The New Mexico player involved in last night’s exploitative (but, let’s face it, compulsively watchable) SportsCenter uproar, Elizabeth Lambert, has been suspended indefinitely. (I would supply a link to the appropriate news story, except that The Albuquerque Journal has the most amazingly bad newspaper website I’ve ever seen, even by the lax standards of regional newspaper websites.) She has also issued the mandatory groveling apology and been lambasted in print by UNM’s vice president for athletics and her own coach. “Liz is a quality student-athlete, but in this instance her actions clearly crossed the line of fair play and good sportsmanship,” sez UNM coach Kit Vela.
Well, okay, coach, if you say so.
I don’t have sympathy for Lambert, exactly—but, on the other hand, as a person who has been known to slip into a dark alternate personality on the soccer pitch myself, I understand that her actions do not take place in a vacuum. Liz Lambert is a junior, which means she’s been playing in the New Mexico program for three years. Question: Did this serial mauling of the opposition just come out of nowhere, completely unconnected to any of the tactics or values inculcated in this player in her three years at school? Just a question. Fact: Kit Vela decided to send Lambert out on the pitch and keep her there even after it must have been clear to everyone at the park that she was on something of a tear.
Then, let’s consider the referees. Lambert received a yellow card for one foul. She could (and should) have been sent off with a straight red for any of about a half-dozen. What sort of action will the NCAA or Mountain West Conference take to address a crew that allowed this dangerous situation to evolve? What level of certification is required to referee a Division I conference playoff? And how is it that no one—no referee, no linesman, no fourth official or statistician—was able to get this match under control?