Friday, September 4, 2009

The Latest from the Angry Mob Media

If Marv were a Duck, would he have been allowed to come back?

I have always had a problem with the American media's obsession with calling for the death penalty for athletes' transgressions whenever it makes for a big story, while artists, actors, TV personalities and other public figures get a free pass. The Blount story is the latest example.

The Oregon (and national) media is in a frothy lather of self-righteousness, calling for Blount to be summarily kicked off the team. They use punchlines like "no tolerance," "black eye on the program," "this is not what Oregon football is about." Really? No one on the Oregon team (or any college program) has ever gotten into a scuffle before? Never gotten in trouble with the law? Never gotten a cheap penalty in a game for flagrant behavior? Really? Because I could have sworn that college athletes act like knuckleheads and make stupid decisions every week.

The media irrationally expects these kids, who spend 12 hours a day training their bodies and minds for full contact sports, and who are put into a cauldron of pressure and hype (largely fueled by the media) to perform at the highest level in a violent game like football, to somehow conduct themselves like warrior-poet elder statesmen 24-7, no exceptions.

But hey, if Mel Gibson wants to hurl racial epithets at a cop, actors want to sensationalize their annual trips to rehab, or rappers want to rap about bitches, 'hos, and thug life, those same reporters are happy to buy their albums and go see their movies. Heck look at Marv Albert. I don't see any media members boycotting his broadcasts.

But LeGarrette Blount? You sir, must be banned from Oregon football, because what you did was just simply unconscionable. I love it.

I mean, every talking head in America is giddy over Mike Vick's "second chance," and about how he's going to be used in the Philly offense. But a 20-year old kid punches another kid who taunted him after an emotionally charged game? Off the team. End of story.

What's really going on here are two things. First, this was the only game on in this slot last night, and it was the first day after a long offseason. The sports media has been desperate for about 7 months, waiting for something new to write about. After all, how many preseason previews, recruiting pieces, and coaching changes can you really write about all summer? Blount's punch gave them something to bite into. And with no other games and no other news, they blew it up.

Second, Oregon was hyped up, ironically by the very same media. From the SI cover to the Heisman hype to Chip Kelly's spread offense, the media was heading into this game with baited breath. They were going to turn this game into a blockbuster, or die trying.

And saying, "Ok, bad decision, suspend him, but let's focus on the bigger issue, which is how badly Oregon played, and how well Boise played," is not sensational enough.

Bottom line, this was basically an altercation, not some despicable act of lying in wait and accosting an innocent guy. The Boise guy taunted him after a loss and gave his shoulder pad a little shove. Blount retaliated with a punch. Blount's teammates had to restrain him. Blount was ticked and had to be taken off the field. He got into it with fans on his way out. You might have heard of this: it's called a fight. A guy lost his cool. Happens from time to time in sports, especially contact sports.

Don't get me wrong. I think what Blount did was Busch league. And if I were his coach or his father, I would be livid and really let down. And I would give him an ass-chewing he'd never forget.

But the only way he should be kicked off the team for this is if he is a repeat offender who is already on very thin ice, has been warned that any more slip-ups will cost him his scholarship, and there is a significant risk he is going to do something similarly detrimental in the future. In that case, as a culmination of multiple events, this conduct could be grounds for expulsion.

Otherwise, Blount should be suspended for multiple games, have to earn his way back into the starting job, and lose certain team privileges for the season. It's that simple.

The bigger issue the media should be focusing on is how Kelly could have his team so unprepared for this game, when they played this team last year, they had all offseason to prepare, and were supposedly motivated for payback. With the table set like that, how do you only muster 8 points with 0 first downs and 14 yards in the first half? That to me is the biggest question.


Shawn Bananzadeh said...

I disagree.

As a player on a team, you are a representative of an organization. And who wouldnt fire someone who went far and away out of the bounds of reasonable behavior. Yes, football is intense and inherently violent. But it is an organized violence. And when you go outside of its rules you are committing penalties and/or fouls. To continue with this idea, what Blount did was to act out even beyond the game. As an athlete you are competitive, yes. But you are also tasked with controlling yourself and understanding what is expected of you. When you mouth off (See SI "ass whoopin" comment), you better expect to hear it back. And when you do, you cannot reasonably believe its ok to punch a guy in the face.

Blount might get into trouble off the field in his personal life. But here, he was on the field, wearing the uniform, and essentially stained that uniform. If a Cal player acted like that, I wouldn't want him part of the team. He represents the school. Celebs, in their personal lives, are their own brand managers. So in some respect they get away with all types of nonsense its their own lives. And if Blount similarly was causing problems off the field, he should perhaps be punished outside his role as aplayer. but that wasnt the case here.

finally, i dont buy the argument that we dont punish enough people, so lets not punish some. Yes there is an over emphasis on athletes and their transgressions, but the argument should go that we should be more even handed in our judgments, not that we should be more lenient since we cant get to everyone.

beat maryland
go bears!

Zack Abbott said...

I completely agree with you, Shawn, that Blount should be punished, and especially because he punched a guy while wearing an Oregon jersey. And it's such a valid point that if Blount is talking shit to national media before the game, he better be ready to take some back, especially after they lose. Therefore, I think we can all agree that Blount's actions were wrong. However, does punishment match the crime? And this is where I agree with TBWNQ. No, it does not. Blount is a kid who got overheated after an emotional loss. He acted wrong and deserves to be punished, but not to be suspended for the whole season. That's insane! In my opinion he does not deserve to have essentially his entire career ended over one bad decision. He deserve to be nationally chastised, and suspended for a few games, but I mean this sanction effectively takes away the chance for Blount to ever even redeem himself or grow from the experience. How is he supposed to learn from an experience that doesn't give him the chance to try again? It's a complete lynch mob mentality coming down on a kid who made a mistake and just wants to play some football.

buuuut, I'm more than anything I'm just ready to watch some Cal Bears football tomorrow! GO BEARS!

SD said...

All good points. Nothing like some highbrow crime and punishment talk on the eve of game day.

While I think taking away a whole season is pretty harsh (caveat: maybe there's more about Blount we don't know), what I really like is how Kelly talked about wanting to give him structure and helping him learn from this.

That's my whole point. He's a kid. He's not a pro athlete. And he lost his cool and got into a fight, on a football field no less. He didn't take a life in cold blood.

For that, you don't kick a kid to the curb and cut all ties with him, a kid you've recruited, with whom you've developed a mentor relationship, and in whom you've invested time and energy. Not if you're in the coaching business for the right reasons. It's bigger than football and it's bigger than Oregon's PR. At least I think it is, if guys like Kelly and Belotti are worth their salt.

I think Oregon handled it with class, and I hope Blount rights the ship this season. Who knows? If he does enough, maybe he gets a shot at the NFL some day.

Nathaniel said...

First, I think you do a good job putting it into perspective with respect to the Michael Vick situation. What he did was objectively much worse, though he was duly convicted and paid his debt. Even though it was clearly documented assault, LGB was provoked.

Now that the actual punishment has been handed down, what are your thoughts? Suspended for all games, but on scholarship and able to practice so as to maximize his chance at the next level.

Finally, I think much of the clamor for the "death penalty" punishment revolved more around his striking his own teammate and then having to be restrained from going into the stands. Even though the only truly punishable offense was punching Hout, I think the perception of the follow-up was what really hurt him.

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