The League

Dave Goldberg
Sports Reporter

Dave Goldberg

Covered the NFL for the AP for 25 years and now is a senior NFL writer for

No fighting in Goodell's NFL


Ever watch a hockey game?

When two guys get into a fight, the officials stand and watch until one guy gets superiority over the other. Then they stop it and send the two combatants to the penalty box. usually for five minutes. I don't especially like it interrupting my hockey game, but I accept it as part of the sport and as part of the culture -- hockey players for the most part are good guys who accept that in their role as both athletes and entertainers they'll have to fight from time to time.

Heck, I've even seen Sidney Crosby do it.

Cut to Andre Johnson/Cortland Finnegan. Watching the highlights (lowlights?) of that encounter, I got the impression that the narrators were shocked ("SHOCKED!!!'') that two gladiators would pummel each other like that. And when that television station in Houston, which LOOOVVVVES to "break'' news, quickly reported that Johnson would be fined and not suspended, it was greeted with the "BREAKING NEWS!!!!'' approach we give even the smallest trifle these days.

That's because in Roger Goodell's NFL, displays of temper tend not to be tolerated and Andre will pay for his transgression, although not a lot by the standards of his salary, one of the highest paid to a wide receiver. But regardless, the whole thing reminded me of a hockey fight -- a skilled and classy player (Johnson) agitated by the opponent's goon (Finnegan) with both of them getting tossed from the game.

The only thing missing was the Texans' enforcer, whose job in hockey it would have been to jumping in to go after the other team's goon when he came after his star teammate.

In any case, all this fight confirms is two things:

1. The bad things they say about the Titans are true. They are agitators whose purpose in life is to provoking opponents into temper tantrums that will help them win. One way they beat the Giants early in the season was to get New York's Kareem McKenzie, normally a mild-mannered offensive lineman, called for three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

2. Finnegan has managed to make himself a Pro Bowler by treading the line between dirty and otherwise. Or maybe not even treading the line -- when you're a seventh-round draft pick who makes it pretty big, you're generally regarded as "feisty.'' "Feisty'' can also mean "dirty.''

In any case, the hubbub over the fight stems from the fact that it makes good television -- that's one reason a much-less-exposed sport like hockey tolerates its brawls. And from the contradiction of mixing a brutal sport and the Goodellian puritan ethic that has tended to make us shocked when tempers flare over the line.

Cortland Finnegan provoking Andre Johnson into a fight that gets him tossed out of the game?

Does anyone remember Conrad Dobler? I do.

He was a lot dirtier, but it was called gamesmanship in his day.

By Dave Goldberg  |  November 30, 2010; 12:40 AM ET  | Category:  Dave Goldberg , Houston Texans , Roger Goodell , Tennessee Titans Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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So it's ok or not ok for Andre Johnson to attack an annoying Conrad Dobler-like figure who was only a seventh round draft pick but made the Pro Bowl?

Posted by: shocked-n-saddened | November 29, 2010 11:36 PM

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