NFL FanHouse Midseason Midtacular: Roger Goodell's Worst Use of the Fine
Do you remember that Simpsons episode where all of the teachers went on strike, and to get the students back into class they brought in people from the neighborhood to run the school? One of those people, Jasper, the old guy with the jagged voice and ZZ top beard, was in charge of the second-grade class. He began by standing at the front of the room with a paddle, and running down a list of all the acts that would result in a paddling: "Looking out the window ... that's a paddling. Talking out of turn ... that's a paddling. Staring at my sandles ... that's a paddling. Paddling the school canoe ... oh, you better believe that's a paddling."
I mention this because it's not all that different from how Roger Goodell handles fines around the National Football League. The only difference, of course, is instead of paddling Ronnie Brown for dancing, he simply hands out a fine. Doing a cartwheel? That's a fine. Doing the cupid shuffle? That's a fine. Playing bongo drums after scoring a touchdown ... oh, you better believe that's a fine.
So, which fine handed down by the commissioner has been the worst?
Chris Johnson, RB, Titans: First-round pick Chris Johnson has been a huge part of the Titans 8-0 start, and when the explosive rookie scored on a 66-yard sprint in a victory over Kansas City earlier in the year, he decided to celebrate by banging out a tune on some bongo drums the Chiefs had set up in the end zone. This, of course, is a punishable offense in Roger Goodell's NFL, and the result was a $10,000 fine. For playing drums. This, of course, is twice the amount one would get for dragging a quarterback around by his facemask.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins: Following a five-yard touchdown run for Miami, Brown and two of his blockers decided it would be fun to do a line dance called the cupid shuffle. The result? A $7,500 fine. In case you're interested, this is the same fine you would get for jumping into the stands following a touchdown. The interesting thing about this fine? The explanation that celebrations must be spontaneous. Oh, you mean like banging on some bongo drums that just happened to be sitting in front of you in the end zone? Wait. What?
DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles: When Jackson returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown against the Washington Redskins earlier this season, the on-field officials missed a blatant block in the back that helped spring the Eagles rookie for a touchdown. That's a problem, but, sleep easy folks, because the NFL laid down the law on the real issue on that play: THE DANCING OF DESEAN JACKSON! Following his touchdown, Jackson -- and his teammate Will Demps -- decided to do a little dance in celebration. Naturally, this resulted in a $10,000 fine.
... And the winner is ...
Ryan Clark, S, Steelers: Clark, current Steelers safety and former Washington Redskin, decided to take it upon himself to honor the memory of his former teammate, Sean Taylor, by etching the No. 21 into his eye black during a game two weeks ago. I'm guessing the number of people that actually noticed Clark did this would be somewhere between zero and two. One of the two being Clark himself, while the other was obviously commissioner Goodell, who felt this act would be worthy of a $5,000 fine. The same dollar amount one would get for dropping a running back on his head.
The moral of the story: You may only honor somebody on your uniform, helmet, or EYE BLACK(!) when the NFL permits you to. The NFL allowed players to wear the No. 21 on their helmets last year for the final nine weeks of the season, and slapped a 'GU' sticker on helmets this season to honor the memory of Gene Upshaw. This is acceptable because the NFL says it's acceptable. Etching the No. 21 into your eye black, however, is not acceptable. And that doesn't make any sense.