- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 13, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION

The thing you have to remember about James Harrison, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ commissioner-crunching linebacker, is that he watches cartoons. Lots of cartoons. “Cartoons 24/7,” he claimed at the Super Bowl a few years ago.

And which are his favorites?

” ‘Adult Swim,’ ‘Family Guy,’ ‘American Dad’ … or I can go old school with ‘Bugs Bunny,’ ‘Daffy Duck’ and a little bit of ‘Pink Panther.’ Depends on what time it is and what’s on.”

With his Looney Tunes comments in the August issue of Men’s Journal, Harrison officially has become a cartoon character. Let’s face it, He always has been a little Daffy, but some of the cracks he made about the NFL commissioner make you wonder if, on some level, he isn’t playing Tom to Roger Goodell’s Jerry — or maybe Sylvester to the commish’s Tweety Bird.

The magazine piece, by the way, is titled, “Confessions of an NFL Hitman” — and features a picture of Harrison, arms folded across his brawny chest, holding an FN Five-Seven pistol and a Smith and Wesson 460 V revolver (both from his personal collection). So right away you think: This must be some kind of homage to Yosemite Sam.

Then his gums start flapping, and another thought crosses your mind: If he really were a cartoon character, he’d probably be voiced by James Earl Jones.

At various times in the article, Harrison calls Goodell a “crook” (perhaps he had Snidely Whiplash in mind), a “devil” (Cruella de Vil?) and a “dictator.” (I’m stumped about this last one, unless he was inspired by Bugs Bunny’s spoof of Hitler, “Herr Meets Hare.”)

But Harrison doesn’t stop there. Oh, no. Once he gets going, All-Pro pass rusher that he is, there’s no telling who he’ll blindside. He’s like the Tasmanian Devil — a veritable tornado of trouble.

He seems to relish the role, too. In fact, when the interviewer turned on his tape recorder, you can almost envision Harrison breaking out in song:

Overture, curtain, lights!

This is it. We’ll hit the heights!

And oh, what heights we’ll hit!

On with the show, this is it!

But back to the Men’s Journal story. When Harrison isn’t savaging Goodell, he’s ripping teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall for their blunders in the Steelers’ Super Bowl loss to the Green Bay Packers. That’s not being much of a “Family Guy,” is it? Here’s what he says about Big Ben, who threw two damaging first-half interceptions:

“Hey, at least throw a pick on their side of the field instead of asking the D to bail you out again. Or hand the ball off and stop trying to act like Peyton Manning. You ain’t that, and you know it, man; you just get paid like he does.”

Actually, Roethlisberger did throw a pick on Green Bay’s side of the field — his second one — and the Packers proceeded to drive 53 yards in four plays for a touchdown. (This would have been a good time for Harrison to unleash his inner Dick Dastardly, but for some reason he refrained.)

Anyway, this is the Cartoon World that Harrison lives in — world of “crooks,” “dictators” and villains of every description, all conspiring to deprive James of his just due. He’s a player who so desperately wants to be listened to, to be taken seriously, and then he poses for a magazine … brandishing two guns. This, just a few years after the Redskins’ Sean Taylor and the Broncos’ Darrent Williams were shot and killed. This, mere months after pistol-packing Plaxico Burress was released from prison.

It’s the kind of thing Elmer Fudd would do.

In Harrison’s Merrie Melodies universe, the commissioner is supposed to be the players’ friend, not somebody who would fine him $125,000 last season for a series of harrowing hits. James, apparently, didn’t get the memo. The commissioner has never been the players’ friend. He has always been, first and foremost, an employee of the owners, hired to do their bidding. If the owners are concerned about gratuitous shots on defenseless players, the commissioner is going to drop the hammer.

Earth to James: Football isn’t like a “Road Runner” episode. When you “blow up” an opponent, he stays blown up. (Unlike Wile E. Coyote, who, after an unfortunate experience with explosives, can be pieced back together in time for the next scene.)

Boy, do we ever need this lockout to end. I mean, without the NFL, life just doesn’t seem real. It seems more like a really bad cartoon.

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