I remember it like it was yesterday.
It was the summer of 2000. I was between my junior and senior years at Perry Hall High School. I was on a leadership camp trip in the mountains of Pennsylvania, playing volleyball and hanging out with friends.
It wasn’t a very big group of us there, in fact the group was small enough that we were all staying in one vacation house. As we were all still not even 18 years old, the guys on the trip were staying on one floor while the girls on the trip were staying on the other.
Upon coming home from swimming (or some other activity), the group of guys on the trip noticed one of the girls was using the bathroom on our floor-which we were all trying to use to take showers. As boys that age are known to do, we immediately began hassling the girl from outside the bathroom.
It was at about that moment when the leader on the trip (who we all respected) walked into the hallway and proclaimed loudly, “BOYS! QUIT YER BITCHIN’!”
For some reason, that moment was always stuck with me.
As I’ve read comments from Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson and members of the Pittsburgh Steelers defense (including DT Casey Hampton) this week about various things related to the Baltimore Ravens, the term “quit yer bitchin'” has come back to mind.
Johnson told reporters in Nashville this week that the Ravens-particularly LB Ray Lewis, S Ed Reed and DT Haloti Ngata-were “trying to hurt” him in their January 2009 AFC Divisional Round playoff matchup. Johnson ultimately was forced to leave the game with a sprained ankle, but all parties involved agreed the player popularly known as “CJ2k” was injured on a clean play.
Hampton (and other Steelers defenders) complained this week about illegal cut blocks and chop blocks from Ravens Offensive Linemen (namely RG Marshal Yanda) in the Ravens’ Week 1 35-7 victory at M&T Bank Stadium.
(A note to Ravens fans: be prepared to see a lineman called for SOMETHING during Sunday’s Week 2 contest with the Titans. It’s usually how things like this work in the NFL.)
Perhaps there’s some truth to some of the accusations made by Johnson and the Steelers. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Ravens players said to themselves in 2009 “we’ll have a much better chance of beating this team if the dude from East Carolina isn’t running for 200 yards.”
But unless Johnson could point to a play when Reed or Lewis offered a Hulk Hogan style “Atomic Leg Drop” on him after the whistle, his claims of foul play are largely without merit. Football players are historically known for being scrappy even after a play. There’s no doubt in my mind that many High School football players in the area have suffered Indian Burns, eye pokes or other simple injuries at the end of a play.
It’s part of the game.
Similarly, the Steelers’ complaints about cut blocks and chop blocks may be relevant to some extent. Blocks below the waist are often a part of football, whether safe or not. It’s a thin line as far as determining when someone is in front or in back of you, whether the block hit at or below the waist, where the block was meant to hit before a player moved/flinched/fell or whether you were truly engaged in a block with the player or not.
It’s a lot to determine. It’s even more when you consider these plays often end in piles of players, as was the case on Ray Rice’s game opening 36 yard run-a play Yanda was excused of throwing an illegal block during.
Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he threw a block that could have been argued as illegal without having any illegal intent. Maybe he had the intent to throw an illegal block but actually landed a clean one based on how the play developed.