When a Dirty Play is Not a Dirty Play

Ndamukong Suh made a dirty play on Sunday. It’s the type of thing that can end a guy’s season (People keep saying career, but how many people actually have their careers ended by one-time injuries anymore unless they’re already really old?). It’s the type of thing I wouldn’t want my future children doing or the type of thing I would want done to them. It’s the type of thing that should be banned from the game. And it wasn’t a dirty play.

Am I sounding contradictory enough yet? That’s because the NFL is among the most contradictory things in America. It’s a league where you root for the big hits (even if you don’t admit it), praise guys for playing through injuries (or crucify them for not doing so), and constantly venerate the ideals of “smash-mouth football”. And then you get on talk radio and complain about guys getting injured.

In the context of modern society, what Suh did was morally reprehensible. If you saw one guy do this to another guy on the street, it would probably lead to you being a witness in a civil suit. In the context of modern society, what Suh did is wrong. In the context of football, there’s only one word that can describe it: Meh. What Ndamukong Suh did on the football field on Sunday is not morally reprehensible. It is not reason to yell, “My word! What has he done!?”

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Ndamukong Suh’s hit is not a dirty play because in the context of American football, it’s not that big a deal. It’s hard-nosed and smash-mouth, and toughsoundingadjective-bodypart (stiff-arm? lock-jaw?). It’s the type of play where Suh would have been praised for his hustle if it hadn’t been flagged. And it happens all the time.

While the national media are up in arms over Suh putting a low block on John Sullivan (Mike & Mike haveĀ spent the past 4 days rehashing the incident), while Suh gets fined a record $100,000 for the hit, Clay Matthews still has not received a fine for his flying, super-late, superman hit on Colin Kaepernick out of bounds or the subsequent fisticuffs.

While Ndamukong Suh’s block is being called heinous and unconscionable, no one is bringing into the discussion that if an offensive player had done this to Suh in the pocket, it wouldn’t have even been a penalty, let alone a fine or the subject of national media scrutiny. Watch Suh on the following GIFs.

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The first one is from the infamous 2011 Thanksgiving Day game where Suh eventually lost his temper and stomped an offensive lineman’s arm. It was 1 of 3 times that the Packers went after Suh’s knees. The second GIF is from last year’s week 10 game against the Vikings. It was 1 of 2 times Suh was cut down at the knees. I didn’t have to search for these. I just picked 2 games I wanted to look at and found 5 examples. This happens all the time. While the media cries about Suh being dirty, they don’t notice the very same “dirty” plays from the opposition. It’s confirmation bias. It’s seeing what you want to see to tell the story you want to tell. It’s feigning moral outrage to show your audience that you can cheer on big hits and praise “pound the rock” football because you’re speaking from theĀ moral high ground. It’s self-serving, self-righteousness in a game where no players and no plays are perfectly “clean”.

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