Bad judgement taints achievement

Bryce Bencivengo

Poor sportsmanship smears even the most incredible of athletic accomplishments.

Few will remember the improbable comeback Kim Clijsters validated when she beat Serena Williams in straight sets in the semifinals of the United States Open. Instead, it will be remembered for the absurdly inappropriate outburst directed at a linesperson that ultimately ended the match.

Every sports fan can name the University of Oregon player that threw a haymaker at an opponent. But how many can name the Boise State quarterback whose coming out party was ruined by that haymaker?

These are just two of the unseemly displays sports have seen recently.

LaGarrette Blount’s punch seen around the world in one of college football’s opening games marred the hugely anticipated start of the 2009 season. This game marked the start of what could be an incredible season for “mid-major” schools, and yet few will remember this key victory without remembering the black-eye Blount dealt himself, his team and his sport.

Blount’s incredible actions following his team’s loss did not just end with a single punch. He also took a swing at his own teammate, and then as he left the stadium and was heckled by fans, he had to be restrained from attacking Boise State fans.

The punch, clearly the most viewed part of the miserable display, was not the worst. The sustained inappropriate reaction to what was going on around him is what ended his season and most likely his football career. Players have moments of bad judgment because they get caught up in the emotion of the situation.

This is not what happened to Blount. He completely lost control, and his true colors were on display for all to see. He paid dearly for it and will continue to.

The University of Oregon dealt swift and decisive repercussions for Blount’s actions. The team suspended him for the entire season. This action, while pressured by the Pacific 10 conference and the media as a whole, was an appropriate step to let other student-athletes know that there are consequences when you lose control.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Williams.

Williams’ loss of control cost her only $10,000, just under three percent of what she won in the tournament for being a semifinalist in the singles draw.

This is hardly a deterrent for her profanity-laced tirade on a linesperson that disgusted fans at the highly anticipated match.

“I swear to God I feel like taking this ball and shoving it down your [expletive] throat, you hear that? I swear to God,” Williams said to the line judge.

More than that, Williams approached her and made visibly threatening gestures.

She then walked away and came back for more. Referee abuse is unacceptable by players, coaches and fans. The United States Tennis Association had the opportunity to show its referees and especially the players that outburst would not be tolerated. Instead they produced a pathetic fine that hardly deters.

In Williams’ post match interview she showed little remorse for her tantrum.

“An apology? From me? Well, how many people yell at lines people?” Williams said.

Her lack of remorse should be a clear red flag to the USTA that there needs to be serious penalties for this type of behavior. Unfortunately, it appears Williams has little problem with brandishing her racquet and swearing at a referee and the USTA has little problem with it as well. While she was given a point penalty, and did later issue an apology, she came across as less than remorseful.

Athletes need to know that when the cameras and microphones are on, there is little that will be missed because millions are watching. These outbursts blemish the events and become the headlines. They hurt those who truly should’ve been the headlines, like the Boise State team and Clijsters.

The Hilltop Views’ column, ‘Bench Warming,’ appears every other week in the sports section and is written by Co-Editor-In-Chief Bryce Bencivengo.