We’re just two days removed from the slap heard round the NFL and the noise is only getting louder. For laying out Ben Roethlisberger with a Romanowksi special, Richard Seymour was hit with a $25,000 fine by the league office.
Fans in Pittsburgh are outraged, crying double standard as loudly as women within a 5-mile radius of Big Ben cry…well…you get the point. Meanwhile, Mike Tomlin is choosing to take the high road as the Raiders remain all but silent.
It was a given Seymour would be fined once he took the walk of shame back to the locker room in the second quarter. Many were expecting a suspension including the oft-fined James Harrison who has made many headlines of his own this season. Others quickly came to Seymour’s defense which makes about as much sense as Tiger Woods saying he made one mistake several hundred times. There really is no defending Seymour. No matter your take on the occurrence you can’t argue for a guy that put his agenda ahead of the team.
Welcome to the modern era of sports journalism where opinions are like family recipes – everybody’s got one and everyone thinks theirs is better than yours.
Should Seymour have been given a heavier fine? That is an impossible question to answer. For the player recently activated from the practice squad, $25,000 is a gut punch. For an All-Pro defensive tackle with a $12-million franchise tag, 25 G’s isn’t enough to make him think twice next time he gets the urge nor is doubling that number going to make a difference.
Now, relative to the amounts other players have been fined one could argue the sum slapped on Seymour is paltry. Again, this too is debatable as it leads to another question. Just how are the amounts of fines determined in the first place?
Most of the league sanctioned fines this year have been in relation to the attempts to make football a more family friendly game with less violence and more scoring. Well, if that is the case then where is there room in the game for players throwing punches between plays?
Which brings us to the next issue – should Seymour be suspended?
Again, this is another question whose answer is rooted in as much speculation as Mel Kiper’s big board. If the NFL adopted policies similar to the NBA, where players are suspended for simply putting one sneaker on the court during a fight, then we might have room for argument.
But since this is the NFL, where Roger Goodell and company rewrite rules on the fly, there is no standard for suspension or fine. It is all hearsay with nothing concrete to base an argument on one way or the other.
At the heart of the matter is the league and its officials. While neither is to blame for what happened, both should be held accountable for their actions or lack thereof.
The officiating crew in Pittsburgh was terrible. Now, they can’t prevent fights from happening but they sure can police them better. Sunday’s game was a war from the start. It didn’t take long to tell that we were in for some heated exchanges between two physical teams. The officials should have realized this and immediately gone to both coaches issuing warnings instead of sitting back and letting the ugliness unfold.
While we can no more blame the refs for Seymour’s slap than we can blame Roethlisberger for opening his mouth at the wrong time, we can look at how the officiating crew handled the fallout. Their grade: F.
Not only did the officials initially throw out the wrong guy but they had to be reminded by all of Heinz Field that it was Seymour who dropped Ben. As if there was any other Raider standing over Roethlisberger.
Lastly, we come to the league office. While commissioner Goodell should be applauded for his attempts to protect the players he must be reprimanded for not establishing a set code. There needs to be finite rules that spell out exactly what happens when the NFL law is broken. These decisions cannot be arbitrary fines handed out by spinning the wheel of punishment. A line in the sand must be drawn and all that cross it must face the same swift justice.
By the same token, there must also be room for error. Officials make errors, the league office makes mistakes. More leeway for officials to interpret rules and less rushing to judgment by the league are necessary to eliminate some of the gray in the areas in between.
Otherwise, we’re left with football games breaking out in the middle of fights. And somehow I don’t think Goodell has any desire to do business with Dana White.