September 04, 2007
How Could You, Rodney?
BY: Kevin Rousseau
So Rodney, what am I supposed to do with my wife's #37 blue jersey that she just had to have after your performance in Super Bowl XXXIX? And aren't I grateful that I didn't go out and buy my little girl your jersey in size 2T as I vowed to do in last week's column. I think I'll play it safe and go after a #54 for her.
When I saw the blurb come on ESPN the other night about your four game suspension for taking human growth hormones (HGH), my stomach turned over. Of all the people on Peter King's list of the top 500 players in the NFL, your name would have been at the bottom of my list of suspects when it came to such a suspension. In another eerie example of how sports imitate life, your admission of taking a banned substance is the everyday equivalent of that close acquaintance disappointing us with unthinkable conduct.
As in our everyday lives, our first reaction is anger. Deep, resented anger. We stood by you through the fines, the injuries, those silly "Dirtiest Player in the NFL" polls, the triumphs in XXXVIII and XXXIX, and countless dissertations on "not getting any respect." We cried with you when your arm was in a sling, with tears of joy streaming down your face as confetti stuck to your uniform that night at Reliant Stadium. In many ways, you epitomized "The Patriot Way."
"The Patriot Way" allowed us to snicker at players like the Chargers' Shawne Merriman and his suspension of a year ago. It made us proud that the Patriots had zero points on Profootballtalk.com's now infamous Turd Watch. Mix in the Randy Moss ticking time bomb and your incident makes us begin to dance across very thin ice when it comes to espousing proverbial football elitism.
Betrayal is a strong word and I won't use it here. I have never met you and by all accounts you are a guy that most people enjoy being around and are known to possess a giant, compassionate heart. But resentful is perhaps the shoe that fits for me here. So resentful that when I heard the news come down, I had hoped the Patriots would immediately cut you in order to send a message that no player is above "The Patriot Way." But then I realized that would have been the easiest road of all to take.
You'll certainly pay a stiff enough penalty for this infraction both with folks like me and with your teammates and the larger NFL community. Do you remember what Mike Vrabel said about Luis Castillo on draft day a few years ago? And congratulations on creating a Whopper-sized distraction before opening week. You can also forget about that dream you had of one day being an on-field official in the League. And your Hall of Fame status becomes a blurry question mark as well.
And then come October, you'll have to face Patriots Nation. By then we all be in a forgiving mood, present company included. Forgiving yes, forgetting no. When we cheer a bone-jarring tackle of yours, our applause will be slightly tempered. One of the biggest reasons the Patriots have captivated us over the last five years is that we have bought into the idea that this team is different; a throwback to a simpler and more innocent era of the game. An era when players seemed to wear a lot more white hats than black hats.
When we cheer for you again in October, Mr. Harrison, your hat won't be white or black.
It will be Patriot gray.
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