Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Blount That Keeps On Hitting

oregon duckducks 
Image Credit: Oregon Sports Report and Disney

Whew - it's been a while. I'm finally in the routine of this down here at school, and I think that I should be able to work in a blog post every now and then.

I must confess that I'm a little bummed that I had to take an extended layoff, so if you enjoyed reading my posts, sorry I let you down. Hopefully that wont happen again!

Honestly, August is also a dead month for sports. Any notable news gets covered relentlessly by the major outlets, and everything else is kind of lame. For instance, did you know Brett Favre signed with the Vikings? Yeah, me neither.

One thing I really feel like discussing is the current incident surrounding Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount.

In case you missed it, Blount sucker punched a Boise State defensive end Byron Hout after Hout had a few words for him after the Bronco's 19-8 win over the Ducks on Thursday.

Of course, like most things, the video does not tell the entire story.

Last season Boise State upset Oregon in Eugene, 37-32.

Earlier this year Blount told Sports Illustrated that there would be retribution for Boise State's late hits (two Oregon quarterbacks were in injured in the loss last year), and that frankly "we owe that team an ass whuppin'."

Because Blount failed to deliver that ass whuppin' on the field (he rushed 8 times for -5 yards...yikes), he decided that a post-game sucker punch would be the best way to substantiate his previous claim.

Oregon's rookie head coach Chip Kelly wasted no time, and on Friday he issued a heavy punishment for Blount, and suspended him for the remainder of the 2009 season.

When I first saw the fight (if you can even call it that), my immediate reaction was a full season suspension. It was a relatively unprovoked sucker punch, thrown after a loss, after an abysmal on-field performance, followed by almost inciting a riot.

However the more I began to read and see "full season suspension" the more I realized how daunting that is.

For Blount (a senior, junior college transfer), that full season suspension is most likely a lifetime sentence. ESPN NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay said that Blount, who came into the season ranked as the 2nd best senior running back, has most likely become "completely undraftable" after this latest incident.

Ron Artest went into the stands during an NBA game and started throwing Tyson-esque haymakers to anyone within reach. Albert Haynesworth could have killed Andre Gurode after stomping on his head during an NFL game (gruesome video here). Fighting is completely acceptable in hockey. And countless baseball brawls occur throughout the season.

Artest got suspended for the entire year. Haynesworth got 5 games (less than a third of the season), hockey players get 5 minutes in the penalty box and usually baseball players get only 5 games (under 5% of the season) for fighting.

So seeing a kid's entire future put into question after one terribly bad decision is somewhat disconcerting.

By no means am I attempting to justify the actions of Blount, but I just have a hard time seeing the value of a full season suspension for a senior.

Will he be more motivated to do well in classes? Doubtful. Does he even get to keep his scholarship? Probably not. Is there any motivation for him to make amends for what he did? Not really.

Let's say Blount was suspended until the eighth game of the season. It would be November 7th at Stanford. There would be four regular season games left of the schedule, and presumably one bowl game.

If Blount knew that he had a shot at redemption, where he could show his coaches, fans, and NFL teams that the punch was a single isolated incident instead of a true revelation of his character, wouldn't he be on his best behavior? For three months he would be in the weight room, staying in shape, saying the right things, and doing well in school, in an effort to prove that he was something more than a right hand hook specialist.

With his current suspension I simply see no way for Blount to vindicate his actions. If he sees the NFL as his only way to succeed in life, does he even stay in school? Or does he just drop out because Oregon decided to distance themselves as much as possible from Blount?

A seven game suspension with 11 games to play is plenty severe. It carries the same societal impact that a full season suspension would. Writers, analysts and bloggers would have their say on it, and after today's games, it would become a non-issue. Other news stories would supplant its relevance, and we would all forget about LeGarrette Blount.

If this game was not on a Thursday, I am almost willing to guarantee that he would have not been suspended the entire year. If it had been on the first Saturday of College Football season, the coverage would be less prevalent, the public outcry would be softer, and LeGarrette Blount's time as an Oregon Duck would not be over.

But because all media outlets took the story and ran with it, the only thing Chip Kelly could do was suspend him the entire year in order to silence the critics both in public and in private. It became a much bigger story than it probably should have been.

Deep down, it's hard not to feel pity for Blount. Wrong time, wrong place, wrong action, wrong consequence.

The question here, is not, whether all of our lives will go on with Blount sitting in the stands. 

The real question is, will his?