Re-Defining the Media’s Role in Sports.

This article was written by my friend Jeff Spiegel and can be found on www.scoutingthesports.com.  

blount

Almost a week has passed since LeGarette Blount rocked the college football world with a punch and a tirade that made me sick to my stomach. Thursday through Saturday someone couldn’t turn on the television without seeing the punch over and over, as well as some judgmental sports analyst saying what a bad person he was and how wrong he was. I have never dreaded the ESPN “30 and 30 update” so much in my life, because it was like I was watching the video clip on repeat (and I wasn’t even in Bronco Stadium after the game, where the video guy played the video 17 times!). College football halftime shows, more Blount. Thursday-Saturday’s Sportscenter both in the morning and at night, more Blount, and just then I started to feel bad for him.

 None of these analysts know anything about Blount other than that he is an extremely talented football player who punched a Boise State player and then went mental. Chip Kelly knows Blount better than any analyst and described Blount as a good person who made a bad choice. Maybe the analysts should consider that people make mistakes, and that after everything, Blount is a human who has emotions.

 Imagine what Blount has been through over the past week. His whole life has been stripped from him. He embarrassed himself on national television, and had to listen to the whole world remind him of that for days.Then he was suspended from football for the remainder of the year, something that might cost him his career.

 What bothers me the most though, is that the criticism never ends. Gene Wojciechowski wrote an article on ESPN.com just this morning talking about how Blount should be made an example of, and showcased around the sporting world as “what not to do”. He went on to describe the event as a “thug moment”, despite the fact that he’s probably never met the man. Jon Canzano of The Oregonian newspaper wrote about how Blount should be immediately suspended because sports need to be about, “ethics, standards, and accountability.” My question for Canzano is whether we should make every judgment simply based on one action. What if Blount has been the nicest guy in the room, serving the community consistently, and just had one random outburst? In no way am I defending what happened on the field, but can’t we take into consideration if he really was a good person like Chip Kelly said he was? Maybe he had earned a little leniency, maybe he hadn’t, but I think Canzano and the media were far too quick to jump to conclusions.

 In hindsight, the punishment given out by Oregon was within the realm of reasonability, but the one doled out by the media was not. For days, reporters and analysts across the nation have attacked the 22 year old Blount with a “holier-than-thou” attitude, shoveling ridicule and embarrassment onto a student-athlete who has already hit rock bottom. If you don’t think this can affect an athlete, I urge you all to watch this clip of Allen Iverson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZykFbXQOYro. I was completely neutral on AI before that video, but after watching it, I started to think of everything athletes go through, and started to feel sorry for him.Athletes only have to mess up once, and everyone in the world hears about it for days and days on TV.

 I am currently in college, and I wonder if everything my friends or I did was reported on television, what would happen? Think of the things you’ve done and not gotten caught for, and now imagine if that was broadcast all over the world by people paid to have a strong opinion. I want to re-emphasize that I am not justifying or defending what LeGarrette Blount did last Thursday night, but I hope people understand he is a 22 year old who made a mistake and is paying more dearly than any of us will pay for a similar mistake. It got me to thinking: what if this game weren’t on national television? What if he punched his own teammate in practice? What if he punched a student on campus? What if he got arrested? If the situation were slightly different, would he have been suspended for a full year? Would writers all over the world be calling for his head, humiliating him? Nebraska suspended a player for spring practices for a DUI in April. That player put not only his own life, but everyone else’s around him in jeopardy and probably won’t miss a game? Blount injured a player, but never put anyone’s life in danger. A DUI is typically met with an “indefinite suspension” which is college football code for a few games. In Georgia, the law states a DUI results in a suspension of 10% of the team’s games. That means two at the most. Blount is gone for 11 plus any bowl game the Ducks make. I find it hard to believe that if this game were not on national television that Blount would be gone for the whole season. If Boise St’s videoboard operator had not replayed the clip 17 times in the stadium, maybe the fans wouldn’t have screamed obscenities at Blount while attacking him both physically and verbally, and maybe he wouldn’t have fought back.

 Chris Petersen, the head coach at Boise State is taking a lot of heat in the media for not suspending the player who instigated Blount. I am fine with his decision. Peterson knows Byron Hout better than anyone in the media does, so he knows what kind of person he is, as well as whether a suspension was really necessary to get his point across. He doesn’t need to appease the media by showing he has his team under control, and giving Hout the suspension so many are calling for. Peterson was hired and given the authority to deal with events like this, and that is exactly what he is doing. Chip Kelly did the same.

 Athletes are humans, and sometimes when we watch them on television we forget that. Oregon fans saw Blount hurdle his way into the endzone in the Holiday Bowl last season, and forgot that with such unbelievable talent and athleticism comes humanity and personal issues just like the rest of us. Blount messed up, and got an appropriate punishment from the Oregon Athletic Department. The media, however, has gone over the line and needs to re-evaluate its boundaries, because within the past week they have not only been crossed, but left behind.”

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