Posted by: mdegeorge | November 30, 2010

Tuesday Morning Diagnosis: Commissioner’s office losing the plot in fines department

One has to wonder the process by which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell arrives at his disciplinary decisions. Something tells me it resembles a “Price is Right” pricing games, or it may involved throwing darts at a big spreadsheet.

How else do you explain the new one-size fits all fine of $25,000 (hitting stores just in time for Christmas)? Consider the latest recipients:

HOUSTON - NOVEMBER 28: Wide receiver Andre Johnson  of the Houston Texans is separated by umpire Garth DeFerlice  from cornerback Cortland Finnegan  of the Tennessee Titans after the two exchanged punches in the fourth quarter at Reliant Stadium on November 28, 2010 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Andre Johnson, who receives honors for the play of the weekend—notice the ball is conspicuously absent from the shot—for his mugging of Cortland Finnegan

Finnegan, for receiving said beating after egging Johnson on, as he apparently is wont to do; he and Johnson were both ejected from the game.

Richard Seymour, for last week getting ejected for an open-handed shove to the shoulder and helmet of Ben Roethlisberger that somehow felled the 240-pound quarterback

And weekly antagonist James Harrison for cleaning the clock of Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in a hit that earned the embattled linebacker a roughing the passer penalty

To posit that all four of these incidents are equivalent is utterly ridiculous. Johnson and Finnegan are first-time offenders, giving them some understandable benefit of the doubt. Johnson was also immediately apologetic for his actions, and his contrition probably helped him avoid a ban.

But for Johnson, who initiated the slugfest, not to be suspended or at least punished more severely is ridiculous. The same goes for Seymour, who hit out at Big Ben on a running play long after the ball was gone from the backfield.

Yet all three of these sanctions are the same amount as Harrison’s. The conspicuous difference in the videos of the three incidents is that the one chronicling

Harrison’s hit is the only one in which the pigskin is visible. Harrison has a reputation—to say the least—for running afoul of the league’s guidelines on hitting. But his infractions, numerous and petulant though they may be, are ultimately football plays, albeit overzealous and vicious ones.

There is absolutely no context within the rules of football in which the confrontation between Johnson and Finnegan can be deemed appropriate. The same goes for Seymour’s Billy Blanks impersonation. Yet they are meted the same punishment as Harrison’s action.

I hate to draw a lesson from that other football, but the rule here in the States should be the same as it is elsewhere: if you are ejected from one game, you’re out of the next one. No questions asked, especially in a league like the NFL where ejections don’t come about often and arise as a consequence of a very specific and egregious set of violations. The rule applies at the youth levels of most organized sports; why should the grown-ups be exempt?

It’s admirable that the NFL is finally taking a stauncher stance on on-field discipline. The latter years of the Paul Tagliabue administration into Goodell’s reign improved the off-field behavior and reputation of game.

Now it’s time to rein in on-field stupidity in all its forms. It’s difficult to compare each incident apples to apples; some apples, like Harrison, have prior infractions that mitigate the circumstances. It’s tempting to assess each incident’s severity by sheer dollar amounts. If we do that, than something is amiss in the way justice has been meted out.

It appears that Derek Anderson isn’t the only one who’s lost touch with sanity. The Comish and his cronies need to find some consistency in the sentences they dole out. It’s the only way to achieve the desired stability on the field.


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