The casual sports fan in America didn’t give two shits about women’s college soccer until New Mexico’s Liz Lambert entered the national consciousness last November. If you haven’t seen the video, here it is:
In hindsight, I think it was hilarious that ESPN dusted off Julie Foudy and put her in front of the camera to give her two cents about Lambert’s actions against BYU in that Mountain West Conference tourney game. Like the rest of us, when did SportsCenter ever care about women’s college soccer before that? But think about what Foudy said:
“Sure, there is jostling off the ball, and in the women’s game there’s even some hair pulling, yes, but oh my goodness, if you’re going to pull someone’s pony tail and about snap their head off with it, that is going over the line.”
Uh, Julie, forgive me for being a little dense here, but if there’s already HAIR PULLING in a game where the competitors (save for the goalies) can’t use their hands, hasn’t a line already been crossed? Sure, Lambert went batshit nuts, but if jostling and hair tugging is already par for the course in this sport, then how many other instances of Lambert-esque play never make SportsCenter because nobody cared enough to televise the event?
In the aftermath of that video going viral, Liz Lambert became a sort of female Jack Tatum. Not only did she brutalize the opposition, but she had the nerve to have a vagina while doing so. Oh, the horror, how positively unladylike of her!
I asked some friends who have daughters that play in competitive youth soccer leagues, and they were pretty much unfazed by what Lambert had done. One of them told me the following: “Their games are as brutal as anything you see on college football Saturday. They’re animals.” Hmmm, maybe Lambert’s actions are a little more commonplace than the casual American sports fan realizes. But nobody else got a million plus views on YouTube because of it.
New Mexico, which apparently was shamed to no end by Lambert’s actions, suspended her indefinitely after that loss to BYU. That suspension lasted two games into the current campaign, but once it was lifted, Lambert was by no means free:
For now, Elizabeth Lambert will be allowed to play, but the gag order on her right to exercise free speech has yet to be lifted. Athletics Director Paul Krebs said Tuesday that Lambert will be reinstated to the UNM women’s soccer team. Facing a possible season-long ban from the Mountain West Conference, Lambert instead served a two-game suspension.
“She has done everything and more that you can ever ask of somebody,” Krebs said. “She has arisen from that situation.” Now that her suspension is over, Lambert is eligible to compete in UNM’s away game against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but head women’s soccer coach Kit Vela stopped short of saying Lambert would start or even be in the lineup on Friday, noting the team’s success so far in the vilified player’s absence. Early in the season, the Lobos are 2-0, and Vela said a roster shakeup isn’t necessarily needed. (The Daily Lobo)
A gag order? Really? The only public statement ever given by Lambert regarding her play in that BYU game last year was an interview she gave to Jere Longman of the New York Times. In it, she expressed genuine regret for what had transpired:
“I think the way the video came out, it did make me look like a monster. That’s not the type of player I am. I’m not just out there trying to hurt players. That’s taking away from the beauty of the game. And I would never want to do that.” (New York Times)
When a person steps up to the plate like that to assume responsibility for his or her actions, what more can you ask for? Therefore, the gag order seemed more than a little odd to me. That’s until the Albuquerque Journal’s Toby Smith brought up an excellent point:
Almost a year later, two questions, stand out: What caused Lambert to go bananas? And, how exactly were so many people to know about what she did so quickly? The two teams had faced each other only a couple of weeks before, also in Provo, where BYU embarrassed the Lobos, 3-0. “Ran them up and down the field,” remembers Jared Lloyd, then a reporter for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City.
When the UNM women returned to Utah in early November, for the league tournament, the team needed to do well to advance to the NCAAs.
“They (the Lobos) came out really aggressively,” Lloyd says. “I sensed their coach had told them, ‘We’re going to really go after them. Don’t hold back.’ ” Soccer is a physical sport. It’s not cage fighting, yet contact exists. It did in this case, for both sides mixed it up. Lambert’s aggressiveness and frustration, ratcheted up now several notches, surely caused her to drop Shumway by the hair. It also caused her to punch a player, trip another, put a stranglehold on a third. BYU players, meanwhile, were no angels. They elbowed, shoved, talked trash. (Albuquerque Journal)
So New Mexico was up against a team that had cleaned its clock earlier in the season, and in the rematch came out playing much more aggressively. In that context, Lambert suddenly looks less like some rogue nutcase and more like a soccer player who was following the marching orders of her coach, Kit Vela. And I’m sure Vela doesn’t want Lambert spilling the beans about that to the media, thus the gag order.
If Vela was so horrified at how Lambert was playing, why didn’t she yank her earlier in the contest? You can see from the video that she was mixing it up with BYU players on several occasions. My theory is that Vela had absolutely no problem with the way Lambert played until the video went viral. At that point, her hand was forced and the suspension came about.
But Vela’s actions AFTER the suspension are just as curious to me. Because nobody cares about women’s college soccer (including me), it’s easy to miss the fact that New Mexico is currently ranked and working on a very special season. But Lambert has barely played at all since her suspension was lifted, a point which Toby Smith finds just as strange as I do:
Last year, before the incident, Lambert played the full 90 minutes of many games and put in solid work. Since her reinstatement on the UNM team, she has played sparingly. On Thursday night, she played in her first home match — a total of eight minutes — in a 3-0 win over Utah. Otherwise, it’s as if UNM has wanted to keep her out of the local spotlight. But sorry, coach, that spotlight found her long ago. (Albuquerque Journal)
Lambert’s bio on the New Mexico athletic site hows that she was a pretty important player on a winning team in 2009:
Started in all 21 games…took 20 shots…five were on goal…had a game-winning goal for the Lobos on Sept. 23 against Northern Colorado… earned 2009 Fall Academic All-Conference honors. (GoLobos.com)
I can see the excuse for this coming a mile away: New Mexico is winning and Vela doesn’t want to disrupt the delicate balance of her team. But in a 4-0 win over UNLV on October 1, Lambert didn’t play a second for New Mexico, not one. You mean to tell me that in a lopsided shutout win, a senior defender who started 21 games last season couldn’t have contributed anything in mop up time?
New Mexico’s first game against BYU since that ugliness last November was this past Saturday in Albuquerque. The contest also happened to be Lambert’s final home game as a New Mexico player. Of course, she didn’t even see the field during New Mexico’s double overtime victory. What a way to send her out.
You can make a strong case that Lambert’s suspension didn’t end after the second game of this season. No, it was pretty much permanent. Long after the drive by types had stopped vilifying her and forgotten about that viral video, she’s still paying the price.
Shame on Vela for being a gutless turd about this. I hope one day soon Lambert tells all about what (or rather “who”) really motivated her to play the way she did against BYU last November. And shame on New Mexico, too, which officially has the sorriest athletic department on either side of the Mississippi.
Think about this: New Mexico’s football coach, Sugar Mike Locksley, PUNCHED an assistant coach, threatened a reporter from the school newspaper and then put one of the worst football teams in recent history onto the field. The school hasn’t made him suffer one bit for any of that, but sanctions the blackballing of Liz Lambert.
In this edition of the LKSOC…Vince Dooley takes bad parenting to a new level, Boise State gets leapfrogged and I start to feel old:
◊ Vince Dooley, be a good father and admit you want Tennessee to kick Georgia’s ass
I found the following quotes from former Georgia coach/AD Vince Dooley regarding this week’s Tennessee-Georgia game to be very interesting:
“It’s family first, but I’m certainly not going to be pulling for my son in Sanford Stadium,” he said.
The coach acknowledged it will be strange hoping Tennessee defeats his beloved Bulldogs, although his affections have their limits.
“You don’t all of a sudden love that ugly orange,” he said. “I don’t. But I have a great appreciation for the fans.” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Please Vince, spare us the politically correct, gotta-play-to-the-UGa-homers bullshit. Your S-O-N Derek is coaching the University of Tennessee. You know, the product of your loins who has a chance to carry on the family name in the sport of college football long after you’re gone.
Just why are you showing so much loyalty to the school whose president, Michael Adams, repaid all your years of service by bouncing your ass onto the street? And besides, it’s not like you got your degree there, you’re an Auburn grad.
I bet you’re being the better man by telling the AJC that crap. Deep down inside, you want a Tennessee team that just missed upsetting LSU to come into Sanford Stadium and stomp a mudhole in Georgia’s ass. I know you do.
◊ Boise State gets leapfrogged sooner than I thought they would
Look, we all knew it was going to happen, that some team would put together a decent string of wins and take away that third spot in the polls from Boise State, no matter what Boise State did on the field. I just thought it would take a few more weeks than it actually did.
Following a 52-31 win over Stanford, Oregon is the team that got enough love to bump Boise State down a notch in the polls. You know, the same Oregon program that’s not that far removed from getting beat by Boise State (that was on September 3, 2009).
I find it a little curious that Oregon got that much credit for being Stanford. While I love the job that Jim Harbaugh has done there by getting a lot of mileage out of a throwback style of football, at the end of the day, it’s still friggin’ Stanford. In terms of overall talent and number of signature wins, it’s a program that’s still lacking.
What did Boise State itself do to deserve its poll demotion? Well, pretty much nothing. They beat WAC rival New Mexico State by a 59-0 count. You know, the way a good team is supposed to do when faced with inferior opposition. The Boise State naysayers can crow all they want, but I guarantee you that if the Broncos and Ducks hooked up right now, the Broncos would win by double digits…just like last season.
◊ Just a moment on baseball, because it is October, after all
Here’s another reason why the Baltimore Orioles are now commonly referred to as “the once proud Baltimore Orioles”:
Brian Roberts knocked himself out of the Baltimore Orioles’ lineup. Literally.
The veteran second baseman explained Monday that he missed the last six games of the season for concussion-like symptoms after hitting himself in the helmet with a bat.
Roberts, who missed much of the season with injuries, thinks it happened last Monday, after a ninth-inning strikeout against the Tampa Bay Rays.
“In frustration [after a strikeout], I whacked myself on the head with my bat in the ninth. I had my helmet on,” Roberts told reporters. “It’s something I’ve done a million times, but I still can’t tell you for sure if that was it. But that’s the only thing that I can point to because that night and the next morning, I just didn’t feel good. So it’s been going on since then.” (ESPN.com)
The dude gave HIMSELF a concussion, how blessed is that? I bet he subconsciously did so to miss playing in yet another string of meaningless season ending games for Baltimore. If Major League Baseball is a pair of Jim Palmer’s Jockey underwear, then the O’s are pretty much an ill-timed shart.
◊ The Not-So-Great Wall of Chicago
Speaking of things that can give you a concussion, how about that Chicago Bear offensive line? In the highest rated NFL regular season prime time game in quite some time, the Bear front wall allowed New York Giant defenders to accumulate what seemed like 58 sacks (it was actually 10).
The Giants knocked Jay Cutler out of the game with a concussion and then damn near killed Todd Collins after that. No joke, for a few seconds I thought Collins was dead. Following the game, a revised list of America’s most dangerous occupations was released, it goes as follows:
- Coal miner
- U.S. soldier
- Detroit police officer
- Chicago Bears quarterback
That’s why I found the following tweet from former Illinois quarterback Juice Williams to be so damn funny:
If Juice does get the call and actually does see the field, he’ll get MANY chances to show off his mobility.
◊ A tweet that probably made Dickie V. crap his pants…
No announcer/analyst/studio host sticks his nose further up the backsides of more college basketball coaches than Dick Vitale. Of course Stuart Scott is every bit the brownnoser as Dickie V., but Stu prefers the ass cracks of NBA’ers and NFL’ers.
With that in mind, here’s a tweet from Kentucky coach John Calipari that probably sent Vitale into spastic convulsions of glee. Unlike other college coaches who pretty much roll their eyes at the guy, Calipari actually shows Vitale some love here:
As a result of this, do you have any idea how much on-air love Dickie V. will show Calipari now? I suspect we’ll get nuggets like “NCAA titles don’t matter, baby, John Calipari is the greatest coach ever!” and “The NCAA should be ashamed of itself for the Enes Kanter witch hunt!”
◊ …while Malcolm Delaney’s tweet makes me feel so white
Staying on the Twitter vibe, I came across the following tweet from injured Virginia Tech basketball player J.T. Thompson. First, let me provide some background: this is Thompson re-tweeting something initially posted by his teammate, Malcolm Delaney. The “#TTTT” hash tag refers to “To Tell the Truth Tuesday.” Here’s Delaney dropping his truth:
I am going to be brutally honest here…it took me a few minutes to decipher what the hell his tweet meant, but I think I’ve got it. Basically, what Delaney is saying is that no African-America male will marry a woman who was already attached when he met her. Or something like that.
Yup, it’s days like these when I just don’t feel as hip as I used to. I’ve reached that special age that Chris Rock spoke about, when a man really isn’t old, he’s just too old to be in the club.
◊ San Diego State is having a solid season so far
Try this one on for size: San Diego State is 3-1 and really should be 4-0. Yup, if it hadn’t been for that monumentally boneheaded defensive screw up in the last minute at Missouri, the Aztecs would have a perfect record.
I’ll tell you what I love about the job head coach Brady Hoke is doing: his team is strong in the kicking game. Kicker Abel Perez is the current MWC leader in kickoffs for touchback with 11 and the Aztecs lead the conference in net punting (40.8 avg.).
Also, San Diego State leads the MWC and is 7th nationally in total offense at 509.5 ypg. A good chunk of that yardage is being put up by freshman running back Ronnie Hillman, who’s run for 532 yards and 8 touchdowns so far in what could be shaping up to be a 1,400 yard/17 touchdown type of season for him.
As SDSU prepares for its road game with BYU, what you’ve got is a pretty dramatic shift from recent history: the Aztecs are currently on the board as 5.5-point favorites. Of course that’s a function of how far the fortunes of BYU football have fallen this season, but don’t discount SDSU. If they take care of business in Provo, the schedule lays out well for them. The Aztecs could be 8-1 going into a November 13 trip to TCU.
I know because the school in question is BYU that you can’t really expect the football team’s student managers to be as cool and funny as the cast of “Old School.” But these guys are especially, how should I put this, NERDY. From last week’s episode of “College Football Confidential,” here you go:
I’ll tell you one thing, that goofy ass background music didn’t help matters any for these poor bastards. I will bet anyone reading this that not only has Matt “Thumbs” Gowans never performed a keg stand, he would probably have to consult the Urban Dictionary to find out what a keg stand is.
There is a very big positive to helping out the Cougar football team, though. At BYU, if a student manager hits the crossbar while throwing a football to the deep snapper, he gets a goofy nickname. If a student manager makes the same mistake at Miami, he gets beaten up and has his car stereo stolen.
In a move we knew was pretty much inevitable, BYU’s newly independent football program has inked a deal with staunchly independent Notre Dame to play a six-game series that Baptists won’t give two shits about.
Not to be outdone by their Catholic brothers in South Bend, Boston College has announced that they have signed a six-game women’s soccer series with BYU-Hawaii. At this rate, HBO’s “Big Love” will have a storyline that has the Henricksons (all wives included) vacationing in Vatican City.
Wow, this new college sports landscape sure does make for strange bedfellows. But here’s a union that’s not so strange: BYU and ESPN.
The two sides have entered into a agreement whereby ESPN gets exclusive rights to BYU home football games across all its channels from 2011 through 2018.
It’s a solid deal that guarantees BYU visibility while the school navigates the waters of independence. However, it’s not the massive windfall that some predicted would happen if the school kept all its games on its own BYUtv network.
Also, the deal doesn’t mean that BYU will get showcased on ESPN the way Notre Dame sits front and center on NBC. The terms of the agreement say that in contests where BYU is the designated home team, an annual minimum of three games will be on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC, with those games being broadcast on Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays.
There is also an annual minimum of one game on ESPNU with ESPN3 and ESPN GamePlan having the right to simulcast any ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC telecast involving BYU.
So in years where a few of BYU’s juicier games might be on the road, ESPN could opt to only show the Cougars four times the entire season, and not necessarily in the choicest time slots. BYUtv would pick up the other games that ESPN bypasses. Like I said, this isn’t the tulips and lollipops scenario that some people told me would come to pass.
But in the end, BYU is way ahead of where it was with that crappy TV payout the Mountain West was giving its teams (but not making SEC or Big 10 money). So far in this evolving realignment saga, BYU has come out looking pretty damn good.