Steve Largent is my favorite football player of all time. He also delivered my favorite hit of all time. The story behind the hit goes something like this.
The Seattle Seahawks played the Denver Broncos in an early 1988 game where Denver defensive back Mike Harden delivered a hit on Steve Largent that knocked Largent unconscious and caused him some other injuries. The hit apparently did not receive a flag but League officials later fined Harden after they reviewed it and determined it to be a cheap shot. The Seahawks and Broncos (at the time, AFC West rivals) played again later that year and Largent got a chance to repay Harden. The following video shows two plays. Largent delivering his hit on Harden occurs during the second play but both plays are important.
There are two main things I noticed about Largent after watching this video.
First, observe how Largent stands up for his teammate, Brian Blades, after the officials penalize Blades for “retaliating” against Broncos defensive back Jeremiah Castille. Largent forcefully addresses one official and lets him know what he thinks of the call against his teammate.
Second, in the ensuing play, notice how Largent destroys Mike Harden while Harden returns the interception — and then how Largent proceeds to recover the resulting (possible) fumble. Largent not only pays back (legally) Harden for the cheap shot that Harden leveled on Largent earlier in the year, but (had the penalty not occurred and negated the whole play) Largent also turned a negative play for his team into a positive one.
Now, let’s transfer this series of events to the present and substitute everyday life for what happened in the football game. Say, for instance, that Brian Blades was some average Joe who said something politically incorrect, but fully legal, in an interview or unscripted moment. The left then inevitably attacks the average Joe, assassinates his character and destroys his life while the average Joe sits there and takes it. After a bit, public figures jump in and declare both the average Joe and his leftist attackers to be wrong — and they deliver lectures on the “need for civility.” Would conservatives jump in to defend the average Joe or would they sit back and accept the judgment of the public figures? What would conservatives do if a lone, Largent-like individual ripped into the public figures and denounced them with vim and vigor for their asinine judgment, boldly stating that the average Joe did nothing wrong while the leftists were fully to blame? Would conservatives back the Largent-like individual? Would they say nothing? Or would they condemn him “for being right in substance, but wrong for the way he went about it”?
And how would Largent’s hit on Harden play out in the everyday world of the present? Let’s say that a leftist viciously slandered a conservative in an unprovoked attack. Let’s then say that that conservative decided to hit back at his attacker later on in an equally aggressive, but perfectly legal, attack that stunned his attacker and made the entire left wary of what would happen the next time one of them attacked someone on the right. What would the reaction of conservatives be? Would they cheer the conservative hero and endorse his response? Or would conservatives once more denounce the hero and say that he “shouldn’t have stooped to the level of our opponents”?
I don’t know the answers to either of the two hypothetical scenarios. I don’t know how conservatives would react to everyday life scenarios similar to how Largent reacted to the Blades penalty or how Largent repaid Harden for Harden’s cheap shot. There are those associated with the conservative label who seem to realize the proper way to fight back against the left (Limbaugh, Breitbart, and Christie all come to mind in one degree or another) but then there are many others who seem to be in perpetual denial about the only successful method of fighting back against the left. (Or perhaps they are not interested in fighting back; perhaps they are stealth leftists simply working to subvert the conservative side.)
But regardless of what the conservative reaction to either of these two scenarios would be, the correct reaction should be that conservatives would enthusiastically support fighting back passionately against an opponent intent on conservative destruction. Conservatives need to abandon the idea of “being nice” and embrace the idea of fighting back legally but vehemently.
Ending “niceness” does not mean that conservatives should abandon principle; in fact it means the opposite: conservatives should embrace their principles by showing that they care enough to fight for them. Furthermore, fighting back passionately against an opponent trying to destroy you does not mean that one is “stooping to his level.” Largent, after all, seems to remain one of the few NFL players, past or present, whom other players genuinely respected on and off the field.
There is no honor in abandoning one of your own when opponents attack; it is even worse to join with those attacks. (Conversely, there is no honor in defending “one of your own” when that “own” is subverting you.) And that is why the conservative movement needs to decide if and how it is going to fight back against the left. Does it want to hit back against the left like Steve Largent hit back against Mike Harden? Or does it want to continue being “nice” by becoming a “big tent” that welcomes subversives and condemns those who passionately fight back against the left? Time will tell.
Paul Hair serves in the U.S. Army Reserves as a non-commissioned officer; he is veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has worked as a civilian in both the government and private sectors. His views are his own and he in no way represents the Army Reserves or any other part of the U.S. government.