Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Wrong Message

I heard about Oregon's LeGarrette Blount's season-long suspension for throwing a punch and was shocked. Really?! A whole season?! In hockey, you get 5 minutes in the box and are back on the ice. Seriously, when did sports become so genteel? I understand that this is college sports which operates under a different paradigm than the pros. But it's football, a physical, adrenalin-filled game that is violent between the lines. Does an after-game punch require such a serious response?

Have a look at this article from ESPN's Ted Miller, which is well-written and reflective. Miller agrees with the 1-year suspension and suggests a lifetime ban was also possible. But he also says that Blount is lucky that assault charges won't be filed. This bothers me. This wasn't a random punch a la Woody Hayes so many years ago; Byron Hout from Boise State was taunting after a victory. Apparently Blount was mouthing off before the game and I guess Hout was giving back after Boise State won. But good sportsmen win gracefully and don't rub their opponents faces in it, no matter what. If you do, accept the consequences, even if it's a punch to your jaw. The fact that you can run your mouth and then run to the police should your opponent take offense physically is disturbing.

I'm not condoning Blount; he should have been more mature (especially given his checkered past) and just walked away. But a 2 or 3 game suspension would be adequate in this situation. Frankly I think the university realized that the out-of-shape Blount was not going to contribute this year and suddenly received a handy excuse to get him off the field.

The lesson being taught is that it's OK to get in the other guy's face and taunt, because he can't do anything in response. If you've no fear of repercussions, you can just be a complete ass without worry. I guess that's the world that we live in, particularly with the internet, where anonymous hypercriticism is the rule of the day. When you can say whatever you want without having to back it up, you will say whatever you want.

I know that trash talking is part of sports: it's gamesmanship. But once the contest is over, shake hands and say "Good game", regardless of the outcome. That's what we should be teaching young athletes in college: sportsmanship. Hout's post-game behavior was poor and he should get a 1-game suspension. Blount missing the entire season and Hout playing in Boise State's next game sends the wrong message in my mind - obnoxious loudmouths are OK, short-tempered responses are not. Let's be fair - neither is good for sports and neither should be tolerated.



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