Light or dark…
Black or white…
Heads or tails…
So often we want to label things and people one thing or the other. It’s what we choose to do as a society and we do it on a daily basis on any wide variety of things. Most of the time we feel compelled to brand people, places, and things in order to better relate to or understand them. In other instances it’s to draw a distinction, a line in the sand that separates the metaphorical us from them. That’s why it comes as no surprise that fans, analysts, and football players alike are all jumping on the bandwagon in an attempt to label Ndamukong Suh.
Suh is an interesting case. He’s a tremendous player with an absurd amount of talent at a position that often gets overshadowed by the glitzier, more news worthy positions in the NFL. Suh has come to accept that, because such is life for a defensive tackle. Rather than cry to media for attention with “look at me” tirades, Suh has gone about his business the right way, giving back to the University of Nebraska and within the local community in Detroit. He truly comes across as a great person with the best intentions, never seeking more than a simple thank you.
However, for as intellectual, thoughtful, and kind-hearted he is off the field, Suh is just as ruthless, brutal, and violent on it. In little over a year in the NFL Suh has a highlight reel full of hits that can make even the most die-hard football fans squeamish. Suh doesn’t hold back. He plays the game the way it is intended to be played; the way it has always been played before penalty flags for late hits and roughing the passer became the norm. When Suh gets his shot, he takes it. Leave yourself open to a big hit and Suh will deliver it.
Unfortunately, as the long list of victims continues to grow, so does Ndamukong Suh’s reputation. Everything came to a head this past Sunday when Atlanta players claimed Suh, along with other Lions, taunted an injured Matt Ryan. They claim he laughed, hurled insults and mockingly called for the cart as the medical staff made its way over to the crumpled lump of a man formally known as Matt Ryan. (I take no issue with what he said or “maybe” did. If anything, I take more issue with the Falcons for not solving their problem on the field. “He made fun of our hurt quarterback!” Boo friggin’ hoo. Go hit somebody.)
The question is now being asked and “THE label” is getting thrown around… Is Ndamukong Suh dirty?
The fact that this even needs to be addressed or dispelled shows us exactly how far the NFL has come from the days of Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor and where it is headed. In 1985, Suh would be the biggest, baddest man on the planet. Other teams and players would fear him. In 2011, he’s labeled as dirty and other players are crying for flags or else their taking their “balls” and going home.
Last I checked this was the NFL, a league full of the toughest sons of bitches on the planet. These are supposed to be the men who throw caution to the wind each and every week when they step out onto that field and partake in a sport predicated by violence. NFL Films has made a fortune by piecing together footage of the most violent hits in NFL history for VHS tapes, DVDs, and internet highlight clips. Simply put, this is what these guys do. They beat the crap out of each other for our entertainment.
Now we get to hear players and coaches cry and whine about how one of their own hits too hard or is a bit too mean. Yes, Suh is a bully. He is a bad, bad man… but that’s his job. He plays a position where history’s best are often the most hated. Honestly, how do you think Mean Joe Green got his nickname “Mean Joe?” For those 60 minutes each and every Sunday afternoon Ndamukong Suh is not supposed to be the kind, well spoken kid from Nebraska. He’s paid to be a brutal savage with the sole purpose of ripping the head off of the opposing team’s quarterback. So because he does that better than anyone else and does it in a way we literally haven’t seen in years that makes him dirty? Please.
Suh is violent. At times he hits the quarterback late. He hits as hard as he possibly can and he sends a message. If it’s not for a tackle or a sack, Suh is simply passing the message on with each and every hit that “I’m here, I’m coming for you… and I’m gonna get you.” It’s as much mental as it is physical. It’s about intimidation… and it’s working.
Why should Ndamukong Suh be labeled for that? To call a player dirty is one of the worst things anyone can do and serves as the ultimate insult in the sports world. It shouldn’t be tossed around willy nilly like the label of “greatest ever” often is. Suh’s also not out to actually hurt anyone. He’s not throwing punches or going low. He doesn’t take cheap shots. His hits are all within the confines of the situation. How is that dirty?
Regardless of what I think, fans and the media are going to say what they want. They’ll throw around their labels and make their accusations because again… that’s what we do. We label. Meanwhile, Ndamukong Suh will go about his business and continue to do what he does; be a quiet, thoughtful, and good-hearted kid off the field and a cold-blooded killer on it…
The ultimate ying and yang.