Disrespecting Your Opponent, Disrespects the Sports
I love touchdown celebrations. While I personally abided by the Barry Sanders “act like you have been there before” trope whenever I did anything good on the athletic field, I completely understand the desire to let your happiness and exuberance show when you have achieved your goal. Touchdowns celebrations are fun. And honestly, some of them are insanely clever. They were outlawed for so long in the NFL because decision makers thought they were becoming a nuisance and a show of disrespect to the game itself. Fortunately, they have changed course and now we have baton races, piggy-back rides, and games of duck-duck-goose after touchdowns. That is entertaining, that is fun, that is awesome. They clearly have a place in the sport of football. What is not awesome though and clearly has no place in football is Aqib Talib getting into another fight with Michael Crabtree.
Fighting happens in sports. Some fights, especially in heavy contact sports like football, are understandable. Two guys (or gals) are vying for the same goal. Doing anything they can to reach that goal, and sometimes it gets too heated and a fight breaks out. I can comprehend that easily. What I cannot comprehend is a fight that occurs when it has nothing to do with the game. For the second time in as many seasons, Aqib Talib got into a fight with Michael Crabtree. For those that are unfamiliar with the incident, the first fight occurred when Talib ripped off Crabtree’s neck chain. That is a sign of total and utter disrespect. Talib had so little respect for Crabtree the person that he decided to break something of personal value to the Oakland Raiders wide receiver.
Over the internet, idiots laughed at how “badass” Talib’s actions were. They laughed at the premise that Crabtree could allow himself to get so disrespected. These people are idiots. Friends of mine, good sports journalist, had the same reaction, and it made me uncomfortable knowing they were laughing at the situation. Look, disrespectful moments happen within the flow of sports. Jose Bautista and his batflip… that showed juuuuuuuust a bit of disrespect.
Shaq and his dunk? Yeah… disrespect on an entirely different planet:
Those are some of the most disrespectful moments in sports. But they are actually sports moments. And that is the difference. A home run? Helps your team win. A monster dunk? Two points for you, none for them. Helps your team win. Snatching somebody else’s property? That has nothing to do with helping your team win. It comes outside the flow of the game and the only way you can argue it helps the team as a whole is by making the tangential case that maybe it will get the other guy off of his game. Even if that were true (and in most cases it has the adverse affect; your opponent locks in and takes his game to another level), it still is a sign of classlessness and disrespects your opponent and disrespects the game.
If Talib’s foolishness was left to just that one isolated incident maybe you could give him a pass. However, for the second time in as many seasons Talib and Crabtree went at it, and for the second time in as many seasons Talib snatched and broke Crabtree’s chain. I cannot comprehend something like that. Nor can I understand the people that sit there and praise what Talib did. That is not Talib’s property. He has no right whatsoever to do what he did. Crabtree taped the chain to his body to ensure Talib would not break it and Talib went and broke the chain nonetheless.
Some see that as funny. I see that as horrific. Talib has so much disrespect for his opponent that he deemed himself worthy enough to break something that was not his. That is the epitome of a horrible person; looking at something that is not yours and deciding you can do whatever you want. That is so outside the scope of what sports are about it is scary… and people defended Talib and his actions.
The NFL rightfully suspended both players (initially a two-game suspension that has been reduced to one. More than likely due to the fact the in-game ejections happened so early that it was in essence a two-game suspension). I have constantly railed against the NFL and their suspensions, but these de facto two-game suspensions are right on the money. You cannot have players fighting on the field. Yes, fights do breakout, but this was an incident that was more fitting in the parking lot of a Raiders game instead of on the field. I thought Talib should have been suspended an extra game compared to Crabtree, but both were at fault so the punishments make sense.
The essence of professional sports is to win the game. Whatever you have to do to win the game is usually in play. My favorite players have historically (and ironically) been those that tip-toed the line with the rules. Marcus Smart and his flopping? Sure, helps you win games. Brad Marchand and his rat-like behavior on the ice? Please, give me five of him. Kevin Garnett and his way over-the-top trash talk? No issues there. But every single one of those players kept his actions to within the flow of the game (even Garnett’s were words–horrible, horrible words–and came within a context where trash talking is expected). Talib and his chain snatching is the ultimate sign of disrespect. And not disrespect in the modern sense of, “oh that’s so cool,” but in the traditional sense of, “that guy is a jerk; he literally does not care about the other person.”
This all started because Michael Crabtree had the gall to wear a chain around his neck during a football game. Think about that. A guy did the same thing he always does, and Talib made it his personal mission to take something that was not his. There are literally laws against that sort of thing. Yet, our culture has become so diluted that some people thought what Talib did was praiseworthy. That is sickening. Believing you have a right to somebody else’s property for literally no reason than other you believe yourself better than the other person is the ultimate sign of disrespect and has no place in society, and absolutely no place in the athletic arena.