The Monday Night game tonight seemed to be a contest between which players could commit the stupidest fouls that would cost their team the game.
With the Bengals losing by one point in the third quarter, a Cincinnati interception that would have put them already in field-goal position–didn’t. Because the defensive back was penalized 15 yards for taunting, prancing with the ball in front of the Denver sideline.
Later with the Broncos falling behind, their defense seemed to have held Cincinnati at mid-field, only to have a 15-yard penalty on a Denver lineman for roughing the passer. It’s risky enough to hit a QB who has already released the ball; it’s totally unnecessary to drive him into the ground. That is what the penalty was for. Given new life on the drive, the Bengals went on to score, increasing their lead over Denver.
On Sunday, the Steelers seemed to have stopped a Kansas City drive at mid-field, only to get hit with a 15-yard penalty because a defensive back was flagged for taunting. The DB didn’t even DO anything very flagrant–simply folded his arms and stood puffed up like Mussolini after a teammate tackled a Chief for a loss. One of the announcers agreed, it wasn’t much to get penalized for–but why do anything at all! It was totally unnecessary. But the prancing and strutting happen on just about every play in the NFL.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins won their second Stanley Cup in a row in the early 90s, one of the Pens talked about the self-restraint that is needed in order for a team to win a championship. He said “In order to win the Stanley Cup, you have to be willing to take a punch in the jaw.”
The unwillingness of so many NFL players simply to let a good play stand on its own–with the fans cheering–rather than needing to preen their peacock feathers belies what team play is supposed to be about: disciplining one’s conduct for the good of the team. Self-restraint–discipline–is a necessary virtue badly lacking in sports. Football and basketball are the worst.. Baseball and hockey are the best.
In Christianity, “discipline” is one of the four Cardinal Virtues. This short list of the most important virtues was composed by theologians like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, picking up from ancient philosophers Socrates and Plato. Discipline is thought to be THE most important of the four. (The others are prudence, meaning, good judgment; courage; and justice.)
Napoleon agreed. He believed that the No. 1 virtue for a soldier was–discipline. Even more important than courage! Because a soldier needs to work WITH others. It’s a team effort.
There’s a saying in football: “Offense wins games–defense wins championships.” But one player can cost his team on either side of the ball with stupid penalties. We’ll see in the upcoming playoffs, which NFL players truly play for the team. Too many seem more dedicated to striking a pose.