The spectacle that was the Cleveland Browns versus Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night was a disaster.
In case you somehow didn’t see this, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett took off the helmet of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in the last 10 seconds of Thursday’s game and pursued to hit Rudolph in the head with his own helmet.
There was also kicking, scratching and punching. Players were rushing in from the sideline. Flags were flying.
It was nothing short of a train wreck — a bunch of grown men looking like children on national television.
In the hours since the “brawl,” I’ve heard a lot of debate about the issue and who should be punished for what. One thing I heard was, “Well, Mason Rudolph started it.” I couldn’t help but laugh, as it pushed the childishness of the whole debacle to another level.
That’s something a second-grader says on the playground after he’s gotten in trouble with his teacher. “Well, he started it.” And when has the teacher said, “Well, OK, that definitely condones violent behavior.”
Friday morning, it was announced Garrett would be suspended for the remainder of the 2019 season. I would be surprised if that doesn’t turn into more time.
A friend and former colleague of mine, Andy Sandrik, made a very fair comparison about a relatively similar incident in the NHL several years ago. Back in 2000, a player named Marty McSorley decided to use his stick as a weapon, striking forward Donald Brashear in the head and causing him a concussion. Not only was McSorley suspended for a full calendar year — and actually never played a game again in the NHL — he was also charged and found guilty of assault with a weapon. He was sentenced to 18 months of probation.
What Garrett did was worse. A hockey stick, by definition, breaks rather easily. A football helmet, on the other hand, is meant to withstand; it’s supposed to protect men’s heads from what’s often thought of as one of the most dangerous sports. Garrett used that exact protective device against Rudolph.
And yes, Rudolph “started it.” Garrett brought Rudolph down after he threw a pass and Rudolph took issue what he thought of as a late hit. Rudolph himself then seemed to try to remove Garrett’s helmet and also began kicking him.
From there, things went from bad to worse. I can’t condone anyone’s actions in this case. Rudolph called Garrett a “bully” after the game, but it’s hard to accept that as a reasonable explanation when Rudolph seemed to escalate the situation from the start. But then Garrett clearly took things too far.
Then everyone lost their cool.
Ultimately, that’s the biggest issue. These guys are role models for children around the country and it’s not OK to show them that’s how you react to bad situations.
Moreover, at the end of the day, Rudolph and Garrett were both doing their jobs of playing football. It may seem like football players are larger than life and untouchable, but in reality, this is how they make their living. They have jobs to do and they get paid for doing those jobs.
Imagine if something didn’t go my way at The Outlook — which many times it doesn’t — I can’t go around punching people or kicking them or hitting them with helmets. I understand football is a high emotion job, but it’s a job nonetheless.
And these players who, in many ways, are larger than life should set better examples than the shockingly egregious behavior that took place Thursday night.