Back in the 1990s there was a book entitled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. A bestseller, I only made it through ten pages. But I did like the title.
As toddlers we're given the mental building blocks upon which we construct our persona and develop our skills. We're taught not only the alphabet and telling time, but how to wash our hands; put our stuff away; sit still & listen; make friends and wait our turn.
While void of reasoning skills, a child's mind is also a blank slate when it comes to prejudice, gossip, greed and most other adult afflictions. Children can, at times, assess human behavior with a clarity and honesty that many adults no longer can.
And if there's one rule of behavior that every kid knows, it's this rule: on the battlefield of the playground, he who instigates the fracas deserves whatever he gets back. Whether that's apathy, disbelief or a pop in the face, there's no sympathy for trouble-makers.
Boise State linebacker Byron Hout mocks, then bumps defeated Oregonian LeGarrette Blount who throws a grazing blow. Italian kicker Marco Materazzi insults the sister of Frenchman Zidane and gets headbutted. Both Hout and Materazzi provoke the scuffles, yet both are quickly accorded victim status by fans, sport authorities and the media.
Nervous ninnies Chip Kelly (Duck Coach) and Mike Bellotti (AD) threw their guy under the school bus by dutifully apologizing for Blount's natural reaction. Instead, both men should be furious with Boise State and the WAC for not suspending Hout nor the stadium scoreboard / video operator who inflamed the crowd with replay of Blount's retaliation.
In a braver world, Boise State football coach Chris Peterson would ask that Blount's suspension end forthwith and re-think his own player's non-suspension. Such a classy move would help restore his school's reputation which has taken a hit since their backwoods decision to mollycoddle the goofball Hout.
As for the 2006 World Cup: Italy's victory is blemished. It's unfortunate because Italy, like France, had earned their spot in the final. They might have won the Cup rightfully had FIFA acted with less impulse and more courage by first ascertaining all the facts and then resuming the match without ejection of Zidane and no (or equal) penalty kicks.
I ignore the general rule, that words alone will not justify a physical response (unless a reasonable belief in serious bodily harm). Athletes in contact sports are wound-up tight and cannot be expected to conduct themselves as if they were at the office or playing croquet.
Until instigators are held responsible for the melees they incite, any official response will be a sham, a parody of justice calculated only for damage control. Defending your honor, it seems, has no place in the business of sport: frustrating for players but safe for the suits.