Last night, the Dallas Cowboys lost in spectacular fashion to the New York Giants when the eventual Super Bowl winners answered a game-tying Cowboys touchdown by returning the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for what would prove to be the winning score. Shortly thereafter, Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy lost his shit.
Hardy stormed the Cowboys’ special-teams huddle, slapped special teams coach Rich Bisaccia’s clipboard out of his hand, shoved Bisaccia, pushed a few teammates who separated the two, then jawed with injured Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. It was all pretty shocking stuff, especially given the context that Greg Hardy is a Bad, Bad Guy and was participating in just his second game as a Cowboy. But Dallas, short Bryant and Tony Romo, is a trash team right now that’s lost four straight and has little hope outside of Hardy, who is a great and exciting football player, and so the Cowboys circled the wagons instead of cutting his ass on the spot like they probably would’ve done to a scrub who stalked and pushed a coach. That makes sense; talent trumps all in football. The better question is this: Why would anyone else defend Hardy?
Questions like this one, as usual, bring us to First Take, where Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith make money doing and/or defending indefensible things in the name of debate. Today, Bayless had this to say about the brouhaha:
“I don’t have a problem with what Greg Hardy did. I only have a major problem with when he chose to do it. I must be the first to admit that when Dwayne Harris ran that kickoff back 100 yards, I wanted to do exactly what Greg Hardy did.”
“If I had been Greg Hardy, I would wait until the special-teamers came on the sideline. As a veteran player who’s been around, been to Pro Bowls in this league, if then you want to get up in their faces and challenge their lack of effort on the kickoff coverage of Dwayne Harris, that is fine with me. You can do it along the bench, on the sideline, maybe a little off camera.”
Professional football self-selects for aggressive men who find joy in hitting people over and over again, and with adrenaline and testosterone pumping for hours on end, it makes sense that there are a lot of dustups on the field, even relative to other sports. But what Hardy did—squaring up with his dang coach in the midst of a violent tantrum—goes beyond giving a guy a shove and calling him a bitch between downs. It speaks to Hardy’s temper, which he is unable or unwilling to control, and coordinates neatly with what we learned about Hardy when he was on trial for beating his girlfriend and throwing her on a pile of guns.
It should go without saying that there’s no scenario when it’s okay to fight your coworkers, whether they’re your bosses or peers or subordinates. But here’s Bayless anyway, doling out takes a take that falls in line with the worst of last month’s takes when Washington Nationals pitcher Jonathan Papelbon choked teammate Bryce Harper in the dugout.
Like with Harper, Bayless’s errs in that he works backwards from an assumption that is almost surely bullshit: that Hardy just wants it more than the young or journeyman bums that make up Dallas’s special teams unit. But Bayless is also allowing that perhaps there is a time and place to physically threaten your coworkers—somewhere else, and later. It lets Hardy off for being a fucking headcase and/or bad person, while playing into the fallacy that getting into a shoving match with a chunk of your team is a legitimate demonstration of leadership through tough love, or that Hardy’s actions were conducive to winning a football game.
There’s no way anyone worth their weight in used kitty litter can believe Hardy’s tantrum was good for the team, or that it could’ve been a positive spark if only administered at a slightly different time. No one’s that stupid, and the only way you get guys on national platforms doling out these kinds of contrarian, disingenuous, bad takes, is perhaps if they’re paid to do just that.