That NFL players are under a social microscope during their careers is a given. When they retire, most fade away; walking into a media-less sunset. Some former players try their hand at commentary, and rightly so. They played the game, and can speak with first hand knowledge, insight, as well as passion. But for some, this post-career choice never should have been allowed to happen...
There's a fine line between honesty, and craven headline seeking drivel to further a career. The separation is apparent, and sports fans all know who has earned respect for their thoughts and insights, and those that spew whatever they can to garner attention to be the social media flavor of the moment. Maybe TV producers love and encourage this, but there has to be a line drawn somewhere in the ethereal media world that should cull the worst from the best.
Former NFL player Rodney Harrison is one who needs to either learn quickly, or be axed summarily and finally. His latest slip into the realm of blatantly counter-intuitive - though revealing - headline seeking came on "The Dan Patrick Show".
"If I was playing against Cam Newton, I would try to take him out. I would try to take him out." When Patrick asked Harrison what he meant, his answer didn’t get any better. "I would try to hurt him," Harrison said. "I would go right to his knees. That’s the goal. You want to knock him out — that might be the difference between winning and losing the Super Bowl..."
"We’re going for his knees," Harrison said. "Every time he runs the ball we need seven, eight guys hitting him. Hitting him in his shoulder if he tries to jump over the pile. Put your crown of your helmet right through his throat. That’s just the mentality." - Rodney Harrison, The Dan Patrick Show - 2/3/16
Mentality, or just plain mental? Though some would point to Harrison's statements as being what he felt as honest, I have to look a bit further to the "why say this/intent"... I can't get past the idea Harrison was simply trying to say something controversial on the show, at whatever the cost. As an analyst for NBC Sports, trying to get noticed so he stays employed may be the reason? Voted 3 times "the Dirtiest Player in the NFL" - twice by players (2004, 2006) and once by coaches (2008) - his resume for the job at NBC should have had network executives more than a bit nervous. Harrison must have hidden - what seems to me as - his lurking monster ego...
Let's be clear here: I doubt Harrison's comments are tantamount to "...falsely shouting FIRE", though it does make me wonder what Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. would think of some media personalities today...
Not long ago, Harrison represented himself as the "high road" observer when St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner was called for a late hit on Viking quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He lashed out a Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, who had uncharacteristically taken Harrison to task for his "the pot calling the kettle black" pronouncement that his team was dirty:
"I wouldn't say I took things personal, but it was kind of a personal attack on me," Fisher said. "Again, I think you have to consider the source. I saw it last night on the airplane. You're talking about a guy that had a great career. I mean, he played a long time, he was hard to defend, he was a really active defensive player. But this is coming from a guy that had 18 unnecessary roughness penalties, seven personal fouls, four roughing the passer penalties, a total of 77 penalties in his career and was voted three times the dirtiest player in the National Football League and was suspended for a hit, a helmet-to-helmet hit on Jerry Rice in 2002..."
"This is where these comments are coming from. I'll just say this. Since 2000, it's been a privilege and honor for me to be on the competition committee. And our main focus ... is player safety. So for Rodney to come out and say that I did something like that is absolutely absurd." - Jeff Fisher, via NFL.com
In still another shift, Harrison went from the "high road" to "fringe owning" his well earned dirty player moniker:
"...Well, if I am a dirty player then guess what, I should know what a dirty hit is. That's why I called it what it was. It was a cheap shot, it was a dirty shot, and I think everybody else that saw that tape saw that." - Rodney Harrison, via PFT
NFL analysts worth our time are - by and large - cherished. But some just seem to be mouths in a suit; willing to spout anything that keeps them noticed. The bad one couldn't care less whether what they say has value. One way to look at them may be as modern day "Sin-eaters", saying out loud the course of dark past deeds, and gathering their assignment to themselves in a bizarre attempt to build a kind of relevance? Some will do anything for money and fame. I think Harrison falls into this category. He may need a way to replace all the fines levied against him during his playing days: Over $200,000?
Harrison's latest stumble worked though, which is kind of sad. He's wormed his way into Super Bowl headlines, with Panthers' players showing their well watched social media wrath:
It’s crazy to think that I actually use to look up to a guy like @rodney_harrison even after he got caught cheating!— Thomas Davis (@ThomasDavisSDTM) February 5, 2016
How can you sit there and say you would intentionally try to hurt another player? #NoRespectForTheGame get this clown off the air!! #RH— Thomas Davis (@ThomasDavisSDTM) February 5, 2016
I couldn't agree more with Thomas Davis, but in a way he's fueling Harrison's desire to stay relevant when all eyes should be on the Super Bowl. Sadly, the Harrison-s and Skip Bayless-s of the sports media world are of our own making. The people they work for care about getting an audience to look in, regardless of the lack of integrity in what's being said... I guess NBC doesn't care who represents their historic and iconic brand today? If they did, Rodney Harrison would be shown the door...