Chances are if you’re reading this, then you’re a Pittsburgh Steelers’ fan. Even if you’re not, you can’t deny the fact that Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison is the poster child for Commissioner Roger Goodell’s assault on the game in the name of ‘player safety.’ Harrison, who has yet to see a down of action so far in 2012 is once again in the spotlight as a new film called the “The United States of Football” was screened in Pittsburgh recently.
Harrison’s ‘greatest hits’ are all featured in the film. Hits on Mohamed Massaquoi, Colt McCoy and Joshua Cribbs of the Cleveland Browns have been used in videos from the high school to the college level of examples of ‘poor’ tackling and always will be quite frankly.
I’ve defended Harrison a lot on these very pages, but have always tried to be honest too. There is no question that as a tackler, Harrison leads with his head. He did so on both shots of Massaquoi and Cribbs while his hit on McCoy I found to be much more questionable because McCoy had become a runner and lowered his head so as to be on level with Harrison’s, but #92 was still fined and suspended.
Harrison of course didn’t do himself any favors when his controversial interview in Men’s Journal was released. Harrison was shown holding his two handguns and was quoted with less than polite remarks about the commissioner. His demeanor in general borders on perpetually angry and disinterested, yet he continues to be a popular guy among Steelers’ fans. I, nor anyone else would suggest he be ‘Mr. Sunshine,’ but in terms of his overall persona league-wide he isn’t viewed real well. News flash… He doesn’t care either.
For Roger Goodell, Harrison was the perfect guy at the perfect time. Retired and former players were lawyering up in droves in preparation for the head trauma lawsuit filed against the National Football League and Goodell needed a poster boy for his defense. Like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas finding Harrison Ford for Indiana Jones, Goodell found his own ‘Harrison.’ In finding James Harrison, he also had owners in the Rooneys who worked tirelessly to get him appointed commissioner and would do nothing to get in his way over ‘making the game safer.’ Essentially, this was the perfect set-up for Goodell.
Whether or not James Harrison ever plays a down of football in the NFL again, he will be forever in its’ history and sadly it won’t be for his 100-yard interception return in Super Bowl XLIII or for his defensive MVP award. Harrison will always be remembered for the hits and for the suspensions and the fines. He can’t ever escape it and I’m not really sure he wants to or even cares either.