JuJu, Gronk and the Concussed Response to Their Hits

Juju Smith-Schuster and Rob Gronkowski hit people. JuJu was right, Gronk wasn’t. But JuJu wasn’t right and Gronk is a football player. Wait, what? How we’re confused about football and its intentional violence.

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UPDATE: JuJu Smith-Schuster was suspended one game for his hit on Vontaze Burfict.

During last night’s victory over the Bengals, Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster laid a vicious block on the Bengals’ Vontaze Burfict. The hit, which fellow Steelers receiver Antonio Brown called “karma”, set off a firestorm of responses from fans and media, most of the latter calling JuJu a “thug” or saying that he participated in “thuggish” behavior.

The day before, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski leveled a blow to the head of Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White. The blow happened after a stoppage in play and resulted in an one-game suspension for Gronkowski, which he may appeal.

Folks are calling for Gronkowski to sit the rest of the season because of the intentionality behind the hit. He “revved” himself, leveled an elbow to the head of White and caused concussion symptoms. For many, it served no place in sports. For others, that move was akin to assault.

But it’s football, right? Right? You hit people, right?

Yes and no.

Sports are weird, or at least the 21st century version. While some pine for the “good ol days” of class, sportsmanship and revelry, the new school approach to the game is one of hyper-masculinity, viciousness and violence. Which, ironically, people of the latter camp believe sports to have always been — which is true — but is now under attack by progression instituted by the social justice-minded.

So both side feel like we’re lost — or losing as fans — and that sports have lost its way. Because of this circuitous sense of change.

Sports are now bad, we need to go back to the good. A good that never existed.

Sports are trying too hard to be good. It can’t lose what ultimately makes sports good, which is the bad. But that bad is bad but not bad enough. The so-called bad makes it good.

Attaching morality to sports in action is a fruitless endeavor. We’ve built a culture devoid of some sense of order and structure, and support the chaos, but yet get upset when chaos yield its result. You can only control chaos for so long until everything explodes. There really isn’t an barometer for what is right and wrong in the field of play. Because everything challenges it and if we make changes to one side, the other side is ultimately affected.

We can say Gronkowski’s hit was wrong and punish him for it. We can say Smith-Schuster’s hit was wrong and not. We could argue that both are wrong because they caused injury. But yet, one is right because “it’s football”. But we’ve seen people lay hits like Gronk during play and yelled that throwing a flag means we’re “changing the culture of football”. See where that leads us?

Yes, circumstances change interpretation. Gronk’s hit was after the whistle which made it unnecessary. But how do you measure punishment? Is one game enough? An entire season? Because if we see a vicious hit during play, do we even level a suspension? But we can say that what JuJu did was not okay, right? So there’s no punishment for that? No, because it’s football.


We’re all confused.

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