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Nov. 7 2009 - 3:03 am | 81 views | 1 recommendation | 7 comments

In praise of Elizabeth Lambert, role model

You may well have seen the above video ad nauseum — the one in which New Mexico soccer player Elizabeth Lambert elbows, kicks and hair-pulls her way around the field against Brigham Young while losing 1-0 Nov. 5 in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament.

After the round-the-clock tut-tutting and screams of “catfight!” it’s no surprise that New Mexico has indefinitely suspended the junior defender, an action the conference supported. Lambert apologized.

To which I say, apologize for what? For being aggressive? For showing girls how to be tough on the field? For not being sufficiently “ladylike” for a male sports establishment? For doing things that, if she were male, would have been mostly laughed off? Like, say, this Oct. 31 eye gouge by Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes, which got him suspended by his team for one measly half against its next opponent, the far weaker Vanderbilt? (Spikes later suspended himself for the full game.)

The above action is consider par for the course in football, where anything goes in a dogpile. So no harm, right? Spikes wasn’t a goon — he was tough!

My 10-year-old daughter has her first basketball game (with me coaching) today (Nov. 7), and I won’t say that I will plop her in front of the Lambert video and say, here’s how you do it. But I will say there’s nothing wrong with a girl mixing it up, playing hard, bumping people and other playing aggressively to the point other people are scared enough to get out of your way. (My 4-year-old daughter, it appears, so far does not need that encouragement.)

So Elizabeth Lambert, you might’ve gooned it up, and you might have had your tail forced between your legs for gooning it up. But also know you taught the world a lesson that girls can dish shit out — and that the world needn’t react in horror when they do. That is, as long as they don’t react in horror when a male athletes does the same thing.


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  1. collapse expand

    The double standard thrives. When I was fencing and didn’t rush over to comfort someone I’d (legally) whacked in a bout, I was excoriated for not being nice. Excuse me?

  2. collapse expand

    Can’t agree Bob. Many of those fouls were worthy of a red card and ejection – regardless of the chromosome mix of the participants.

    Tough, sure. Elbowing in the stomach, tackling from behind and pulling somebody down by the hair aren’t tough — they’re cheap and nasty, with intent to injure thrown in for good measure.

  3. collapse expand

    John:

    That game must have been officiated by pro wrestling refs. I would agree that, technically speaking, any of those fouls could have, or even should have, earned her a red card.

    However, I can’t help but think the reason for the shock and hullabaloo is because it was a girl doing it. And if we’ve learned anything from role models such as Bill Belichick, nothing is a foul until the refs call it. If Lambert in the NFL, she’d be Rodney Harrison and praised for her “gamesmanship.”

  4. collapse expand

    While I tend to share your perspective on a number of things, Bob, I cannot entirely here. I have no problem with playing the game hard, and am raising my kids that way. But no way would I condone this!

    The behavior displayed by the New Mexico athlete, however, was dangerous, shocking, and so contrary to the spirit of competition. Was some of it provoked? Sure looked like it. But the player’s overreaction was disturbing, regardless of gender. I respectfully disagree with the suggestion that a male player would get a free pass for like behavior. Exhibit A (also from soccer): Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup final.

    And how in the world did the refs seem to miss all of this? While the hair-pull seemed to be away from the play, a number of the others infractions clearly involved the ball. As John pointed out, almost any one of them alone would have justified the red card! Geesh!

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    About Me

    A youth sports blog written by Bob Cook. He contributes to NBCSports.com, or MSNBC.com, if you prefer. He’s delivered sports commentaries for All Things Considered. For three years he wrote the weekly “Kick Out the Sports!” column for Flak Magazine.

    Most importantly for this blog, Bob is a father of four who is in the throes of being a sports parent and youth coach in an inner-ring suburb of Chicago. He reserves the right to change names to protect the innocent and the extremely, extremely guilty.

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