Posted: Thursday October 19, 2006 2:15PM; Updated: Thursday October 19, 2006 2:55PM
What a riot
Austin Murphy will answer questions from SI.com users.
Quick take on last Saturday's head stomping, helmet-swinging, five-minute free-for-all between FIU and Miami in the Orange Bowl (or, as my old friend Lamar Thomas refers to it, "the OB" -- as in "You don't come into the OB playing that stuff ... talking noise like that. You'll get your butt kicked. I was about to go down the elevator and get into that thing.''
So much for that color commentary gig. (Thomas was fired by Comcast Sports Southeast the following Monday.)
After handing down too-lenient punishments the first time around, both schools got it right. Two Florida International players have been kicked off the team; 16 of their teammates will serve indefinite suspensions. Anthony Reddick, the Miami safety who waded into the fray swinging his helmet as if it were a Scottish mace and he was re-enacting the climactic battle scene from Braveheart, saw his one-game suspension beefed up to "indefinite." A dozen of his 'Cane brethren will miss Saturday's game at Duke, and, on top of that, be required to perform community service.
I like the point made by my colleague, Stewart Mandel, who noted that nearly as stunning as the melee has been the response to it: "prominent media figures calling for Miami to receive the death penalty."
Make no mistake, this fight was manna for columnists and bloviators on sports talk radio and TV. Cancel the season! Some demanded. Cancel the program! Suggested others.
Take a few deep, cleansing breaths, guys. Take a Xanax. What we saw was really, really bad. But if you're going to bring down the death penalty on a program, maybe it would be best to think it through. Listen to thoughtful sportswriter (and Miami alumna) Michelle Kaufman: "Did these same journalists call for the dismantling of the South Carolina and Clemson programs when they had their ugly brawl in 2004? Have they called for the head of Florida State's Bobby Bowden, who in the past five years has had players arrested for felony grand theft, drunk driving and soliciting sex from an undercover police officer?
Did they care that former University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins went years with a zero percent graduation rate?"
Kaufman also wonders: Where is the outrage over the Hullaballoo in Hanover? Hours before Hurricanes captain Brandon Meriweather could be seen stomping various supine Golden Panthers, Dartmouth and Holy Cross mixed it up on Memorial Field. The Big Green took exception to the Crusaders, who desecrated the midfield D after winning in overtime, 24-21.
By all accounts, this I-AA fracas had less staying power than the melee in Miami, but it was still plenty ugly, with players "thrown to the ground and kicked," according to the AP.
Whether an athlete joins a brawl, or tries to restrain his teammates from doing so, says much about him. How we respond to such spectacles says much about us. Why should a free-for-all comprised of predominantly African American males disturb us so much more deeply than an altercation between a similar number of white boys from the 'burbs?
What's up with our different responses?
Reaction No. 1: "They should arrest those kids and abolish the program. That's a disgrace."
Reaction No. 2: "Don't worry honey -- they're wearing so much padding they can't hurt each other. Probably just blowing off steam before midterms."
I don't know the answer. Like Reggie Ball, I'm just throwin' it out there.