I am rolling my eyes like cheap dice right now, because I am still thinking about the Great Uproar that has ensued over the head-butting of Italian player Marco Materazzi by French player Zinedine Zidane during the final match of the World Cup. The radio sports guys are all aghast. USA Today fretted and clucked. Given the heated reportage, you could easily get the impression that Zidane had not just butted Materzzai in the chest with his head, but had then backed his Citroen over Materazzi's baby. It was an horrendous act which stained the entire soccer world, was the general attitude.
Oh please. As they say in Germany, "Geben sie mir ein break!"
Allow me to quote from the finger-wagging article by the Chronicle's Bruce Jenkins, only because that is the local paper I read, not because Bruce is particularly over the wall on this; I worked with him some years ago and he is eminently professional and thoroughly likeable. But consider...
"One struggles to find anything comparable in the history of American sport." One evidently regards hockey as a Canadian sport. Otherwise one might note that slicing other players with sharpened skate blades and giving them concussions and lacerations with large L-shaped sticks goes well beyond comparable to a head butt. Still, a more valid comparison might be with American football, where head-butting is, coincidentally, an essential part of the game. That's why all the helmets. Compared to what goes on in any typical post-tackle pileup on an NFL field, a head-butt is a warm hello. That photo of Zidane's head meeting Materazzi's chest? It made Bill Romanowski laugh like a loon. That's how he greets his mother. And just so that basketball won't feel left out, there is the occasional clotheslined player flung onto his back on a hardwood floor and left skullcracked and senseless.
"Zidane brought shame on himself, his country, and, remarkably, the worlds' most popular sporting event." Yeah, right. And in New Zealand, their opinion of America still hasn't recovered from the Tyson-Holyfield ear-biting incident. Zidane so shamed the sport that they gave him the Most Valuable Player award afterward. You want something that shames soccer, try the newsreel footage of drunken Brit soccer fans running riot, beating bystanders, charging the field, and burning the nearest village when their team fails, a news item as inevitable each year as the running of the bulls, and not all that dissimilar.
Actually, this isn't that important a matter to me. Bruce Jenkins loves sports far more than I do, so his reaction may reasonably be far more impassioned. It's just that my wife and I disagree about this--she's with Bruce--and this is, for me, a long and windy version of "So there."