Friday, October 20, 2006

The John Hinckley, Jr. of Big Time College Football

Two of the most infamous would be assassins of the past quarter century.


Several weeks ago, football factory pipeline to the NFL, University of Northern Colorado was under the microscope as the quest to get playing time (and exposure before the plethora of scouts that are a fixture around the program) took a dramatic turn as the backup punter attempted to disengage the kicking leg of the starter from the rest of his body, allegedly with a kitchen knife. After initially letting a deadline pass, the backup punter is now charged with attempted murder and being held on half a million dollars bail. And he faces the possibility of 48 years in the can.

This is yet another example of the pressure exerted on the malleable minds of the young men that are swallowed up by big time college football. As if the examples of guys like Maurice Clarette, model young men that are brought into these athletic factories and virtually forced to make horrible decisions, was not illuminating enough: now we have the UNC example (the other UNC). A young man probably promised the world. The chance to be the starting punter at Northern Colorado dangled in front of him, all he had to do was sign on to commit to the program. Alas, the young man gets there, and the promises of glory and fame never come to fruition. Standing in his way, the right leg of another student athlete. As a member of a storied football team, you are taught the tradition, the never say die attitude, the mantra of never quitting and doing whatever it takes to win. How can we be surprised that the backup punter came to the conclusion that the only way to win was to destroy the competition? To kill the snake, you cut off its head. The logical jump: to unseat the starting punter, you cut off his leg. Couple the win at all costs attitude exhibited by those elite programs, like Nor Col, with the potential million dollar contracts dangled before punters….and clearly you have a recipe for disaster. Honestly, is anyone surprised?

The final chapter to the story will be decided in court. But an ovation must be given to the prosecutor. Boldly standing up to the power and might of North Colorado’s rich football history, he has chosen to not just charge the backup punter with assault. To the untrained eye, an attack to injure the leg of the other student athlete would probably qualify as aggravated assault or something along those lines. The untrained eye would see it as an attempt to certainly do physical harm to the other party, but probably just enough to keep him off the playing field. And that is where the trained eye of a seasoned prosecutor sheds clarity on what the REAL intent of the attack entailed. The backup, clearly driven by the monster that is jealousy, obviously decided that all the riches and fame that awaited the starting punter were rightfully his. Obviously, he tried to kill the starter. Not just kill, but assassinate. Now, all we can do is wait for the trial to see how the jury sees the facts.

One thing is certain. Colleges need to reevaluate the pressure cooker that is big time college football. Too many examples preceded this one. This isn’t the student athletes fault. What happened here was all too predictable: The attempted assassination of a starting punter by the John Hinckley, Jr. of big time college football. We all saw it coming; we just choose to look the other way.


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