I like hard-hitting football. I like guys who give it their all. I admire players who overcome injury and pain to play the game. Some might call the game of football "war"...
... but, it's still just a game.
It is a game that is played for entertainment, not for land or life, as is the case when it comes to war.
Football is a game, and as such, it is governed by the rules of the game and the ethical and decent principles of good sportsmanship—or at least it should be. Hell, even war has rules, even if they are not always followed.
Play to maim. That is the mantra of too many professional athletes, especially those who participate in that most physical of contests, American football.
What mindset possesses the player with such a philosophy?
What individual characteristic is common to those players who feel a need to injure their opponent in order to win a game?
The answer to both of these questions, in my mind, is cowardice.
They are cowards. Plain and simple.
They are cowards because they FEAR their opponent to the extent that they feel they must remove him from the contest in order to achieve victory. They know, deep down in their hearts that he is better than them.
They know that they cannot overcome him according to the rules of the game and by adherence to the noble ideal of sportsmanship. They are the cowards. They are Commodus surreptitiously stabbing Maximus before engaging him in the Roman arena (cf. the movie Gladiator).
There is a fine line between hard-hitting football and deliberate intention to injure. I am proud that my beloved Saints won it all by playing good, clean, hard-hitting football.
I was proud of them when, even after leveling an opposing quarterback, they reached down to give him a hand off of the turf; that they could be seen conscientiously refraining from flattening him when they knew they already had him wrapped up and declared down.
My Saints proved that you don't have to "play to maim" in order to win. Somebody, it seems, has missed the pointed beauty of such a victory. Somebody didn't get the memo.
After hearing about Brett Favre's ankle surgery this week, our Saint-in-name-only, Darren Sharper, decided to post the following to his Twitter account:
"Well y'all seen Brett had surgery on that ankle we got after in the championship game. Come Thursday night 1st game. X marks the spot."
Let it be known that I was a fan of Sharper. A HUGE fan. When the deliberations and negotiations dragged on through the offseason, I was secretly praying that the Saints would re-sign him. But, now I see the truth of that old saying: Be careful what you pray for.
I am very disappointed in you, Darren. Maybe you don't care. Maybe you think I'm just a stupid, opinionated fool who doesn't have a clue about what the "real world of professional football" is about.
Or maybe, just maybe, what I'm talking about is not subject to the realities of the "real world." Maybe I'm talking about something bigger, something that transcends a game, something that transcends even you.
My own philosophy for many years was: I will play by your rules. If you hit below the belt, so will I. If you take cheap shots, so will I. If you have no principles, neither will I.
It took many years for me to understand that, no matter what the other guy thinks, says, or does, I was only betraying my own principles by giving in to his.
Know that the Vikings and their fans have taken note of your intentions. They are already determining that, if that's the way you intend to play, there are many players on the Saints who have an X on them.
Reggie's bad knee. Drew's injured shoulder. Your own bad knee. Look at what you have done.
You have brought evil to your teammates. Though they had no part or control of what you said, they will pay the price. It's a team game, Darren. You are not an island.
I urge you to rescind your remark; to apologize for your despicable attitude and philosophy. Forgiveness is something that most will give to the truly contrite.
However, if you are cold-hearted, hard-headed, and unrepentant, then I say to you: He who digs a pit will fall into it. You will suffer what you have determined to do to others. Your season will be over before it even starts.
Favre never played for a team that I liked. Yet, I admire him for the way he has played the game with dignity, toughness, and outstanding sportsmanship and character. Those who criticize him for wanting to be wanted do not understand the man or the game he plays.
Repent and be saved, Mr. Sharper, lest you bring down the consequences of your remarks on the entire team. You have betrayed them, but it's not too late to make amends and correct your mistake.
If you choose to not do so, I hope that coach will have the courage and conviction to suspend you for the first game so that you will not have the chance to attack the spot you have marked with an X and thus, assuage the vengeful intentions of the opponent whom you have so wrongly and ruthlessly targeted.