September 19, 2017

The Sunday Links – September 2, 2007

sunday_links.jpgby Scott Benson
[email protected]

So at some point(s) over the last two years, Patriots safety Rodney Harrison obtained and took the banned substance HGH as he tried to come back from a debilitating series of injuries that threatened to end his NFL career.

As prevelant as this issue is in our present day society, you could not have seen this coming.

Harrison, a man who has been all but mythologized by New England fans, broke the rules of the game he hoped to one day officiate. He cheated, and in the end, it doesn’t really matter why. Because either way, he let himself down, and his team, and the game he so clearly lives to play. And now everything he’s accomplished in his 13 seasons will be called into question. An exemplary football life is now stained, and the judgment – in a world that demands it in an instant – will be harsh.

Particularly for Harrison, who came to the Patriots in 2003 as an established NFL star but soon become something somehow bigger. With his fierce playing style and heart-on-his-casted-sleeve emotion, he became simply ‘Rodney’ to many New England fans. The first name alone came to have it’s own meaning: don’t eff with us. Patriots fans have come to see Harrison as a sort of big brother that protects you from getting rolled for your lunch money. There is not a single bully anywhere in the NFL that Patriots fans don’t think will turn tail and run the minute ‘Rodney’ shows on the playground.

And now he’s going to pay for it.

The Insta-pundits will make damn sure of that. They’ll be the first to write off Harrison as a degenerate criminal worthy of our everlasting contempt. They’ll be the first to label his entire career – and everything it touched, even two Lombardi Trophies – a sham.

They’ll be the first to howl about an ineffectual league and filthy teams and players. They’ll be the first to assume everyone is guilty of something, like a gaggle of pathetic, clucking gadflies at a local selectmen’s meeting. They’ll be the first to feign ‘concern’ about ‘integrity’ and ‘accountability’ when all they really want is their daily pound of flesh.

They’ll be the first to mock Harrison’s public apology as ‘weak’ while never admitting that no mea culpa will ever be good enough for them, the New Knights of the Keyboard. They’ll be the first to decry the ‘hypocracy’ of Patriots fans who don’t immediately join them in their modern Coliseum, with thumbs turned decidedly downward.

This postulating will not be limited to just the print and broadcast media. In fact, the harshest and most immediate judgments on Harrison came within minutes of the announcement on Friday night, not from the media, but from fans themselves, on the message boards on which they gather. The ESPN crawl had not completed even one cycle of the news before electronic judges and juries began to hand down their verdicts.

Can reasonable people be disappointed in and discouraged by Harrison, and in fact, the league itself? Certainly. Is it reasonable to wonder if what we’ve seen of the player and his team and the league they play in is real, or simply some shady combination of mad science and elastic ethics? Why wouldn’t it be? This – the unknown – is the most profound consequence of Harrison’s lapse.

So is it reasonable that these issues be discussed, not dismissed? Held up to the light, not obscured by shadows? Without question.

But it’s also reasonable that the story that Harrison told on Friday could be at its core, the truth. That it was only the prospect of his football extinction that led him to embrace desperation and deceit. That perhaps his entire career hasn’t been a steroid-fueled fraud. That perhaps he legitimately earned what he has, as have the vast majority of his teammates and their contemporaries throughout the league.

I think those things ought to be at least considered before being summarily dismissed in an instant. I think Rodney Harrison has earned at least that much, especially here in New England. Earned enough to be spared knee-jerk labels like punk and criminal. Even with his sins, even as he brings upon himself and his team a fate worse than the injuries he sought to overcome, he’s entitled to better than the Microwave Justice of the Insta-pundits.

For more on the Harrison suspension and the Patriots final roster, scan For your turn having the floor, join us in the comments section.


  1. What is/was your take on the athletes who have been busted prior?

    Any comment on the insta-pundits who immediately congratulated RH for being a standup guy when, unlike most prior, he had already admitted the usage to the authorities?

  2. sbXLIIbound says:

    this is probably the best,most rational analysis on “rodneygate” yet, and i think ive read them all. given everything ive seen and heard from rodney since 03, i believe every word he said in his statement. i cant imagine the frustration rodney must have felt sustaining injury after injury over the last 3 or so years. we all know how much he loves the game, his team , and most importantly, his teammates. to me, i look at it as and example of how badly he wanted to play and be with his teammates, and that desire is exactly what all pats fans love about rodney. i welcome him back with open arms on week 5

  3. To Ben’s point above I relish my hypocrisy. Until it hit home my opinion was vehement and unrelenting. Ban them all! Now, when it happens to someone you have a vested interest in the tune changes. Because I have had the pleasure of watching Harrison on the field and in the press for the past 4+ years I have come to appreciate everything he brings. Not unlike say Troy Polamalu in Pittsburgh or John Lynch in Denver for those franchises.

    Based on how close I feel to the situation I had a revelation Friday night: I didn’t care. Not a lick. To me it was like watching someone get busted for speeding or some other offense that made me pause. When the first scroll hit ESPN it was shock, then disbelief, then anger at something so foolish and then ultimately: nothing. He did it, he got caught, he will handle his punishment and then Rodney will move on.

    The big question is; Will “we”?

  4. Thanks for putting this into words. It is about as close as I have come to what I think a lot of us our feeling.

  5. Rodney hurt his knee the season AFTER the back-to-back SB wins. I believe he felt like he was letting his team-mates down if he was not on the field, because it was obvious the team needed him. At that point he may have decided that desperate times called for desperate measures. Then came the freak shoulder injury. Then came the Dirty Hit. I see a Huge difference between Harrison and someone like Bonds. Bonds and others juiced up to help themselves, and then lied about it. Rodney took a gamble using something in his desperation to get back to where he could help the team, and then he told the truth. That is why I will still cheer for 37.

  6. I have no troubles rooting for RH again but shovelpass brings up intent. The only way you can believe intent is if you take everything that Harrison said at face value. He may be embellishing the truth to fit the circumstances. My intention isn’t to cause a furor but we have no idea if Harrison is being 100% truthful at this point. He could have been on something from the time he came into the league. Nobody but Rodney has the answer to that question.

    Again, I don’t care one way or the other. He has gotten my respect for the love of the game and his teammates so he gets a pass from this address.

    The one thing that should be mentioned, and regardless of circumstances, Rodney stood up and took the blame for his actions. That is a rare trait nowadays.

  7. jamesgarnerisgod says:

    I’ve said before how I feel about Harrison and this incident. It’s too bad, but if pundits and fans wait for him like Brutus et al waited for Caesar on 3/15/44 B.C., with daggers at the ready, that’s their problem, not his.

    Re: Bonds … he’s the greatest home run hitter of all time, period. Don’t believe me? Check the numbers. That’s how it works. Yeah, steroids can help you work out more so you bulk up more, and they promote muscle density, speed healing and all, but they don’t help you put the bat on the ball.

    Tommyfw likened it to speeding, and that’s about how I feel. HGH is against the rules, there’s a certain punishment for it (four games, first offense), Rodney will take the weight, and then joy will return to Foxboro in Week 5. Bad news, probably, for Brady Quinn.

  8. I’m still puzzled as to why message board posters are given credence here. In that you’re trying to elevate the site, this is the equivalent of mike reiss writing about a dopey conversation he overheard at Chili’s. Doesn’t match up with much of the prior entries.

  9. Rodney harrison earns his keep with his body. He has had two years with devastating injuries and he doesn’t recover as quickly as he did 10 years ago.
    Many people in the public eye such as movie stars and certain Presidential candidates enhance their appearence with things like Botox without which some of them would scare people.
    What’s the difference between Harrison’s attempts to heal from injury and those other folks who use chemicals to enhance their appearence?

  10. So far I’ve been sort of surprised by the local media. There’s the usual stuff from CHB, of course. But columns by John Tomase and Shalise Manza Young (Providence Journal) have been downright forgiving.

  11. Tommy and Tom and others who are so quick to look the other way are well within their rights of course. At least you’re embracing the hypocrisy.

    I for one am not damning his entire career. But he’s now a known cheater – so if folks want to gow down that line of speculation, Rodney brought it on himself.

  12. Random thought: Why is it when players use “performance enhancers” they are viewed as CHEATERS….yet during a game, if a reciever CLEARLY TRAPS the ball and he gets up and says to the reff, “I caught it!…I caught it” we would be happy as clams if he got away with it?…..just wondering…..

  13. I now realize that instead of being a hypocrite I just don’t give two about Performance Enhancing drugs.

    I am not looking the other way; it truly doesn’t make a difference to me in any way, shape or form. He got caught, he owned up to it and life will go on.

    Some people may call Rodney a cheater, I call him the majority.

  14. I gotta agree with ya Tommy….dare I say it?..IT IS WHAT IT IS…If drugs in sports “outrage” people I think they should find another hobby, because they are all over the place and they aren’t going away anytime soon.

  15. Who cares? Harrison is clearly a football god. HGH does not do that, it just helps injuries heal faster. Speeding ticket is right. No hypocracy, I don’t care about bonds either. He is a dick so I don’t defend him, but Harrison is quality through and through. This should go away quick.

  16. I don’t know what my take on the “athletes who have been busted prior” was, Ben, because I don’t recall saying much about it. I haven’t really decided if I should give a shit at all. I know that’s not going to make me a hit with the hair dryer busybodies down at the electronic beauty shop, but that’s life.

    How do I feel about the ‘insta-pundits’ that were willing to accept Harrison’s statement on Friday as the act of, as you put it, a ‘stand-up guy’. Well, if I’m going to err on this matter, I’m going to do it on the side of folks who hear something like “I did it, it was wrong, I’ve embarrassed myself and everyone I am associated with, and I will try to make it right” and feel as though that’s good enough to give them pause before climbing up on their high horse to howl about the corruption that surrounds their otherwise pure existence.

  17. To your second point, elevate is your word, not mine. Don’t take the new layout and the Chris Prices and Bill Barnwells and Bruce Allens and decide that my motivation is anything more than trying to make the site a more interesting place to visit for other fans. I want to be part of creating something that I would enjoy visiting. Just because. The ‘aspirations’ end, for me, right there.

    Mike Reiss? All of a sudden I’m Mike Reiss now? Let’s be clear, those may be your expectations, but they’re not mine. Regardless, I don’t intend to do anything differently than I’ve always done it – write from the perspective of one fan. And message boards are part of that experience for me, and evidently others. So I wrote about it, one post, one day. Let’s be clear about that – the ‘credence’ you speak of amounts to exactly that. One post, one day.

    I’ll stand by the post just the same. That’s where I first learned the news, and the reaction made an impression on me. So I wrote about it. That’s what I do every day, to wildly varying effect. I still can’t for the life of me see where I could or should be doing something different.

    And I’ll take the heat if it pisses somebody off, though I don’t much like the prospect. That’s why I’m here responding. I’m not writing something and putting it up on the Internet for everyone to see, and then complaining when somebody notices.

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