Thursday, September 24, 2009

Violence and Sports Part Deux

We seem to have had a spate of violent sporting folks recently.  Given my previous post, I thought I might share this post I made on Salon in response to an article suggesting that Serena Williams was getting treated more harshly than John McEnroe and other des enfants terrible of the tennis world after her meltdown at the U.S. Open.  The video above accompanied the original article and is relevant.

I never had any sympathy for McEnroe or any of the other players who berated officials and whined. More penalties more quickly dished out for childish behavior would have been (and would be now)a good thing for the game.

Having said that, in none of the clips included in the article featuring McEnroe did he physically threaten anyone. He was petulant and disgraceful, but never overtly violent.

Yes, race and gender might play into it, but I think the more obvious distinction between Williams's outburst and the others mentioned is that she verbally threatened the lineswoman (whether it be saying she was going to "kill" her, or merely shove a ball down her throat).

Physical intimidation of officials is, in any sport, several orders of magnitude above simply complaining about them. Playing down this aspect of Williams tirade and pretending like it was of a piece with McEnroe talking about the chalk flying up is to misprepresent what happened and to tacitly diminish the significance of threatening someone with physical violence.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

No Tears for Blount

So, I consider myself at least a moderate sports fan, but I was probably the last person on the planet to see the video of the punch thrown by LaGerrette Blount that decked Bryon Hout in the aftermath of the Boise State/Oregon game a week ago.

I had heard a lot about it—descriptions of various sorts. But I hadn’t seen the footage until after I heard an interview on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” with Dave Zinn, a sports writer for The Nation magazine. Zinn’s take on the incident bothered me, and I decided to seek out the video to see what happened for myself.

In case you, like me, missed it, basically what happened is that Hout runs up to Blount after the game, slaps his shoulder pads, and says something (apparently unflattering) to Blount. The backstory is that Blount had been talking a lot of smack about how bad Oregon was going to whup up on Boise State. Not only did that not happen, but Blount had a horrible game personally. After Hout ran by and taunted Blount, Blount sucker punched Hout, who fell to the ground (but was not seriously injured). Blount was suspended for the rest of this, his senior season with Oregon.

Now, Zinn’s take: He claims the punishment was vastly disproportionate to the crime. While he repeatedly says he’s not excusing Blount’s actions, Zinn insists that Blount doesn’t deserve to be suspended for the entire season.

His reasons? First, he claims that there were “mitigating” circumstances, including the initial taunt itself, the replaying of the punch on the JumboTron at the stadium, and lastly the boorish behavior of some Boise State fans who threatened Player 1 after this repeated replaying of the incident on the JumboTron.

The latter two issues are easy to dispense with. They aren’t mitigating circumstances, by definition, since they happened as results of the punch after the fact. A mitigating circumstance is something that happens *in the commission of an act* that lessens the offender’s culpability. What happened after the fact, no matter how ugly, doesn’t lessen the severity of the act.

Now, as to the taunt, here’s where the video comes in. From the description, I had imagined Hout actively getting in the face of Blount, invading his personal space, and repeatedly taunting him. But that’s not what happened. As the video shows, Hout runs past Blount, slaps him on the shoulder pads, and shouts something, and then continues on. Nothing that could conceivably be considered threatening or as an attempt to goad Blount into violence.

Without a doubt, Hout is an incredible tool and shouldn’t have done it. But words are one thing, physical violence is another. The notion that Zinn floats that one shouldn’t be surprised that Blount reacted the way he did after being taunted in an atmosphere with “this kind of level of adrenaline and testosterone” is utter crap.

Look, people have gone to the electric chair for spontaneous outbursts of violence committed in stressful situations. Had Blount done the very same thing in a college-town bar (another location that often features a surfeit of testosterone), he’d be looking at jail time, not simply not getting to play a game. Heck, he didn’t even have his scholarship revoked.

But the centerpiece of Zinn’s argument about the punishment is not so much the “mitigating” circumstances, but the fact that :

“LaGarrette Blount has gone from being somebody who will most like - would have been most likely a second-round NFL draft pick with a contract of one or $2 million guaranteed, to being somebody who, according to ESPN draft expert Todd McShay - and people I've talked to as well, for that matter - is not going to be drafted, just for that one moment, that one punch.”
 He later says,

“I guess what I'm saying is not only that we have to look at the whole context of it, we also have to look at the extent to which this particular suspension is going to damage Blount's chances to make any kind of living from football.”

And that’s what’s most galling to me. Throughout the interview, Zinn suggests that it’s incredibly unfortunate that this punishment will damage Blount’s chances of becoming a multimillionaire in the NFL. As if he has a right to make such a living. As if the punishment would *not* have been over the top in Zinn’s mind if Blount had been a Division III player with no hope of earning millions after his senior season.

Despite his repeated attempts to assure us that he is “in no way excusing” Blount’s behavior, Zinn is doing exactly that, saying that it’s hypocritical for sports fans to expect players to play a game full on and then not commit assault and battery afterward.

Nonsense. If you are such a Neanderthal that you can’t play a competitive sport full out (yes, even a sport as inherently violent as football) and still act within the most basic bounds of social decency once the final whistle blows, you don’t belong in sports to begin with. Yes, Hout was a dick. Yes, the idiotic fans should be disciplined if they actually attempted to assault Blount afterward. Yes, the JumboTron dude should be given the boot.

But please, let’s get over excusing violence because of “testosterone” or the “adrenaline” of a contact sport. And let’s not cry over the justified punishment of a guy who, had he done what he did anywhere else, would find himself in the clink, not when he still has his scholarship, can practice with his team, and will likely have plenty of opportunities to be drafted and/or signed by the NFL next year anyway.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Angels and Big Boys

Before you read any further, you owe it to yourself to take a look at this:

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. I know, for I thought it, too . . . once.

You’re thinking that Glenn Beck is batsh*t crazy.

Sure, at first blush it looks bad. The Beckster seems to fancy himself some sort of Robert Langdon a la The DaVinci Code, finding the oh-so-subtle-yet-indubitable symbols of communism in front of our eyes, going on a bizarre rant about hammer and sickles and workers and Rockefeller, all without making a single coherent point.

Yes, one might think that Beck is not only embarrassing himself, but his network, conservatives, and perhaps all of humanity with his inane prattle.

You might think that the only possible explanation for this tour-de-force of stupidity is that Beck, a confessed alcoholic, is back on the juice.

Oh, but you’d be wrong.

For, now that my eyes have been opened by Beck, I too see the connections. Glen has played Morphus to my na├»ve Neo, and I’ve swallowed the red pill. In more ways than one.

I give you a fabled piece of what I once, in my innocence, would have called “American” sculpture: Big Boy.

 Innocent? Whimsical? Cute?

Oh, you poor, ignorant bastard.

Thanks to Beck, I now see Bob’s Big Boy for what it is: communist propaganda.

You doubt me? I give you Big Boy’s ideological daddy--Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.

Ah, I can here you even now. Mere happenstance you say. A quirk of sculptural synchronicity. I wish . . .

Take a look. See the pattern. Statue after statue. Lenin after Lenin. From Moscow to Budapest, Lenin’s pose is the same. The left hand clenched and cocked, as if to strike against an evil capitalist. The right hand raised in triumph.

What could be more clear?

A Big Boy burger? I’ll just say nyet, comrade!

Do you need more? You’ve got it.

Take a look at BB’s wardrobe--the checkerboard overalls.

Sure, one could note the color: red. Or the fact that overalls bespeak the proletariat, rising up in righteous revolution against their oppressors.

But a trained monkey could note those obvious connections between BB and nefarious political ideologies. Inspired by Beck, I have dug deeper, and I have looked into the abyss.

Do you know who else, Besides Mark’s Big Boy, uses the red checkerboard as a symbol?


Hmmmmmm…..what to make of this? Gosh, I wonder. What country was Croatia once a part of? Oh, oh yeah: Yugoslavia! And what was the form of government did Yugoslavia have?


But that’s not even the end of it. Where else do we find that “innocent” red checkerboard?

Ralston Purina.

William Danforth, the founder of Purina, chose the red checkerboard as his company’s logo, but that’s not all. He also developed it into a symbol of a whole new-agey world view, representing the balance among the mental, physical, social, and religious. I know this because it’s on Wikipedia, so it must be true. Look it up yourself!

So the red checkerboard represents a pagan worldview—an unholy, un-Christian spiritual view linked via numerology to the number four—four winds, four humors, four elements, four corners of the world. The bastards! They made it so obvious we didn’t even notice it!

And now Ralston Purina is owned by a Swiss company. Gee, what do we know about the Swiss? Snazzy pocket knives. Sure. Yodeling. Check. But think . . . think, dammit!

Yes, now you have it: neutrality! Even in World War II! The Swiss wouldn’t even take a stand against Adolf Hitler, and now they own a company that is both leading our youth into the cold embrace of communism, but owns a huge percentage of the pet food market.

Oh God . . . . oh my sweet Lord . . . .the last piece has fallen in place.

Alpo . . . Kit-n-Kiboodle . . . Big Boy Burgers . . . .