In what was easily the most significant Thanksgiving Day game played in Detroit in the last ten years, the Green Bay Packers ran their record to 11-0 by beating the Lions pretty soundly 27-15.
After the game, the big story had nothing to do with the Packers' chasing history, nor did people want to talk about the fact that Aaron Rodgers actually has a better passer rating 11 games into this season than Tom Brady had 11 games into his perfect 2007 regular season.
The big topic after the game actually had little to do with the Packers. As he has on multiple occasions already this season, Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh made himself the story with another extracurricular cheap shot. This time Suh got ejected from the game when he followed three slams of the head of Packers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith into the turf (picture a WWE wrestler bouncing his opponent's melon off of the top turnbuckle) with a stomp on his right arm.
After the game, Suh had a meandering, contentious, excuse-laden rant where he tried to convince the media (and likely the American public and even himself) that the stomp was not an attempt to inflict pain on Dietrich-Smith, but instead a slight misstep as he tried to extricate himself from a testy situation.
I had one of my Twitter followers and loyal listeners, Jared Dufour, ask me the question Thursday afternoon, "From the perspective of someone who's met him, is there an athlete with a bigger gap between their on-field and off-field personas than Suh?"
It's a fair question. I've had the chance to interview Ndamukong Suh in person on my radio show on a couple occasions, once in Houston at the Lombardi Award in 2009, and then in February at the Super Bowl. When he's not trying to justify his blatant disregard for the rulebook, he's actually incredibly engaging and thoughtful. He's a smart guy. He's generous and very active in the community.
That's what makes this recent "heel turn" all the more fascinating.
There are lots of athletes who "play mean," but in real life they are really good guys. Suh is perceived to be a genuinely dirty player, and on top of that not only is he unapologetic about it, he now tries to justify his actions.
If the NFL were the WWE, Suh would be an amazing monster heel (wrestling lingo for "über-villain"). An unstoppable tour de force of an athlete, breaking rules and then telling you he's just doing what he needs to do to win, forcefully and eloquently. Like Shaquille O'Neal meets Ric Flair.
It begs numerous questions -- Is this who Suh was back at Nebraska and we just didn't know? Are these survival instincts kicking in as he plays one of the most physical positions in football? Does he really believe his own rationalizations for his behavior? Or is he working all of us? Living in 2011, one thing we know is the 24-hour news cycle will turn this "Suh Stomp" into third-degree murder by Monday. If I may remind everyone what truly DIRTY play looks like, let's rewind to November 23, 1986. Remember Charles Martin and Jim McMahon?
If that play happened in 2011, Martin is suspended for the rest of the season, the guys high-fiving him on the sidelines all get three-game suspensions, and Twitter shuts down for at least ten minutes, after which "Charles Martin" is trending for the next ten days.
But Charles Martin was a bit player, a no-namer whose entire relevance as a player came from that one YouTube clip. Suh is one of the faces of the league and one of the most heavily marketed players in the game.
And rapidly becoming the most hated. I can't look away.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game and Yahoo! Sports Radio from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays, and follow him in Twitter a http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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