October 20, 2008

Pittsburgh Triumphant, Chick Ludwig Insane

SO THE GLORIOUS Pittsburgh Steelers ran roughshod over the hapless Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, racking up 38 points in a game that started out somewhat tenuous for the Black and Gold, but quickly turned into a rout in the second half. It appeared as if the Bengals would stay in the game, not surprising given their decent performances against teams like the New York Giants, but they finally gave up the ghost once Pittsburgh's offense started firing on all cylinders.

Also, Hines Ward broke a man's jaw.

I still can't believe that. It was one of those freak things, really -- Mr Ward is a hard blocker and in the course of clearing the field for Pittsburgh tight end Matt Spaeth, Mr Ward blocked Keith Rivers, a rookie linebacker for Cincinnati. It is not clear whether the force of the block or Mr Rivers' impact with the turf actually caused the fracture, but the end result was that Mr Rivers' season was done and Mr Ward found himself in an unenviable position. No one wants to injure another player in football, but the game isn't needlepoint either. It should be noted the hit was clean, that Mr Ward was not penalized, and that the hit took place in the course of play, and not after the whistle blew.

It should also be noted that these factors matter nothing to Bengals partisans. This is perhaps no surprise, for fans of other teams do not like Mr Ward. My friend Chris Weinkopf, who roots for the Patriots, teases me in occasionally saying Mr Ward is a "mediocre" talent in the league, while a certain passionate Cleveland Browns fan I know unfairly refers to Mr Ward as "Dirty Hit Hines." Such opinions are clearly false and unwarranted, but Mr Ward's powerful blocking and skill as a wide receiver clearly provoke strong feelings among those whose teams face him on the gridiron.

Perhaps the best example of this can be found in the deranged ranting of Mr Chick Ludwig, a columnist for the Dayton Daily News and a passionate Cincinnati Bengals fan. Mr Ludwig, whose grasp on reality appears to weaken further with each successive Bengals loss, wrote an embarrassing blog post following Cincinnati's loss in which he accuses Mr Ward of making a dirty hit.

As Mr Ludwig appears to be new to the Internet, I would like to introduce Mr Ludwig to what is known as a fisk, a bit of slang referring to a line-by-line refutation of someone else's work. It is similar to how thinkers, in the old days, would write nasty comments in the margins of books they had read. I quote Mr Ludwig in italics, while my responses are in plain text.

Anyway, Mr Ludwig writes:

Now that the verdict is in and Cincinnati Bengals rookie outside linebacker Keith Rivers has a broken jaw and is out for the season, the question is: Was it a dirty hit by Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward? I believe it was. Absolutely & positively. Dirty with a capital “D.” Just like Kimo von Oelhoffen’s lunging hit on quarterback Carson Palmer’s left knee on Jan. 8, 2006.

Lunging hit my eye. I remember that play pretty well, and if Mr Ludwig goes back and looks at the videotape, he'll see Mr von Oelhoffen was down on the ground and was being propelled forward due to his attempts to beat his blocker. He just happened to roll into Mr Palmer at the end of the play, as opposed to spearing the guy's knee.

Mr von Oelhoffen simply had the bad luck to roll up in such a way that it knocked Mr Palmer out of the game. Unfortunate, but it's football. It happens. Get over it. As for whether Mr Ward's hit was dirty, the answer is clearly No. There was no flag. It happened in the course of play. Also, last time I checked, football players block their opponents. It's part of the game, although one with which Bengals fans are undoubtedly unfamiliar.

Personally, I felt Ward should’ve been thrown out of the game by NFL Referee And Resident Face Man Ed Hochuli. But Ed, whose ego is large enough to fill the Rotunda, didn’t have the guts to do it because it didn’t involve a quarterback. ...

Personally, I feel like having some ice cream, but we don't get everything we want, now do we? I am sorry for Mr Ludwig that the game did not go the way he wanted, that the referees did not act the way he wanted, that the Bengals' season is not going the way he wanted, and that the Bengals suck. But that's just the way it is. If players got thrown out of games because they hit their opponents hard, there would be no players left at the end of a game to take the field.

...Rivers was injured on a devastating and vicious block from Ward at 13:19 of the first quarter in Pittsburgh’s 38-10 victory in front of 65,860 spectators, half of whom were Pittsburgh fans twirling their “Terrible Towels” down the stretch of an ugly, 3-hour game. ...

That's right. It's important, I think, to note here that Pittsburgh fans routinely travel to follow the Black and Gold as they venture into hostile territory. Bengals fans, meanwhile, can't be bothered to show up at their own stadium to root their team on against a hated enemy. If the Cleveland Browns were 0-6, and Pittsburgh was on the docket for that week, the Browns fans would pack the house and demand blood.

... As Rivers approached the action, away from the play, he got blindsided by Ward, who has a reputation for being one of the most physical wide receivers in the league.

Play was stopped for several minutes as doctors and trainers attended to Rivers, who walked off the field under his own power.

“Anytime your teammate goes down, it’s not a good thing,” middle linebacker Dhani Jones said.

“Keith is an intricate part of our team, not to mention a good friend,” added Brandon Johnson, who replaced Rivers. “You hate to see a guy go down like that, but it’s part of the game. We all understand the risk. My prayers and heart go out to him and hope he can come back as soon as possible.”

You know, it's pretty pathetic when Mr Ludwig -- who is a credentialed member of the news media, and as such has access to the locker room and what not -- can't find any players on the Bengals squad to accuse Mr Ward of making an unfair hit, but rather have them back up Mr Ward's position that unfortunate things happen. I mean, if one is going to accuse Mr Ward of making a dirty hit, one would think player comments would make up an integral part of one's argument. But hey.

Also, what's all this about Mr Rivers "approaching the action?" What does Mr Ludwig think he was going to do when he got there? Offer Matt Spaeth tea and crumpets? He was approaching the action -- undoubtedly at a high rate of speed -- because that's what linebackers do. They find receivers with the ball and crush them.

It certainly won’t be this year and that’s what burns linebackers coach Jeff FitzGerald, who thought the hit was uncalled for because it happened away from the play.

“We’ll take a look at it (on film), but that guy 86 (Ward) has been known to do that,” FitzGerald said. “That’s his deal, and that’s bullshit as far as I’m concerned. (Blocking) around the pile — that’s the kind of game he likes to play.

“It hurts us. There’s no doubt about it. Keith’s a marquee player for us, a guy that’s growing and developing, doing a lot of good things and really coming along, and now his year’s done.”

The linebackers coach? That's the best Mr Ludwig can do? Of course Mr FitzGerald thought it was uncalled for. If one was uncharitable, one might also suggest that Mr FitzGerald is annoyed that a wide receiver -- of all players -- just knocked out one of his top linebackers. It's supposed to be the other way around.

Naturally, Ward said he didn’t do anything wrong. That the hit was above board. That it was a clean shot. What else would we or should we expect him to say?

But the fact that it happened near the pile and away from the play made it unnecessary, unsportsmanlike and disturbing.

“I’m not doing anything illegal,” Ward said. “It was a clean hit. I didn’t stand over the guy or anything. I just celebrated the same as a guy does when he gets a sack. I’m not going to change my ways. If they’re going to keep fining me for that, then I’m going to get fined all year.

“I don’t know if I hurt him or not, but that wasn’t my intention. I saw he was hurt, said a little prayer for him, and that was it. I’ve been playing like that for 11 years. I guess I don’t know what people are griping about.”

Neither do I, Mr Ward. Neither do I. Let me assure you that as a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, I want you to keep playing hard, physical, tough football -- no matter what your opponents, and lame-o sports writers like Mr Chick Ludwig -- demand because they're in a snit about their teams' crappy seasons. I also don't see how a legal and clean block on the field of play can be considered "unnecessary, unsportsmanlike and disturbing," but that's because I appreciate the physical aspects of the game of football.

Ward’s teammates love him because he’s so tough and talented.

Opponents hate him because he has a way of getting under your skin and making you angry with his big talent and bigger mouth.

He sure got under Bengals free safety Dexter Jackson’s skin.

Jackson made no apology for his 15-yard personal foul penalty after Ward’s 16-yard TD catch from Byron Leftwich with 1:54 to go.

Jackson shoved Ward, who was celebrating in the end zone.

“Why are you going to celebrate in our end zone? That’s taunting,” Jackson said. “You don’t celebrate and taunt like that. Yeah, I pushed him. He over-exaggerated, but that’s what he does.” ...

What? Dude. Mr Ward didn't have time to celebrate. He took all of three steps in the endzone before Mr Jackson gave him a shove. True, perhaps I should be charitable -- it undoubtedly annoyed Mr Jackson that Hines Ward, Pittsburgh's favorite wide receiver, had extended the Steelers' lead to four touchdowns over the hapless Bengals. So perhaps it was understandable Mr Jackson would give him a nasty push. But Mr Jackson should be happy Mr Ward celebrated. Celebration implies one has something worth celebrating about. Quite frankly, the way things were going, and given the craptacular play of the Bengals, not celebrating would have been more appropriate -- and a powerful insult to boot.

Anyway, after a bit more maundering and pointing out just how bad the Bengals' season has gone, Mr Ludwig prepares his coup de grace, as follows:

Here’s what I wish:

That a member of the Bengals would have made a statement with a punishing block on Ward. But the Queen City Kitties are too soft & cuddly, too meek & mild for that.

I am surprised they didn't, but I don't think it would have mattered much. Hines Ward does not care if you deliver a rough block against him, because Hines Ward will fight you down as you try. But this is, I guess, indicative of how the Bengals play -- they have mentally checked out this season and are focused on 2009.

That Ward gets a hefty fine — and perhaps a suspension — for his intimidating tactics.

Ooooooooooh. He's intimidating. Does Mr Ludwig want Mr Ward to present his opponents with a tray of cucumber sandwiches during games?

That Hochuli gets reprimanded by the NFL for not flagging Ward 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. That’s the LEAST that should have happened.

What is wrong with you, Chick? The game doesn't go the way you want and boo-hoo-hoo, it's time to beat up on Ed Hochuli? He's the referee, for Pete's sake -- he's way at the other end of the play. There are plenty of officials who could have thrown a flag if the hit had been dirty. But -- oh, that's right. It wasn't. Gee, that's too bad.

In addition to wrecking Rivers’ rookie season, Ward offered further proof that the Pittsburgh Steelers are, without a doubt, the dirtiest team in the National Football League.

Wow. That's a pretty bold statement, there. Not one that, you know, actual facts could support, nor one that stands up when one compares the Steelers to certain other teams -- *cough* Oakland *cough* -- but I guess I can see where Mr Ludwig is coming from. After all, how dare Pittsburgh go out and, you know, win all those games? How dare Pittsburgh have five Super Bowls to its credit? How dare Pittsburgh come into the Bengals' house and crush the lovable but incompetent Bengals on their own turf? It's shocking, it really is.

And, sadly, unfortunately, one of the best.

And don't you forget it!

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at October 20, 2008 01:41 AM | TrackBack
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