The Breakdown: While no one was looking
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Summit County, Colorado
The sad, the bad and the bizarre. That’s a nice way to categorize the three main sports stories from the past few days.
Bobby Bowden stepping down at Florida State on Tuesday was disappointing to see. Anyone who’s done that much for a school – in graduation rates, not just wins – should’ve been able to coach for as long as he wanted to. In the end, it’s pretty sad.
Charlie Weis getting canned at Notre Dame was a whole ‘nother story. Although (for reasons I can go into more at a different time) a Notre Dame coach is pretty much in a lose-lose situation from the get-go, Weis simply didn’t do enough with what he had to keep his job (and the piles of money he was “earning”) in South Bend. He won with another coach’s players, then couldn’t do enough with his own. As far as Golden Domers go, Weis was just bad.
Tiger Woods’ late-night driving excursion was just plain bizarre. We’ll probably never hear the entire story or even half the story, so it’s not worth getting into too much.
So, let’s move on. Because with so much drama floating to the top of websites and leading off Sportscenter broadcasts, it was a good weekend
to get away with things, like, say, taking a baseball swing with a hockey stick and hitting your own goalie in the head.
It’s pretty unlikely that we’ll hear much more about this incident, because it didn’t have to do with a coaching legend (Bowden), one of the country’s most popular universities (Notre Dame) or the world’s most famous athlete (Woods).
But since I already brought them up, let’s look into it a bit further.
What I’m talking about happened Monday night when the Florida Panthers played the Atlanta Thrashers. Panthers’ defenseman Keith Ballard trailed Thrashers’ sharpshooter Ilya Kovalchuk on a breakaway. Kovalchuk’s shot was blocked by Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun, but the rebound went right back to the shooter and Kovalchuk scored. In anger, Ballard went to break his stick across the goal post only to catch Vokoun in the side of the head. Vokoun, who suffered an ear laceration, was carted off the ice in a stretcher. He wound up being just fine, that is, except for cutting his ear open.
You can likely find a clip of this play online. It’s probably worth looking up, because I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a stranger play in hockey, and there have been a ton of them.
Obviously, Ballard didn’t intend to hit his own goalie like that, but the play could have resulted in a much worse injury. Ballard hit Vokoun in the side of the helmet, and I’m pretty scared to think about what would have happened if his stick had been about an inch lower and caught Vokoun in the neck.
Really, Ballard got pretty lucky. Most of the time, in these bizarre occurrences, things go very wrong, and a moment of stupidity can turn into a life-changing event. I mean, if he’d done this to a player on another team, he might have been suspended the entire season, if not longer. If his stick had done worse damage to his teammate, there might not have been a suspension, but the feelings of guilt would be terrible.
Not to get all preachy about it, but this is a situation that, hopefully, anyone playing sports will learn from. I’ve seen people throw golf clubs (and done it myself), kick basketballs, slam baseball bats and pretty much anything else you can do in sports out of anger. Normally, these type of situations just make the person doing it look like a jerk and not much else. But, when it suddenly affects someone in a serious way, it’s more than just an immature display of anger.
Maybe, instead of talking about millionaire coaches leaving their posts or speculating about what a squeaky-clean athlete was doing crashing his car at 2:25 a.m., more focus should be paid on instances that actually have an impact on the way we, either as fans or athletes ourselves, behave in everyday life. Now that would be pretty bizarre.
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