Friday, October 14, 2011

In Defense of James Harrison: Is He the NFL's Meanest Man, or Most Misunderstood?

According to Sports Illustrated, this past week NFL players voted James Harrison the “meanest player in the NFL”.  Garnering 35% of the vote, Harrison was the runaway “winner” of a poll in which all questions asked remain secret, including how they were phrased and whether or not they dealt with both on- and off-field issues.  Instead of jumping to conclusions or taking SI’s word at face value, let’s examine how James Harrison’s conduct could be viewed as “mean” or misconstrued in that manner.

On the Field
Last year James Harrison was fined a total of $100,000 by the NFL for various methods he employed to take down his opponents – in other words, he was just doing his job.  But shouldn’t everyone involved with football seen this coming?  Harrison was often suspended for similartypes of plays in high school and college – in other words, he is a model of consistency.  The fact that there are literally dozens of Youtube videos roughly named “James Harrison’s Greatest Hits” would suggest that rather than alienating fans of professional football his style of play has made him an ambassador of the game (bringing his work into the homes of doctors and psychologists).  To accuse him of dirty play for hitting opponents in the head is like accusing Michelangelo of using too much gold when he painted – artistic license exists both in SisteneChapels and in sports.  It’s not as though Harrison wants to hurt people; a tackle is a tackle, whether you go for the legs or try to snap the larynx.  

Off the Field
Off the field, James Harrison has stirred controversy with repeated encounters with law enforcement, and a willingness to speak out against the NFL and its commissioner.  But how much do we really know about these incidents?  We know that he has assaulted his girlfriend, but what if she had just beaten him in Scrabble, or turned off his Xbox Live account?  To take something as complex as simple assault out of context is to disregard the legal principles this nation was built upon.  Similarly, are his assertions that Roger Goodell is a “thief… crook… devil… dictator…” really that unfounded?  Goodell stole weeks of training camp from the players this past summer, has supreme executive authority in the NFL (even Hitler has to deal with unions, just ask Hank Williams), and while occult science is still in its infancy we cannot rule out the possibility that Goodell is the Antichrist, medically speaking.  Perhaps James Harrison is not a mean villain, but instead a beacon of light and truth toiling beneath the despotic rule of Commisar Commissioner Goodell.

Ultimately, most of us will never have the honor of meeting Mr. James Harrison in person (or if we do, not remember it due to post-concussion syndrome).  But when evaluated in a reasonable, non-biased manner it quickly becomes clear that the story of whether or not Mr. Harrison is mean is much murkier than “35%”.  So shame on you, Sports Illustrated, for reporting survey results with no real facts involved.  Shame on you, NFL players, for voting out of fear and jealousy –that’s exactly what the terrorists want you to do.  And shame on you, Roger Goodell, for manipulating the media against James Harrison… and for being the Antichrist.  Nobody likes an Antichrist.

Joe Silvestro is a regular contributor to Sports Casual, check back every Funday Friday for his witticisms concerning the Wide World of Sports.  Email him at

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