Thursday, November 5, 2009

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Today Sports Illustrated released the results to a poll it had conducted among NFL players to find out who was the 'Dirtiest Player in the NFL.' Here are the Top 15 players:

Hines Ward - 11.6%
Albert Haynesworth - 6%
Joey Porter - 6%
Roy Williams 5.1% The safety for the Bengals not the wide receiver for the Cowboys
Kevin Mawae - 4.6%
Cortland Finnegan - 4.2%
Richie Incognito - 3.7%
Harvey Dahl - 3.7%
Troy Polamalu - 3.7%
Jared Allen - 3.4%
Ray Lewis 3.2%
Olin Kreutz - 2.8%
Shawne Merriman - 2.3%
Bart Scott - 2.3%
Brian Dawkins - 1.9%

I found this list to be really fascinating and also very telling about the NFL and athletics in general. Upon review of the list I had a few questions.

1) Are some of the guys on this list because they are dirty or because they are dominant and earn the ire of their peers?

2) The names on this list are impressive so does being dirty equal being successful in the NFL?

3) Did some people make the list because they are disliked by their opposition?

4) Who the hell is Richie Incognito?


1) Often times in life, and especially in sports, certain people dominate. There are those people that are just better than everybody else and they know it. These people tend to draw both praise and hatred from their peers. For example Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world and some people hate him while other people love him. The people that hate him are probably just jealous of his success and with they were him.

Knowing what football was like in high school and knowing that some of the guys that play in the NFL are immature would it not be fair to guess that the reason some of these guys got votes was because of jealousy? Maybe not jealousy of position but jealousy of attention or accolades?

For instance maybe Ray Lewis got voted dirty by Terrell Suggs who feels Lewis gets all the attention in Baltimore when really he himself is the better linebacker. I am not saying this is the case I am just talking hypothetically here. I could see this happening but not in many cases so I doubt this was a prevalent theme throughout the polling process.

2) This list contains the names of some of the best defensive players in the NFL. To put it in persective 8 of the 15 guys listed made the Pro Bowl last year and I am sure at least 5 of them will do so this year as well.

Jared Allen is almost a lock to win Defensive Player of the Year, Ray Lewis is the best linebacker of his generation, Troy Polamalu is touted as one of the best safeties in the NFL and Albert Haynesworth is the best defensive tackle in football. Having said all that these men are considered the dirtiest players in football.

Does dirty equal good?

It would appear that to be a dominant defensive player in the NFL you need to be a little dirty. Now is that the kind of message the NFL wants to be sending out to the public? Probably not but it is the reality of the game. It is the most physical game on the planet, well maybe Rugby is but that's a different debate, and to be good at a physical game maybe you need to be dirty.

Or maybe these guys are just more physical than the rest and so they are deemed as dirty. All I know is that this list includes some of the premiere players in the NFL and if being dirty means you're a premiere player than I wish every player on the Jets would be dirtier.

3) To answer this you need look no further than Hines Ward. Ward is known throughout the league as the most physical wide receiver in the game. he blocks hard on every play and never takes a play off. Maybe he was put on the list because cornerbacks and safeties don't like playing against him.

"That's what he's known for," Bengals safety Chinedum Ndukwe said to Richard Deitsch of SI.com. "He's a blind-side guy."

In his defensive Ward said this to SI, "It's hard to sit there and tell everybody it's a violent sport but tone it down a little. When I go across the middle, those guys aren't going to tackle me softly and lay me down to the ground. That's not football. I find it ironic that now you see a receiver delivering blows, and it's an issue. But I haven't changed. I've been doing it this way for 11 years."

It seems clear that Ward is aware he goes harder than other receivers and is aware that defenders don't appreciate it. Obviously this may have played a role in the voting as defenders would opt to vote for guys they don't like playing against and would call them dirty.

4) He plays guard for the St. Louis Rams and was drafted in the 3rd round in 2005. His Wikipedia page is nothing worth reading although this excerpt was hilarious:

During batting practice during his high school baseball team tryouts, Incognito would routinely yell "Yard work!" or "Long ball!" after hitting, what he believed to be a home run. All the "long balls" were warning-track fly-outs.


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