Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Crime and Punishment

Let me applaud the University of Oregon for their handling of the situation regarding LaGarrette Blount. For those unfamiliar with the situation, following Oregon’s loss to Boise State (I didn’t know Boise was a state, but I digress…) Blount sucker punched Byron Hout, a player for Boise. Later he had to be held back from going into the stands after being harassed by some fans on the way to the locker room. Oregon immediately suspended Blount for the season. This is not just any player on the team. This is the starting running back, someone people had mentioned in pre-season Heisman discussion. This is going to hurt the team, but Oregon made a clear statement that they are not going to tolerate this type of behavior regardless of the consequences. This is an action rarely seen at any level of competitive sports.

Boise State, on the other hand, is going to privately discipline Hout for his actions after the game. It was Hout who sought out Blount, then proceeded to taunt him and hit him on the shoulder pads to make sure that he heard what was being said. This behavior, which is totally unsportsmanlike as well, should be treated much more harshly than merely having “a private conversation with the coach.” Boise State should have also suspended Hout for a minimum of one game, but apparently their concern for what they will and will not tolerate is not as clear as Oregon’s. The commissioner of the WAC said they will leave the review open for further study if the case warrants it. That means he is sticking his finger in the air and if he thinks something needs to be done for PR purposes that they will follow-up, but if no one is up in arms they will let it pass. Nice to see that the conference also supports the wishy-washy tactics of their schools.

While I do think Blount’s punishment is appropriate (and the severity deals from him wanting to go into the stands, not from the punch) I am also still troubled. This is his senior season which means his college football career is done, and there is no means for getting back in anyone’s good graces. Most analysts are also saying that there is no way he will play in the NFL anymore either. Where is forgiveness found in this situation? Where does rehabilitation play a role? This is not the first trouble Blount has been in, which also played into the severity of the punishment, but maybe this is the incident he needed to realize he needed help and needed a new path. I don’t have any easy answers for this.

I hope, for his sake, that he has taken his class work seriously and will graduate with a good education and be able to do something else with his life. But I fear that he is like so many Division 1 athletes that he has put all of his eggs in one basket, and now that the basket has fallen apart has nothing left. (The coaches, colleges, the NCAA, television networks and all of us are just as responsible for this situation as the athletes themselves are)

On one other note, I was telling someone else about this situation shortly after it happened and my disgust at what Boise State was doing/not doing, they said, “let me guess, one player is white and the other is black, and it is the white player who is not being penalized.” I told them they were correct, not having seen the racial ramifications myself, and they responded “when will they ever learn.” (In my non-existent free time I’ll try and find a study conducted in California of the language differences used by teachers in relation to black and white male students and post some information on that)

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