ESPN's Bottom Line - Version 2.0

Monday, November 29, 2010

Punching is Best Left to the Professionals

This past weekend Cortland Finnegan managed to rile up Andre Johnson enough to start a fight which got them both thrown out of the game.  As you can see from the video Finnegan was up to his old tricks and Johnson had clearly had enough.  Although what you see in the video could land a normal person in jail, an NFL player only has to miss the remainder of the game and pay a $25,000 fine.  Which to both of these guys is not a crushing loss of money.  There seems to be some outrage about the seemingly light fines for such outrageous behavior.  After-all James Harrison of the Steelers has been fined over $100,000 this year for actual football hits, albeit illegal ones.  These two guys ripped each other's helmets off and started throwing hay-makers.  It seems incongruent to me.

For example, this hit by Asante Samuel cost him $40,000. My problem with the discrepancy is that Samuel's move here was essentially part of the play. Yes it was rough and he led with his helmet but he did it in the act of stopping the ball carrier, which is probably in the job description of an NFL cornerback. However, at no point in the NFL game are any players supposed to do anything close to rip another player's helmet off and proceed to repeatedly punch that player in the head.

If Roger Goodell had asked me what the penalty should be for such behavior I would have told him that both players should be suspended for 1 game.  This was his opportunity to send a message that reckless violence was no longer part of the NFL.  Unfortunately he missed his chance with this.  After watching PTI tonight Tony Kornheiser suggested that the NFL didn't want to suspend players because Houston has a prime time match-up on Thursday night with the Eagles on what else but the NFL Network.  It wouldn't really be good business for the NFL to remove one of the star players from a team right before that team plays on one of the few prime-time games the NFL Network has the rights to.  So what we are left with is a real mess.

The other problem with the light suspension that hasn't really been brought up by main stream media types yet is the discrepancy we've now seen in terms of punishment in college versus the pros.  Remember last year when Oregon lost to BCS outsider Boise St. and, up to that point future NFL draft stud, LeGarrette Blount sucker punched Byron Hout?  Well he did as you can see in the video below and was summarily suspended by Oregon for the remainder of the season all but eliminating his chances of being drafted at the level his actual talent demanded.  The kicker is that most people agreed that this was an acceptable punishment.  Well now he is the starting RB for the Tampa Bay Bucs despite going undrafted and earning MILLIONS of dollars less per year than he would if he had been drafted where he should have been, probably in the 2nd round somewhere.

Well, as my good friend Jacobean Richardson pointed out, how can the media now see Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan brawling during the middle of a game and think they deserve little more than a week suspension?  How can this inequality exist, especially in the media?  Is it merely the professionalism of the NFL that makes assault acceptable?  Isn't an "amateur" allowed the same expression of extreme emotion as a "professional?"  Something seems very wrong that people are so outraged when a college player punches another player, but when a pro does it, we tacitly approve it by such minimal punishments as $25,000.


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