The League

Emil Steiner
Editor and Blogger

Emil Steiner

The author of NFL Crime Watch and Founding Editor of The League.

Winning Can Be Dirty


Yes, the Steelers are a hard hitting team. They have one of the greatest defenses in recent memory and their crushing blocks disrupt opponents' schemes as violently as they do brain cells. But are they dirty?

First of all I have to ask: What's wrong with a team being dirty? In football, as in all sports, it's not a foul unless you get caught. If you get caught you get penalized. If you really break the rules you could get ejected and/or suspended. So, what makes a team dirty, bending the rules?

This isn't the girl scouts, this is the NFL. Job one for every team is to win. Job one for every ref is to enforce the rules. Given that dynamic, a team should push the rules to the limit and, when advantageous, break them. There is no trophy for being a good loser.

If the Steelers win the Super Bowl, Sunday, do you think there will be an asterisk in the record books, or a dark smudge of some sort because of Clark's hit, or Ward's chippiness? No, they'll be champions, and their style will be emulated.

By Emil Steiner  |  January 29, 2009; 7:27 AM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinals , Emil Steiner , Pittsburgh Steelers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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It's not a foul unless you get caught? So a clip or holding doesn't happen unless a ref sees it? So if someone mugged you while walking down the street, and no policeman witnessed it, no crime was committed? Is that your logic?

Your attitude is a symptom of the key problem with today's American society -- "success by any means" even if it means taking advantage of those who play by the rules. The mortgage mess, wall-street ponzi schemes, rampant computer fraud, all can be traced to the attitude that "it isn't illegal unless you get caught." If football is the all-encompassing metaphor for life, then you have unwittingly unearthed the core problem. If your only rule is to win at all costs (regardless of breaking rules, injuring opponents, cheating customers, firing employees to pay for executive bonuses, killing babies with melamine-laced formula, selling salmonella-tainted peanut butter, etc) then you are breaking the social contract you inherently agreed to when you decided to live in our society.

If you can't be trusted with the small things, you can't be trusted with the big ones. And if you emulate a football team that plays dirty, by extension...

That's what's wrong with playing dirty.

Posted by: Apostrophe | January 29, 2009 2:06 PM

I usually don't comment on my own pieces but APOSTROPHE has pulled me out. Although I agree with your point that the attitude that "it isn't illegal unless you get caught" is the cause of many misdeeds you might be oversimplifying the issue. Although football may (at times) be an "all-encompassing metaphor for life" it's still a game. Life is seldom as fair, exciting or appreciated.

Posted by: emilsteiner2 | January 29, 2009 2:19 PM

Apostrophe has said it all. You are making a living writing like a moron. I doubt if you are ready to actually live in the world you are advocating. I recall all the tough-guy Social Darwinists like William Graham Sumner of Yale who loved to write about the survival of the fittest, but who argued against theft of property and the rape of women. Emil, try to avoid the bad parts of town, and don't call for help if you get into a nasty situation.

Posted by: rusty3 | January 29, 2009 2:20 PM

They are no dirtier than the 1970-1990's Oakland Raiders, or the St. Louis Cardinals with the likes of Conrad Dobler and the rest of that crew.
Heck Pat Fischer/Larry Wilson (credited with coming up with the safety blitz) formerly of the St. Louis Cardinal were known to abuse wide recievers and flankers at the line of scrimmage chucking, and punching, forearm shivering, and kicking those players, anything to create an equalization advantage as both Fischer and Wilson were even then considered small guys, but they played very large resorting to whatever tactics they could to beat their opponents. So hats off to the Dirty Steelers, sounds like a good country song!

Posted by: Sideswiped | January 29, 2009 6:20 PM

Every team has some players that play dirty, not getting caught is a fine art that some have mastered including key players on the Steelers yes, but on every team too. It a pro league and winning can mean a bigger pay check so if they can get away with it, and no one gets hurt from it then it is what it is. If the NFL wanted to stop it they could, they put more ref's on the field or watch the footage and suspend players who do it more often and expell repeat offenders but they don't so thats the way they wan't it. Those players that can still beat the dirty players or that have learned to fight fire with fire well rise above. Dirty yes...but good at it!!!

Posted by: tigger_caps_fan | January 29, 2009 6:56 PM

Professional football is a violent game played by violent men. That's a quote from Mike Tomlin (perhaps paraphrased). And he's right. This ain't tiddly winks. The refs are there to make sure it doesn't get out of hand. But I can assure you that any team that worries too much about always playing within the rules WON'T be playing in the Super Bowl...

Posted by: Lukey | January 30, 2009 6:53 AM

I agree. I've been a Steelers fan since 1974 because they play football and the Rooney's run a franchise like it should be done. The game played physical and dirty with the front office picking up the slack and keeping everyone happy. That's football, it's a contact sport, and as a woman I can say it -- that's why we don't play the game coach -- but we too love it.

But this is what gets me, In Hockey they can whip each other azzes nightly. Knock teeth out, rumble like in the jungle. The refs just standing around watching, the crowd cheering them on. Violent fights but not one word is said about that and no penalties etc. It's like it's normal and not violent when white folks do it. But the NFL which is mostly Black, oh we dirty, and barbaric and that's crap. Football is the contact sport not hockey so what's the fuss?

Posted by: love2much SE | January 30, 2009 9:28 AM

APOSTROPHE couldn't be more wrong. Emil didn't make a case for football being a metaphor for life. You did. You also probably believe in a moral right and wrong. The basic premise of his argument has nothing to do with life. If you want to discuss the greater good, morality, or other grand ideas then you should have go back to school. Perhaps a better school than the one you attended.

Posted by: ben91aro | January 30, 2009 10:03 AM

Oh, and going back to the point. There should be no asterisk, if they win.

Posted by: ben91aro | January 30, 2009 10:07 AM

'This isn't the girl scouts'? If you were trying to make a statement about interpretations of honor and obedience to rules, you could have gotten your point across by saying 'boy scouts'. Instead your statement reflects the stereotypical sexist attitude - that boys are tougher than girls and superior for it. Way to go, meathead.

Posted by: merryunbirthday | January 30, 2009 2:01 PM

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