From hero to fraud, Colts' Harrison makes ugly 180
Grab a gravestone and start chiseling, because we have a date of death:
Here lies the Benefit of the Doubt for Marvin Harrison.
It expired on Nov. 9, 2008. The official time of death is difficult to determine, because Harrison killed off any final shred of our goodwill -- my goodwill, anyway -- in two different moments Sunday at Pittsburgh, where the Colts won 24-20 in spite of him.
Yes, in spite of him. The Colts now win games in spite of their Hall of Fame receiver.
The first moment came late in the first half. First down, midfield. Harrison is running free deep, some sort of post route, and Peyton Manning puts the ball almost on the money. Almost, but not quite. Hey, Manning did his best. There were more than 1,000 pounds of muscular Steelers trying to bash in his head when he put the ball within 2 feet of Harrison, nearly 40 yards down the field.
Harrison couldn't be bothered to catch it.
The pass wasn't perfect, but the effort was nonexistent. Harrison simply didn't try. The ball was about one-half stride ahead of him, coming in at knee level, and Harrison's reaction wasn't to dive or slide or even bend at the waist and reach with both hands. No, his reaction was to stick out a single hand.
If the ball was cloth and his hand Velcro, Harrison might have controlled it. As it was, a hurtling football had no chance of sticking, and it fell incomplete. After the game Manning took the blame, saying the pass had to be better. Immediately after the throw, his body language said something else: As Harrison merely waved at the ball, Manning's entire body convulsed. His knees buckled. His face contorted. He was pissed.
And for Harrison, that was the better of the two moments.
The second moment came in the third quarter. Unlike the first moment, described earlier, Harrison didn't look indifferent. No, this time he looked scared.
It was third-and-3 from the Steelers' 18. Harrison, heading for the end zone's right pylon, got behind cornerback William Gay. Manning delivered a perfect pass at the goal line. Harrison actually made an attempt this time, leaving his feet and going low for the catch, but at that moment Steelers safety Tyrone Carter was arriving. Harrison abandoned his pursuit of the ball, letting it drop, and went into self-preservation mode. Carter delivered a glancing blow, but the pass was already incomplete.
Harrison stayed down. Team officials walked him off the field, then announced he had a mild concussion and said his return was questionable.
On the first play of the Colts' very next possession, Harrison was on the field.
He's a hero!
Nah. He's a fraud.
I'm sorry, but the benefit of the doubt is gone. Nothing about Marvin Harrison is what I once thought it to be.
Once upon a time, Marvin Harrison was the peculiarly shy, introverted receiver who worked hard and put up great numbers. He was a star, and more. He was a role model. We didn't know much about him, but he had earned the benefit of the doubt.
Now, the benefit of doubt is gone. Now, in light of a horrific event this past spring in Philadelphia, where Harrison has been linked to -- but not charged with -- a shooting near an auto shop he owns, I'm not sure shy is the word to describe him. His gun was allegedly used to shoot a man Harrison had been fighting with weeks earlier. The victim has accused Harrison of pulling the trigger, and has even filed a civil law suit. No resolution is in sight, but in light of the events in Philadelphia, Harrison seems less shy, and possibly something more sinister.
Now when I watch Marvin Harrison on the sideline, I don't see peculiar. I see petulance. I see the Colts' skill players huddled around Manning, and I see Harrison -- who is having his worst season as a pro -- sitting by himself, 30 yards away. I watch this happen last week at home against the Patriots, and again Sunday at Pittsburgh, and I wonder if Harrison has more in common with Terrell Owens than we'd suspected.
But that's not fair to Terrell Owens, because T.O. would have done his damndest to make that catch in the second quarter on Sunday, and he wouldn't have been spooked into alligator-arming that drop in the end zone in the third quarter.
Terrell Owens can be a baby and even a jerk, but he's neither indifferent nor scared when the football comes his way. And he's never been accused of shooting a man.
Marvin Harrison? We don't know Marvin Harrison. Or at least, we didn't know him a few years ago. Maybe we're starting to know him now.
I liked him better when I didn't know him at all.