Harrison and the Hits

It was a June evening in 2009 … months after the Steelers had won Super Bowl XLIII and days before their trip to Washington. I was serving as the night’s emcee at Oakmont Country Club and one of the celebs on hand for this fund-raiser was James Harrison.

That night I asked the Steelers linebacker during an on-camera interview that night about the trip to meet the President. He told me was not going. Startled, I thought he was kidding so I asked again. He was adamant that if  the President wouldn’t invite the team before they won the Super Bowl, then why go after?

That interview became national news … and Mr. Harrison did not go to Washington.

I share that story only to give credence to Harrison’s comment that he may “retire” after being fined $75K for his controversial hit on Sunday. This man will actually retire. He is a man of his word. I learned that first hand.

That being said, I don’t think he should retire because of the league’s decision to enforce stiffer penalties for shots to the head on opposing players. So many of our Facebook fans on WTAE have been calling the NFL a “skirt” league and attacking the league for going after the Steelers on this. In my opinion, this should have been done a long time ago.

I never played in the NFL. Like many boys, and more and more girls, my career ended in high school. However, I was always taught the proper way to tackle was to go after the opponent’s mid-section or legs and wrap my arms, pushing my helmet and shoulder pads into the opponent from the side. Never was I ever taught to hit someone above the head. I have attended Steeler training camp for more than a decade and never seen a single drill emphasizing such hits.

Simply put, it’s not a skill to be able to take someone’s head off.

So many Facebook posters are saying the league will become a “flag football” league if such head hunting rules are enforced, If that is what you seek, then football is not the game for you. The excitement of football is execution of big plays and solid, physical tackling. Not hits that could leave a player dazed, unconscious or possibly dead.

Like all things in life this controversy will pass. People will accept the game and continue to make it the nation’s most popular sport. We will get used to it. Hopefully, it will cut down on the injuries. And James Harrison will play again. While he may be a different breed, even he knows he’s not going to make this kind of money doing anything else … and believe me, money can make people do things they don’t want to do. Even tackle below the waist,

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