Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Over a year ago, Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth received a five-game suspension from the National Football League for stomping on the face of Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode. A player who had been known for problems controlling his temper, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back, not only for the league and the Titans (a team that already had to deal with Adam Jones), but for Haynesworth himself. Though he may still show a bit of that “competitive spirit”, as it can be labeled, he showed immediate remorse and for now, has proven to find restraint when that “spirit” reveals itself.

Some called for a lengthier suspension. A few even called for a complete ban from the NFL. Yet, the league, the franchise and the player have been able to move forward. Haynesworth has been voted into his first Pro Bowl (despite injury) and was considered a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.

What about Chris Simon?

Simon, a 35-year old left winger in the National Hockey League, arguably could have made Bill Romanowski seem like Mr. Snuffleupagus. In a game where people are unsure about celebrating, condoning or condemning enforcers, Simon has managed to once again be the sorest subject. The latest: stepping – let me say this again, stepping - on the back of Jarkko Ruutu’s leg en route to the bench (see above). Now, Ruutu’s exact role has been debated amongst the hockey faithful, but it has become harder and harder for even Simon’s fans to defend him anymore. This comes weeks after returning from a then-record 25-game suspension (which began at the end of last season) for hitting Ryan Hollweg in the face with a two-handed swing of his stick. Even if both incidents had been provoked, as indicated in some circles, the extremities of Simon’s actions have continued to sully the game’s image in the eyes of casual sports fans and dismissive critics.

Does a 30-game suspension (breaking a league record… again) prove to rehabilitate him now?Were seven other incidents that we know of enough warning signs that this is a player who may not have regard for another’s livelihood?

Simon took a leave from his team, the New York Islanders, as both sides agreed that he needed to seek help to understand his issues. Whether it was a preemptive strike before the imminent suspension is up for debate. However, the indisputable fact that this is the eighth time-out of his career. This is the eighth time that the league has told him his conduct is unacceptable. This is the eighth time that he went too far.His teammates have said he’s a good guy who just can’t flip the switch at times. Yet, he’s not a kid who has to eat his humble pie in order to understand that his actions have dire consequences. Nate Robinson had to learn that lesson. He’s not a player who has to be given a great responsibility in order to appreciate the severity of any potential absence. The Golden State Warriors are hoping that Stephen Jackson understands this. He’s not a player who had to witness how fleeting fame could be with such a sudden fall from grace. Michael Vick will be just 29 years old after serving his 23-month sentence.

The vitriol against him is not just for the fact that he has been unbelievably callous and dangerous, even in such a violent sport as hockey can be. Simon is a talented winger who has reached the pinnacle of the sport twice, winning the Stanley Cup with Colorado and reaching the Finals twice more with Washington and Calgary. As any sport, as long as someone has talent, they have a chance at a roster spot in any league. Even at 35, he can still find work in the NHL for a few more years as the game calls for enforcers to help their stars find easier routes to the net. However, at that very age, you’re supposed to have gained some sort of insight and wisdom, right?

There are times where we just lose it and remorse finds us moments later. We realize the mistake that we made and for the most part, want to redeem ourselves. There are times where the lesson needs to repeat itself for us to understand the wrongs we have made. Not here. Chris Simon just doesn’t get it. It may be that he has never been able to fully conquer his personal demons, instead manifesting them into his aggressive style of play. It may be that he’s a target for his Ojibwa heritage, just as the league’s few African-descendant players have indicated at times, but it’s hard to prove. It may be that the nature of his position calls for him to be a bit more than a forechecker. Whatever the issue, he hasn’t dealt with it in a manner that is not as destructive to fellow players at it can be to himself. So, even for those who care less about the sport, do you believe that another lengthy suspension is enough? Also, do you believe that the game can gain any popularity despite the actions of some reckless individuals as Simon?

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