Sports fans are really a mixed bag. You never know on which day you’re supposed to keep talking about a subject or to let it go. We still talk about a running into the kicker penalty from over a decade ago, but to bring up something from last season can sometimes induce a cascade of rolling eyes.
Of course fans are not a monolithic group, either. They run the spectrum of opinions, so it only creates the illusion of a mass of inconsistency until you start to look at them as individuals. And some of you individuals still can’t stop talking about former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison and his final season in the league even though he’s now retired.
And so I pass along to you in particular this anecdote dropped off by Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a recent chat session. He was asked by one commenter if, due to his frequent proximity to the team, he felt there were any people in the locker room last year that he felt verged on the threshold of a ‘cancer’, and whether or not any such players are still on the roster.
The name the writer brought up was not Le’Veon Bell or Martavis Bryant, but Harrison. “Looking back, it’s hard not to recognize James Harrison was a locker room cancer in some ways”, he responded. “It was quite obvious players in that locker room had lost respect for him and the way he handled his final year with the team”.
I do find it interesting the way that he worded things here, talking about how players lost respect for the longtime veteran as the season wore on. Of course this did eventually become apparent, but he gives the impression that it might have been a little more obvious and widespread than the few players who spoke on record, among them Maurkice Pouncey, Bud Dupree, and Arthur Moats.
It’s no surprise that two of them were in his position group, because arguably the most egregious sin he committed this past year was his inattentive behavior during position meetings because he was not getting playing time. Harrison essentially acknowledged this behavior, including sleeping, after the fact while playing with the New England Patriots.
It’s unfortunate that his career ended the way that it did, but there were two sides to that story, and both admitted some fault, including President Art Rooney II. I still strongly suspect that his lack of playing time could have at least in part been something of a disciplinary mechanism for his decision to essentially remove himself from his teammates.
Moats was among the teammates who said that the Patriots’ eventual loss in the Super Bowl made things easier. Harrison was in town for Brett Keisel’s charity even and met with some of his former teammates there, getting past the initial awkwardness. Time heals all wounds, in the end. Especially in retirement.