Today on “In The Lockerroom with Tunch and Wolf” we had as one of our guests Steelers President Art Rooney II. Art has come out in support of James Harrison and his appeal to rescind the $75,000 fine. As these things often do, it conjured up a memory of Tunch and my playing days back in the 80’s when things got outt’a hand with the Houston Oilers and led to a brawl in the Astrodome and fines of which Tunch and I got whacked for two infractions, fighting and “Entering the fighting area.” (It’s a chicken and egg thing. Which comes first, fighting or entering?).
Let me preface this by saying Tunch and I were no strangers to a little blood-letting in a game with a division rival at this point in our careers. And I’m not saying that I’ve not participated (I’ll speak for myself here, don’t wanna snitch on my bud) in a little extra-curricular activities so i’m not belly-aching over a few injustices here and there. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. But the cheap shots were so out there, and the officials were doing zippo to curtail the action, that innocent people were getting mulched. It’s one thing when you are actively engaged in the give and take, another when the collateral damage starts to boil over catching up guys that had nothing to do with the initial mayhem.
So back in 1987 we were in Houston and Jerry Glanville was the Oilers head coach who, despite a small stature, talked a tough game. He emphasized and celebrated a real rough style of play encouraging the cheap shots. After we lost in a bitterly fought game at the Astrodome 24-16, Chuck Noll caught up with Glanville on the field after the game and grabbed Glanville’s hand with his right hand and poked Glanville in the chest with his left hand. Chuck was furious and let Jerry know what he thought of Glanville’s coaching. All the while Glanville was trying to get away from Chuck.
Tunch and I had known it was coming, as Chuck had already let Oilers CB Steve Brown know he was coming after Jerry after the final gun during a timeout on the field. So as soon as the game ended we fell into step right behind Chuck as he made a beeline straight to Glanville. Coach Noll was a tough guy and when the head man is going to set somebody straight, somebody’s gott’a have his back. There were a number of players on both sides doing the same thing. We had a perfect vantage point to watch the squirming Glanville try to extricate himself from Chuck’s grip. It was a very tense moment and things easily could have gotten out of hand. Think of it, both teams swirling about after a super-heated game in the middle of a liquored-up dome of beer drinking billy-bobs screaming “WE LUV YA BLUE!” It would have been the mother-of-all melees.
Tunch Ilkin, Frank Pollard and myself were all fined for the fracas that ensued during the game. So we appealed the fine ($1,500-hey, that was a big number back in the day).
The next season 1988, we were in New York for a pre-season game. So we met with Joe Brown, the NFL guy and we had Frank, Tunch, myself, Chuck Noll, and Joe Gordon (Steelers, toughest front office guy i’ve ever met) sitting in this big fancy-shmanz meeting room in this New York hotel. We came armed with video detailing the vicious cheap shots from the game (Walt Abercrombie got knocked out cold) and an impassioned summary from Chuck Noll emphasizing that if the ref’s didn’t do their jobs, the players had no choice but to take matters into their own hands.
The meeting probably took less than forty-five minutes. Video clip after video clip, Coach Noll speaking, citing the injustice of the entire game and the fines. Joe Brown cleared his throat and then simply said “No.”
That’s it. About three seconds and he denied the appeal. No if’s, and’s or but’s. He didn’t even pretend to contemplate the overwhelming evidence.
Do I think James Harrison has a chance with his appeal?
(Pause for three seconds…)