Given the sport he plays, given his encouragement to be violent, and given his history, was it really any surprise when the Steelers’ James Harrison went off like a Roman candle against the league’s commissioner and a few teammates?
Sure, Harrison was out-of-line with the anti-gay slur he uttered about Roger Goodell. And you don’t throw teammates under the bus. But make no mistake. Somewhere in those NFL offices on Park Avenue, there were smiles. Of course, league officials would never admit to it publicly. But what Harrison did was give NFL fans something to chew on other than the lockout.
Harrison, in other words, is good for business. A violent game produced some exceptionally violent comments from a violent man. It’s sooooo pro football. Harrison will be fined; the NFL has to feign indignation. But don’t doubt for a moment the NFL doesn’t see the value in Harrison’s diatribe.
Every sport needs a villain. See the Yankees and George Steinbrenner or LeBron James and the Heat. It needs targets because sports, like a memorable movie, need good guys and bad guys. It’s required, actually. Otherwise it’s rooting for vanilla playing vanilla. Harrison has gone waaaay out of his way to make sure he the villian.
One also shouldn’t be surprised what Harrison is saying now: The writer for Men’s Health twisted his words. It’s the old Twisted Word defense. Used so much we need to come up with a better excuse.
Also don’t be surprised when you hear or read that some of what Harrison said rings true. Strip away the vitriol and Harrison was saying what a lot of players think about Goodell.
Did Harrison go overboard in his dislike? Sure. But this is pro football, not a Saturday tea with The Queen.