James Harrison Scoffs At Your Traditions


President Barack Obama met with our World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday. He immediately displayed his folksy charm by reading some lame prepared remarks, then continued to push his populist agenda by putting the Steelers to work preparing USO care packages. Not that I have anything but the deepest respect for our troops serving overseas but isn’t it kind of tacky to invite the Super Bowl champions over to salute their accomplishments then turn that platform into a lecture on civic duty? This isn’t elementary school for crying out loud.

Conspicuous by his absence was 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and author of the greatest defensive play in Super Bowl history, linebacker James Harrison.

Now perhaps you’ve been living under a rock the past week or perhaps you’re just blissfully unaware of the swirling controversy. In which case, I envy you. For the past week has seen an almost daily media blitz directed at the Silverback. HOW DARE HE NOT GO! HE’S SPITTING ON THE FLAG! COMMIE!

Okay, perhaps I’m exaggerating just a tad. But for the past week, every media outlet from USA Today to ESPN and every talking head on every talk show has seemingly weighed in with his or her opinion on whether James Harrison should have gone to the White House. Which is great, we do enjoy free speech in this country. However the only opinion I care about in this case is that of, oh I don’t know, JAMES HARRISON?

If the man doesn’t want to visit the White House, he doesn’t have to visit the White House. It doesn’t make him unamerican. It doesn’t make him classless. It doesn’t make him immature. It makes him a man, a big scary quarterback killing man, who made a choice. And I have no idea why that’s such a problem for some people.

This entire situation reminds me of the recent controversy over that bubbleheaded bleach blonde Miss America contestant. She supposedly lost the crown when her answer to the question of supporting gay marriage was decidedly not the politically correct one. Look, I’m not taking one side or the other in that debate but she stated her OPINION. When did that become wrong? So am I to understand people should say things they don’t believe or attend functions they have no interest in just because OTHERS think they should? Huh?

When Silverback declared he was going to miss the festivities, the media went into a frenzy trying to figure out why. Let’s be honest, most athletes are meatheads. They don’t go to college to learn, they go to audition for the NFL. So they don’t always explain themselves well and are seldom deep thinkers. Sticking a microphone in front of them and expecting them to give a sound philosophical answer to something that doesn’t need explaining in the first place is a sure recipe for disaster.

And so it was. Harrison said “This is how I feel — if you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don’t win the Super Bowl. As far as I’m concerned, [Obama] would’ve invited Arizona if they had won.” This quote sent the talking heads into overdrive because of the seeming ridiculousness of the logic.

Except it does make sense. Luckily, I speak meathead jock so allow me to translate. Suppose you get an invitation to a wedding or a birthday party. Now suppose instead of the invitation being addressed “Dear Your Name Here” it said “To Whom It May Concern.” Would you still go? The President meets the Super Bowl champion, he doesn’t care what team it is. It’s basically a form letter.  James Harrison doesn’t do form letters.

Then things got more ridiculous when the Rooney Family went into spin control mode. I love the Rooneys but they’re damn lucky the Steelers are the most honorable organization in sports. If they ever had a negative PR issue, they’d be screwed because they are totally inept at handling bad press. They clearly issued an order to their puppets at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (you may know them as “the sports department”) who then came out with a ridiculous story that Harrison was afraid to fly.  Next you’ll tell me that’s really why Tony Kornheiser left Monday Night Football.

The problem with this story is Harrison flies at least 8-12 times per year during the football season. He also flew to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. And, um, he played one season in NFL Europe. Do you know how long it takes to fly to Europe? Pretty damn long.  Not to mention D.C. is about 5 hours by car. Well, I can make it in 4 but I tend to see speed limits as more suggestions than rules.

Anyway, that bullcrap story created yet another round of speculation. Look, Harrison didn’t go to see George W. Bush when we won back in ’05 so it’s not a political thing. He just didn’t see the point in wasting his time on an empty promotional fluff piece when weights needed lifted and sprints needed, um, sprinted.  He is an adult and he decided he had no desire to visit a place and meet a man he has no reverence for.  And I have no problem with that.

As long as he keeps sacking the quarterback.