Friday, September 4, 2009

Instant Reaction

I do not support LaGarrette Blount's actions. I do think we need to try to understand what he did.

For those of you not following this story Blount is a running back for the University of Oregon football team. After a game last night Blount punched an opposing player in the face. The opposing player, Boise State's Byron Hout, sought out Blount immediately after the game and taunted him. The taunt may have been a reaction to Blount's comments to the media before the game to the effect of Oregon owing Boise an "ass whuppin" to avenge the Ducks loss to the Broncos in Oregon last year. I can't condone players punching each other after a game. I do think this kid Blount is getting a bad rap.

I have long contended that this idea that words should never lead to violence is, like communism, a nice idea that has no real practical basis in reality. The fact is you can't just go around saying whatever you want to whoever you want and not be ready to accept whatever reaction you get. Now, if you do something reasonable like honk at someone who darts out in front of your car it is fair to expect they won't smash in your windshield with a crowbar. However, if you roll down your window and yell "Get your stupid ass out the street." I don't see how you can expect to not have your windshield smashed in with a crowbar. Polite society is for polite people. If you can't be polite I hardly see how you can complain if someone answers your rudeness with even greater rudeness.

Apply this to the end of a game. If you win you should let the fact that you won be all the smack you need to run out there. However if at the end of a tough emotional game you feel compelled to seek a guy out, tap him on the shoulder and rub it in his face you should expect to get punched in the face. If you want to live in a world where you do not ever get punched in the face don't go around taunting angry men who just lost a contest of strength and will. If you want to live in a world where you can taunt large angry men without any repercussion move to Candyland. Point: Hout needs to accept some responsibility for his actions and the result.

Some ESPN analysts have referred to the incident as a sucker punch. I don't think this is a fair characterization. If Hout had stood and faced Blount after his comment he would have seen the punch coming. Instead he puts on a shit eating grin and turns to look for props from his boys. Dude, if you're going to talk shit keep your wits about you. In the immortal words of Chris Tucker, "You got knocked the fuck out!" I also think it's telling that Hout's teammates didn't rush to his defense. Maybe the guys' just a dick.

Let me emphasize I am not behind hauling off and punching people. I don't think it's the right thing to do. I just think we shouldn't act so shocked when it happens. Colin Cowherd said something on his show today that stood out for me. He said, "It's not how you act that's important, it's how you react." This is true. Hout is a dumb ass for what he did. Blount could have shown tremendous character and restraint by shining Hout on. That would be the kind of thing we look up to as a society. But Blount isn't that guy. I don't think he should be vilified for it. I'm not that guy. Ask Kermit Washington what can happen in a bad instant. Washington punched Rudy Tomjonovich and his life changed forever. Blount is getting hammered for something that happened in the heat of the moment. We accept temporary insanity as a basis for murder defense. We coach temporary insanity in football players so we can be entertained. But when the insanity carries over by a few minutes we want to act like we're outraged.

Now Blount has been suspended for the rest of the year. I'm fine with that. Just like I was fine with the Mike Vick suspension. Blount needed some sort of punishment. I think a year is a little harsh but he did something wrong and he needs to accept the consequences of his action. I don't think we need to keep hammering on him after this. I don't think we should write him off as a person or a player based on this one incident. It could well be that he's a good person who did a bad thing. We need to look at ourselves and ask if our expectations are really in line with reality. Is it really reasonable to expect that these guys will just turn it off as soon as the whistle blows? Is it really reasonable to expect that we should all have carte blanche to say whatever, whenever, to whomever and expect that it will never draw an unfavorable reaction?

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