*It seems as though I’m in the minority on this issue but it still doesn’t make sense to me.
In the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati pro football playoff game last weekend, a Bengals player was cited for unnecessary roughness for doing something that in my opinion was in the nature of a violent sport like football (although this can be argued) and was not at all “rough” (this cannot be argued).
On the play in question Ben Roethlisberger targeted Antonio Brown. But because of a shoulder injury the ball was not accurate. A Bengal defender, Vontaze Burfict was attempting to tackle Brown as if he had caught the ball and the two men contacted one another.
I am not using “contact” to be humorous. In a sport like football in which there are multiple collisions on every play what happened between Brown and Burfict was minor. But because the rules favor the offense to an absurd degree Burfict was supposed to avoid Brown altogether. And this is the part that doesn’t make sense to me. I’m not sure how defenders are supposed to play if they cannot hit offensive players.
Don’t mistake me. I do not wish to see anyone injured. But I do want to see games where the defense can touch the offense and not receive a penalty. I’m not arguing that Burfict isn’t a dirty player – I’m not an AFC North fan so I don’t watch him play regularly. But it seems to me that if he was targeting Brown for a cheap shot he could’ve done that. It seems to me that he attempted to avoid and run past Brown. I watched most of this game and it was very “chippy” and on the verge of out of control. Nevertheless the play that Burfict was penalized for was not escalating a situation and involved minimal contact.
Of course subsequent to the Burfict penalty, Pacman Jones added to an already bad situation by receiving a second penalty for contacting Pittsburgh assistant coach Joey Porter. Jones was wrong, and this game was proof positive that Marvin Lewis needs to exercise some more control over his players. But Jones wouldn’t have bumped Porter because Porter wouldn’t have been on the field if the correct call was made from the beginning.
Of course this is all just fun and games. Of course I’m not really upset. But for many these things are more than fun and games and they are very upset. I’ve covered this before but for all of the local business that thrive when the local sports team is doing well, sports matter a hell of a lot. Particularly in Cincinnati where there won’t be any more pro sports until Reds training camp. Throughout the game the Cincinnati fans showed how intensely invested in the game they were. They cheered when Roethlisberger got hurt; they threw debris on the field. Neither of these actions is commendable but it is proof positive that they would’ve packed local bars next week when the Bengals would’ve been on the road for the next playoff game. If I’m a bar owner in Cincinnati I’m pissed at the call.
By midweek everyone will be done with this game, having moved on to teams that are still alive and hoping to win the Super Bowl. And that’s the way it should be; most fans just want to be entertained for a few hours and the teams that are on the field are inconsequential.
I just wish Pittsburgh had earned it a little more.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.