Why does God forgive dirty players?

Albert Haynesworth This weekend marks the beginning of the best two weeks of football of the year. As a native Hoosier, I'm hoping for the Indianapolis Colts to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, go into Baltimore and defeat the Ravens and extend the fun into the third week by defeating the New England Patriots and going to the Super Bowl. Now that would be ironic, and don't we love irony around here? And then maybe Islamic radicals will lay down their weapons and agree to live peacefully with the West.

The ESPN television network is usually very thorough in fleshing out the religion ghosts in sports stories. Especially football stories. But in writing about the latest NFL bad boy, Albert Haynesworth, ESPN The Magazine left a religion gap the size of the hole in the Indianapolis Colts' run defense.

If you've followed the NFL this year, you know who and what we're talking about. Haynesworth, a defensive tackle, dropped his cleated foot down on an opponent's unprotected head, twice, on Oct. 1, 2006. He received a five-game suspension for what he says was an incident of losing his temper.

It's a fascinating piece. Those familiar with football will learn a thing or two about the rigors of being in the trenches of the NFL. One may even feel a morsel of sympathy of Haynesworth, but no one is asking that the 320-pound athlete be excused for his despicable actions.

What caught my eye was a section dealing with an incident with Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, who is one of the most legendary NFL bad boys these days:

The rogues who are paid millions for their brutish talents understand; they can relate to each other's struggle to be violent on the field and virtuous off of it. That's why Haynesworth says one of the "greatest deals of this whole thing" came not from [therapist Sheila] Peters or [former player Chuck] Smith or even from Stephanie [his wife]. It came in October at an Atlanta Waffle House, where Haynesworth and Smith were eating. A Lamborghini rolled up, and out walked Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, a renowned hard hitter and one of the most fined players in the NFL. Haynesworth rose to introduce himself, and Harrison broke into a warm grin before saying, "Oh yeah, I know who you are." As they ate lunch, Harrison told Haynesworth that everybody makes mistakes, to ask God for forgiveness and to keep playing.

Did that last sentence make your jaw drop, or what?

Why the tiny God role in this piece? There has to be more to the story than just that. It's not the crux of the story, but the next sports reporter who gets a chance to ask Harrison a question should explore this matter with him.

What is the basis for Harrison's belief that God will forgive players when they do something wrong? And is "play on" the proper next step? Haynesworth's back-story would tell you that he does not agree. He declined an opportunity to challenge the league's five-game suspension.

Apparently there's room for punishment in Haynesworth's theology. Apologies for my earlier confusion and incorrect hypothesis on how the Colts could arrive at the Super Bowl. It has been corrected.

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