Pop Rocks: Give Elizabeth Lambert A Break

Categories: Pop Rocks, Soccer
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Arguably more obnoxious than the actual on-field behavior of New Mexico soccer player Elizabeth Lambert -- immortalized for her rampage in a match against BYU -- has been the reaction to it.

I'm not talking about the infantile sexual commentary accompanying the various clips posted online. They're unpleasant, but pretty much par for the course when it comes to YouTube. And anyway you can hear more of the same on "legitimate" outlets like The Late Show with David Letterman, which added a sexy voiceover to the footage.

No, what I'm referring to is the righteous indignation spewing from various editorial pages about her "reprehensible" behavior, with people calling for a lifetime ban from soccer, suspension from UNM, and even criminal charges. I suppose the team should be happy about the attention. Not being great generators of revenue, women's sports are overlooked by the media, with female athletes themselves given the short end of the stick with regards to scholarships and facilities. And yet, we apparently have no problem holding them to a higher standard of behavior. The resulting hypocrisy is staggering, like Cheney bitching about Obama not paying enough attention to Afghanistan.

A few recent stories have described an alleged "rising tide" of violence in women's sports. These articles all mention the same three events: Lambert's behavior in the UNM-BYU match, a brawl between the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks and Detroit Shock, and a girl's football initiation in Illinois that sent five to the hospital.

The WNBA incident took place last year; the Illinois story? 2003. Meanwhile this NCAA season alone has seen LeGarrette Blount of Oregon sucker-punch Boise State's Byron Hout and Florida's Brandon Spikes try to scoop out a Georgia player's eyeballs, yet such incidents are routinely shrugged off. Hout had been "talking shit" to Blount, after all, while Spikes' behavior (we're told) can be found in every football pileup.[1]

In other (men's) sports, we may occasionally whine about dirty players, but we're more than happy to overlook it when it brings our team a title. I'll just have to assume none of those calling for Lambert's head are Spurs/Pistons/Devils/Rockets/Avalanche/Raiders fans, or if they are they've made similar protests against the actions of Bruce Bowen, Bill Laimbeer, Scott Stevens, Robert Horry, Claude Lemieux, or Jack Tatum, respectively.

Hell, even if we restrict our dataset to other soccer players it's obvious Lambert is getting a raw deal. Go to YouTube and search for "Roy Keane Ends Håland's Career" or "Materazzi fouls" or "Duncan Ferguson." These are FA and World Cup winners that have been accorded soccer's highest honors. They're also considered some of the dirtiest players of their respective eras, with enough red cards to wallpaper a decent-sized dining room, yet no one talks about banning them for life. Unless they're French, that is.

Watch the Lambert video again. The BYU player Lambert yanked to the ground by the hair had spent the previous few moments pulling Lambert's shorts up over her waist, while the player who got punched in the back had just elbowed Lambert in the stomach. Does that make the retaliation justified? Maybe not, but it's disingenuous to say her behavior was unprovoked, like she was some pre-spank therapy Ned Flanders. But this is America, where we never met a high horse we couldn't climb.

[1] Blount was initially suspended for the season, but has been reinstated. Spikes was suspended for a whopping half game by coach Urban Meyer.

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