400 phone down my throat. I can resist that. But to change the game of football? I am having a harder time digesting.
Often times we have watched many a player tear up offensive lines, rush quarterbacks and literally dominate. We were an accepting culture to such entertainment. Our discussions come Monday morning would be about the freight train, named Ronnie Lott, that hit Ickey Woods. That hit was awesome!
We could boast about the Dexter Manley's and all the other hard hitting players. But in today's NFL, it is safety first.
I am all about safety and I would be the first person to turn my head if they replayed an injury. I just don't want to see them. For some reason, it just never thrilled me to watch someone's leg break in slow motion.
Injuries are perceived different if they are inflicted by someone purposefully. Stomping on someone's arm, ripping off their helmets (or their heads) or possibly just a head-first hit that knocks a player out. None of which are acceptable by any standard.
Ndamukong Suh was out of line on his actions Thursday night. I honestly feel that he needs to rein in his "composure" a little more and work on his reactions to a given situation. At best, he had a news conference to explain his actions. At worst, he is going to be paying another fine.
Suh is indeed passionate. He is a giving human being and anyone that has benefited from his charitable nature would tell you the same. However, on the field, he is in a different mode. The House of Spears becomes the head hunter and his assurance seems to keep slipping week after week.
Do people look for him to blow up each week? Sure we do. This is entertaining, after all. No different than how we looked at Chad Ochocinco to pull a celebratory stunt after a six point trip to the end zone.
If Ndamukong Suh can redeem himself in the NFL, would he be forgiven?
A Letter of Apology?
This is the change I have the problem with and this is how I see the situation with Suh; Ndamukong has to take sole responsibility for his actions on the field. Nobody else can do that for him. His sole actions cost his team. As an individual, he has to own up to that. However, in doing so, I honestly do not think it will matter to the football fans across the nation whether he owns up to his on field brutal activity or not.
You see, we have become so enthralled with the drama of the sport, that when he holds a press conference, his words are critiqued as "lame." Had he said all the things you wanted him to say, it would have been something else that he left out. Criticism is never-ending and with our blood thirsty society today, in my opinion, it wouldn't matter if Suh came clean, wrote a letter of apology to Evan Dietrich-Smith or his mother. Suh would not be forgiven.
He has a target now—that he brought on himself—that is much bigger than the game of football. What ever opinion we had of him before yesterday's game could have been negotiable. Not now. He has pretty much sealed off any hopeful defensive case for his style of play.
If Ndamukong Suh wants to continue in this league, he will need to exercise more mental discipline and not offer press conferences, excuses or apologies. Dick Butkus would never apologize.
For me, I can be more forgiving if Suh turns his game around. I still knit pick at Vince Wilfork (who was fined $12,500) for the 'flying elbow' on JP Losman. But you know what, everybody is going to have two versions to what they perceive as accidental or intentional. Just depends on who you root for, I guess.
A Commercialized Commissioner
If you could think for a moment of Roger Goodell. Just think about what your personal thoughts may be of him. Like him or dislike him, agree with him or don't agree with him, you have an opinion formed, clearly. Now, what do you think about Vince McMahon? Remember the XFL?
I am starting to wonder if Goodell isn't getting a little McMahon-like in this whole advertisement crazed industry.
While you are pondering about that for a minute, I thought I would bring up the fact that the NFL and all the pioneers that we choose to support are slowly turning into figures in museums. That's all that will be left. Trophies, statues, bronze busts and NFL Films is what we will have left of the game of football as we knew it.
Commercialization, media hype and "special" protections in safety is bringing this game into a change that we either evolve with or we do not. If Suh was Mean Joe Greene and went after Jim Plunkett like that, would we complain? Maybe if you are a Raider fan, understandably, but what is the difference?
Analyzing our Acceptances
What was acceptable to us in the 1960's in this sport was barely acceptable in the 1980's. Moreover, too many alterations have been made in order to even digest the rule changes of today's game.
The game is not the same. The concept is about the only true notion that still exists.
Even so, while football fans want to analyze a player for being dirty, we should probably first realize what we consider to be dirty. Honestly, I think John Randle makes Suh look like a boy scout, Often times we have watched players throughout this sport dominate and brutalize opponents and that seemed to soothe our senses. Yet, in today's game of football we have conformed to the arbiter of picking out players to ridicule. We do this extensively.
We, as a society, need to decide which era of football we are going to accept. The Butkus, Deacon Jones and Lawrence Taylor era or the Tom Brady and Roger Goodell era. Let's face it; if I am going to aim my hostility at the softness in this league and who is responsible for turning it into a—as a majority of fans have expressed—flag football league, then why are we paying these players more to actually play less?
As long as there are fines, suspensions and knee-jerk decisions for ejection, I guess the simple truth would be to enjoy the softness that is the NFL and just cherish the eras of the game as we knew it. This era of football is about commercializing the sport. The game is not about taking out the quarterback and playing as gladiators. No. The game has become a $100 million contract game with rules that appease a commerce society.
Perhaps I am the one having the problem with adapting to today's era of football. I have seen hits that James Harrison or Suh have made and don't feel that they warranted fines. That is just me. I try to remain as pragmatic as possible, yet when Suh is "getting his leg loose and going the other direction" it does not make my case much easier.
I am a Suh fan, just as I was a Mike Tyson fan. Suh has not lost his mind completely, thank goodness. I would hate to see him as a cameo in some partying road trip movie after some whacked-out drunk has stolen his exotic animal. Maybe Saturday Night Live could offer him an opportunity to self-deprecate, After all, we are all about imagery and allowing the media (social or otherwise) to make one guilty before proven innocent.
Bottom line is that low tolerance of violence in the game of football has been duly-noted. Individuals who act out on the field should, by all means, own up to their actions. The fines and suspensions are just the reality of such efforts to keep the game as safe as possible. Above all, may it be our job, as players, consumers and critics to try and keep some sort of integrity into what is left of this sport.