It can't be easy to be the person or persons responsible for dishing out discipline in professional sports leagues. You're always going to make someone mad with your rulings, and someone is always going to be screaming for and wanting more consistency. It's a pretty unenviable position.
That said, can we get some consistency from the NFL?
The NFL capped a head-scratching week of discipline on Friday afternoon when it decided to fine Steelers safety Troy Polamalu $10,000 for using a trainer's cell phone to call his wife from the sideline last Sunday.
That fine would make sense — it would even seem light perhaps — had Polamalu been calling Mrs. P. to confirm that yes, he would pick up that gallon of milk on the way home from work. However, the All-Pro safety, who has a history with concussions, called her to tell her that he was OK after suffering concussion-like symptoms.
Imagine how much that long-distance call would have cost James Harrison, by the way.
Also this week, the NFL reportedly fined Packers linebackers Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk. In the second case, Hawk kind of had it coming, as he was fined for flipping the Packers' bench the bird last week. Or better yet, he was fined for being caught flipping the bird to the Packers' bench. And in Matthews' case he was fined for the egregious act of wearing shoes that were too bright and thus, didn't conform to the league's uniform policy.
Now, you may not have heard about these incidents, and who could blame you? All week, you had the image of Lions coach Jim Schwartz chasing down 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh shoved down your throat. The incident between the two Jims, stemming from a hard handshake of all things, dominated the NFL news cycle for much of the week.
However, the postgame circus under the Ford Field big tent went without punishment. Neither Scwhartz nor Harbaugh was fined for his roles in the incident — not even a penny. Admittedly, a penny wouldn't send much of a message, but you get the picture.
Harbaugh and Schwartz stole the spotlight from their own teams and the league by acting like dopes, and they get nothing from the NFL? Meanwhile, Matthews is left to write a check for his shiny shoes and Polamalu gets docked pay for telling his wife he's feeling OK? This makes no sense.
What does make sense is that Polamalu, Hawk and Matthews all technically deserved to get fined. They broke league rules, and the league came down on them for that.
But let me ask you a question or two. Shouldn't the league be worried about its image? And did anything this week look worse for the league's image than the sight of Schwartz running after Harbaugh to try and get at him?
It's tough to argue otherwise, no? Yet, Harbaugh and Scwhartz walk scot-free.
It may not be too much of a stretch to get a sense of hypocrisy here, either. After all, three players got fined. Two coaches did not. Is the NFL saying that you can get away with more as a coach than as a player? It kind of sounds that way, doesn't it?
Who knows? Maybe it was just a bad week for the NFL's disciplinarians. We can give them a temporary pass on this one. But if two coaches meet at midfield to flip each other off while simultaneously making a phone call all while wearing neon green shoes and they aren't fined, we're gonna have a problem.
Then we'll really have to have a talk about consistency and hypocrisy.