[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: Comments on UM - FIU Brawl Saturday (UPDATE)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Comments on UM - FIU Brawl Saturday (UPDATE)

I decided to wait until the dust has settled a bit to offer my comments on the brawl in the Orange Bowl between University of Miami and Florida International University players.

While I root for University of Miami athletic teams, I have no direct allegiance to that institution other than the fact that its name represents the city I live in. Same goes for FIU. Actually, I was looking forward to a good clean rivalry between the schools' teams and an FIU victory would have provided an instant and intense rival for UM right off the bat. It's safe to say that I don't live and die by each team's successes and failures. It just doesn't matter THAT much to me, but I do care enough to provide the following opinion.

Let's get the obvious out of the way: it was an ugly and unfortunate scene and both schools should be terribly embarrassed.

Now let's get to the messy stuff.

It DOES matter who started it. And by all accounts, it was FIU who started this whole mess. Their woofing and trash-talking the days leading to the game is one thing (big deal, every school does its share), but FIU players took it much further by going into a group of UM players before the game and inticing them. Miraculously, nothing happened. The woofing continued during the early part of the game. Nothing happened. UM scores a touchdown to break open a close game...the player who scores the touchdown directs a mild taunt towards the FIU sideline, and all hell breaks loose. A taunt that, while showing little in the way of sportsmanship and class, is not much different than other things that occur in practically every NCAA football game (if you don't agree, look closely at the next game and it should become obvious). Again, it was FIU players who started the actual scuffle on the field.

Sadly and predictably, the national media jumps on UM. No one cares about FIU, so the media ignores them. How many people across the nation even know they exist?

Once again, the media crows, UM shows how classless and out of control its football team is. Miami (the city) rears it's ugly head to the nation once again! Hooray, many rabid anti-UM fans exclaim! As an aside, last year two UM players were knocked unconscious by LSU players swinging helmets after their Peach Bowl game last year (which LSU romped), and the media basically categorizes this as a bad day for UM gone worse. Where was the media's indignation towards LSU's part in that fight? UM deserved it, right?

To think that condemning the entire UM program for this incident is an overreaction is not a stretch. I'm not saying that their players are squeaky clean, because they aren't. Recent examples have shown that. But the implication that Head Coach Larry Coker has lost control of the team is a sign that people have no clue about what really happens at UM. Coker has suspended several players (including starters) already this season, not to mention in previous years. The enviornment surrounding the program these days is vastly different than what it was in the late 80s and early 90s when the coaching staff virtually encouraged thuggish behavior.

I REALLY hate to say this, but same thing can't be said about Coker's counterpart at my alma mater, Florida State University. Bobby Bowden, for all the wonderful things he's done to that school's football program, is notoriously soft on his players. Anyone remember his "boys will be boys" remark a few years back? Before the UM game early this season, he could (and should) have sat a few starters for published team violations. He decided instead to wait until the following week. Coker suspends his guys for that first game, which by the way UM loses.

To reiterate, UM should be ashamed and embarrassed for its part in the brawl. UM President Donna Shalala stated as much in this open letter today. I'd love to hear something official from FIU, I really do.

Stepping back and taking a little perspective is always good idea. Herald sports columnist Greg Cote, who normally exhibits a better sense of humor than actual journalistic and writing skills, hit the nail on the head with this column.

In the aftermath, it's easy for many Miami-bashers to overlook the fact that aside for a couple of fights in the stands (which again is not exactly a rare occurrence), there were no widespread instances of fan violence. I'm sure the police presence had something to do with that, but does one really think that a couple hundred police officers could contain 50,000 fans if they decided to let all hell break loose in the stands? I don't think so. The bottom line is, the many UM and FIU fans in attendance should be commended for keeping their cool while the players who represent them didn't. This could have easily turned into a full-scale European-style sports riot if not for the civilized manner in which the vast majority of fans acted.

Let's hope officials from both schools meet, get their act together, and continue the series. It has the potential of being a classic city rivalry one day.

UPDATE: Looks like FIU officials have taken tough measures against the players involved, and even coaches. Good move on their part and UM should follow suit.

7 Comments:

Blogger FishFan-GatorMan said...

Sorry Robert,

I have to disagree. At the root of every stereotype is a truth. And the truth is that the University of Miami has been a bastion of thuggery for more than two decades. LSU/UM, FIU/UM: What's the common denominator? If UM gets disproportionate coverage in this incident it's because they have set many embarrassing precedents.

How about that Rap song last year from King-Ding-a-Ling? What about Najeh Davenport pinching a loaf in some Co-eds hamper? What about "the soldier" Kellen Winslow? What about camouflage fatigues? It's like a broken record already.

-Henry "Conductor" Gomez

9:57 PM, October 16, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

No need to apologize for disagreeing Henry.

Actually, I agree with you in that once a reputation is established, it's nearly impossible to change it for many, many years. Basically, you sleep in the bed you make. I think it's fair to say that starting with Butch Davis, UM has tried to clean up its act, and has actually succeeded to a large extent. That's why it's unfortunate that an incident like this which is always started by a few jerks can screw up an entire program's reputation. That's the angle I approach this story from.

As far as FIU is concerned, they finally get noticed for all the wrong reasons, deservedly so for their starring role in the brawl.

Then again, I think Cote's right in basically stating that the earth won't stop spinning because of this incident. Cooler heads will prevail and the series will continue, I optimistically believe. It's a minor miracle that they were even able to play almost an entire half AFTER the brawl!

10:35 PM, October 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert:

You are right on the mark. UM has tried to clean up its reputation, and it doesn’t help much when you have outside fanatics creating the wrong image for UM. Heck, I’m an Alumnus of both UF and FIU, but I still praise all these teams and what it means to our community, but its guys like Henry and his minions that just ruthlessly thrive on bashing and blasting UM and their football program. I can understand if he compares the UM schedule or the talent, but to clinch on outside factors to discredit or stigmatize such a great university is just plain old high school antics.

10:19 AM, October 17, 2006  
Blogger FishFan-GatorMan said...

Yes Butch did a lot to clean up the program and I have told this in the past to my Gator friends but it's people like Mr. Anonymous and his fellow fans that never attended a day of classes at UM that WANT UM to recruit the best players no matter what their backgrounds. They are the ones that say UM has "lost its swagger". They are the ones that want Coker fired because he's not winning to the level that they expect, they are the ones that bemoan President Shalala's efforts to clean the programs up. They are the problem not those of us that live in this community that criticize the program. If you have a track record you want people to forget you have to walk the straight and narrow. That means biting your tongue and putting your hands in your pockets when you are being taunted by an inferior opponent. Let me ask you this: How ugly would that brawl have been if instead of winning 14-0, UM was losing by the same margin?

Pulease!

12:01 PM, October 17, 2006  
Blogger Robert said...

Henry,

I totally agree with you. Unfortunately, FIU decided to take the taunting a step further by physically confronting UM players. In that type of situation, you have to defend yourself.

What was wrong about UM players response wasn't that they responded (which should be expected when you are physically confronted), but the manner in which it occurred. Swinging helmets and kicking people on the ground crossed the line. If they would have avoided that, I don't think you'd be seeing even half of the backlash we're seeing now.

12:58 PM, October 17, 2006  
Blogger FishFan-GatorMan said...

On the field of play when someone takes a cheap shot at you, you have to let the referees handle it. Players have this drilled into them constantly. How may times have you heard the adage that it's the guy who retaliates that gets the flag. You could cost your team the victory by being hot headed. Miami wasn't going to lose that game but with all the suspensions etc. it could cost Miami future games. Does this happen in football? Yes it does. And when it happens, the media is going to jump all over it. And especially when the school involved has a reputation for being a football factory for thugs and criminals.

1:37 PM, October 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Henry:

Okay. Yes. There are fans that want Coach Coker fired and complain about President Shalala’s lack of effort to clean up the program, but those are only suggestions and although I may not always agree, they are thrown out there as solutions to help and not bash the university. I can’t predict what could have happened, but I do know that UM players were taunted before and during the game. It’s only natural to react to things especially during a game. Both teams can only learn from this. It’s certainly and embarrassment and I hope both universities work together to avoid something like this to occur again.

Btw, get it out of your head. You don’t need to set foot in a university to be a fan. The sooner you accept this, the better you’ll be at understanding other fans. All are welcomed to become a fan of UM, FIU, FSU, UF or any other college sport. Watching sports is exciting and most of all a form of entertainment.

1:38 PM, October 17, 2006  

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