EXAMINING LAGARRETTE BLOUNT

Blount(2)The punch not only cost Blount his season, but possibly his career.

I’ve been meaning to write about this since it happened, but life got in the way. Since LaGarrette Blount landed a right-cross to the jaw of Boise State defensive end Byron Hout, I’ve heard almost universal condemnation of Blout for his actions.

“Kick him off the team.”
“Kick him out of school.”
“Kick him out of football.”

The responses went on and on, but all agreed that Blount needed to be kept as far away from a football field as humanly possible.

The Oregonian’s foremost columnist John Canzano urged the team to kick Blount off the team. Sports talk radio had him off the team and head coach Chip Kelly on the hot seat after his first game as head man.

Yet the aftermath of the situation has brought a bit of perspective. Blount was forced by the team’s Sports Information Director Dave Williford to take to the microphones and apologize that night. Two days later, after he had already been suspended for the duration of his college career, he walked into his coaches office and asked to call Boise State coach Chris Petersen and apologize. He also spoke with his victim, Byron Hout, who accepted his apology.

I will never take the position that punching another player in the face after a game is over is acceptable. Yet the fact that rarely a soul in the Blount-bashing business ever mentions that Byron Hout ran up to Blount, taunted him, and pushed him in the shoulder pads is frustrating. Even head coach Chris Petersen, who was standing as close to the altercation as you could possibly get without wearing a fist himself, was understanding about the fight in its immediate aftermath when he was interviewed just seconds after the fight, acknowledging that the heat of the moment and the intensity of the game played into the very bad decision Blount made.

Some people are rankled that Blount is still on his athletic scholarship. How could someone who did something so terrible still be allowed to go to school? What would you rather him do, drop out? What Blount did was wrong, no question, but was it that different than two drunks getting into it at a college bar, or one of the hundreds of fights that take place every weekend when testosterone and alcohol mix?

For those that think LaGarrette Blount’s punishment isn’t enough, think of what he’ll lose. For one, his reputation. Every time LaGarrette Blount touches a football, hell, every time he has his name brought up in public, he’ll be known as the guy who threw the punch. Blount, a potential All-American running back, will also see his public reputation become officially part of his job resume, as the NFL will undoubtedly knock his draft grade down several rungs for his behavior after the hard fought game.

Blount only has himself to blame. If it weren’t for the explosion after the fight, where he challenged and pushed teammates, assistant coaches, police officers and just about anybody that tried to restrain him, he may very well still be a member of the Oregon Ducks. Yet Blount didn’t just go over the line, he trounced the line, drug it back and forth, stomped on it, then came back to reality.

New Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott, just weeks into his tenure, was quick to assert himself on the job. He was in immediate consultation with Oregon athletic director Mike Bellotti and coach Kelly and encouraged them to take a strong stance in discipline. But he was also adamant that there should be sanctions for Hout, who was clearly the instigator in the event.

“It takes two to tango,” Scott said. “I was concerned about what I heard the Boise State coach say about how it was going to be handled.” (Chris Petersen announced there would be no suspension for Hout, just internal punishment.) “I’ll just leave it at that. I’m not going to second-guess anything that that conference decides to do.”

But it was clear that Scott did just that with his comments. He also was a voice of reason in the insanity that followed Blount’s meltdown. Byron Hout popped up immediately after the punch, looked no worse for the wear, and if anything tucked his tail between his legs after his coach laid into him with a verbal haymaker.

In the end, Blount’s suspension was deserved, but not for the punch heard round the world. It was deserved because Blount lost control and respect for his opponent, his teammates, his coaches, and the game. And it’s a lesson he’s learned immediately.

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