I've long had a little bit of a soft spot of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, basically because I slightly misremembered this incident, the only red card of his career so far as I can see. My memory of it was of Solskjaer making the tackle, and then not even bothering to wait for Uriah Rennie to card him but just walking straight off, whereas he walks away from the prone Rob Lee, maybe towards the touchline and maybe just away from the prone Rob Lee, then stops and turns to see Rennie dismissing him. Whatever exactly Solskjaer is actually doing, if he had done what I thought he had done, that somehow seems much less terrible than both lots of ways in which one could get sent off, and lots of ways in which one could react to having done something which got one sent off. I was thinking about this sort of thing because, in quite another context I was thinking about different ways in which breaking contingent, not absolutely justified, rules can be wrong.
Someone who made the kind of tackle Solskjaer did in the centre-circle during typical midfield play would have done something much worse than what Solskjaer did, I think, even though they would hardly have denied the other side a goal-scoring opportunity in the way that Solskjaer did. I suppose the lack of protest was amplified by the fact that Manchester United hardly then had the best reputation for accepting referees' decisions, but nonetheless Solskjaer did, in my memory, accept his punishment with at least public good grace. The difference between what Solskjaer 'did' - where this stands for what I remember him doing - and making that kind of tackle in the centre-circle and then arguing with the referee seems to be something to do with the attitude towards the way that the rules of football constitute the activity of playing football, and what breaches of those rules say about your attitude towards the other people playing football with you. Perhaps spitting at another player, or racially abusing them, makes it clearer than the example of a pointlessly reckless tackle. That kind of breach of the rules of football is a breach for the sake of a breach; whatever advantage, if any, is gained by breaking the rules is an advantage which cannot easily be understood within the rules of football - at best, intimidation, and at worst, enjoyment of an attempt to dominate - and indeed depends on being the kind of thing you are not supposed to do to generate that advantage, whereas in the Solskjaer case, the advantage is easily comprehensible within the rules of the practice itself - you stop the other side (from having a chance to) score.
A breach of the rules for the sake of the breach seems worse because it is destructive of the activity at all, in a way that breaches of Solskjaer's sort are not; having people whose actions on the football field are not motivated by and not consistent with the aim of playing and winning football games is, to some degree, to stop playing football. That in turn seems a kind of disrespect of the other participants in the activity; they are there to play football, and by participating in the activity without abiding by the rules that make it that activity, it becomes much more difficult for them to play football, much more difficult than if whoever is disrupting their game had not participated at all. As a universal attitude, it even seems to disrespect one's own agency; if one is not prepared to respect the rules that constitute a practice which one is engaged in, it becomes difficult to see how one is capable of doing anything at all. Think of how annoying Robbie Savage can be; you wonder why he bothers, since it often seems like all he does is stop other people from playing football by niggling at them. This, of course, is just another example of the reflexivity of agency, and perhaps of normative considerations in general. All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football, indeed.