I was watching the last quarter of the first college football game of the new season last night. It was Oregon vs. Boise State, two nationally ranked teams and the pre-game buildup had created a bowl- like atmosphere. Boise State had upset Oregon last year and both teams had been pointing to this game all year long. Several Oregon players whose trash talk was picked up by media sources predicted a "buttkicking (you can supply the word actually used). Boise State was equally up for the game. It was a sloppy game showcasing the nervousness on both sides. There were many incidents of unsportsmanlike conduct. After the game, tempers flared. There were taunts from the Boise State players and fans. One Boise State player approached LeGerrette Blount the star running back for OU, who was largely a non-factor in the game, and put his hand on Blount's shoulder pad causing him to turn into the face of the Boise State player (defensive end Byron Hout who had tackled Blount in the endzone for a safety during the game). Hout taunted Blount who responded with a punch to Hout's jaw knocking him down. This was in full view of the Boise State coach who was talking to Hout and several OU coaches and staff. Of course, the excellent camera work of the ESPN crew captured it all. While the coaches intervened and pulled Blount away, an ugly scene of taunting from the Boise State fans and Blount's attempts to get into the stands and after the fans ensued.
In the aftermath, several sports columnists including one from the Oregonian called Blount to be flagged with a heavy penalty -even suspension for the rest of the year (ending his career at OU). No where was anything said about Hout's behavior or the ugliness of the Boise State fans. Later, it was reported that Hout's coach will have a talk with him to see what he learned from this experience. So, at most, the coach sees this as only a teachable moment. Meanwhile, today Blount was suspended for the entire season, including any post-season bowl games. This was his last year and he had been mentioned as a Heisman candidate.
Certainly, Blount deserved some punishment for his behavior, but to penalize him so severely and to let everyone else off the hook is just scapegoating. The fans were unruly and mean spirited and Hout instigated the incident with Blount. The entire atmosphere of big time college football should be flagged for their complicity in this ugliness. Leading up to the game fans and media hyped this game. Everyone was aware it was payback time for OU. There was lots of talk about "killing" the opponents. Both coaches had their players ready, emotionally, to play. Which means they were ready to hit and hit hard. Afterward, only Blount is faulted for letting his emotions get out of control. Football is a game played with your emotions out of control. It is a game watched by many fans whose emotions are out of control, as well. It's a toxic mix.
Sometimes, someone, gets flagged for his inappropriate conduct and he is penalized but the situation that created his behavior is unquestioned and remains unchanged. Blount should have been suspended for a few games but so should Hout and the Boise State fans.