Jan 24, 2013, 2:52 PM EST
If you’re a 22-year-old professional athlete and you resort to kicking something out of the hands of an 17-year-old, you’ve made a big mistake. I think most reasonable people would agree. It doesn’t matter if that kid is the teenage embodiment of Eric Cartman. The moment you decide to resort to that violent act — whether you eventually make contact or not — you’re in the wrong. You’ve made a bad life choice.
That’s the subtext of yesterday’s Eden Hazard discussion. The Chelsea star, frustrated by the asinine actions of a juvenile ball boy, swung his right foot under the person we now know as Charlie Morgan. He jarred the ball loose and tossed it to the goalkeeper while the teen recoiled against the sideboards.
At least, that’s what yesterday’s replays showed. For those of us who weren’t watching in real time, we were given a view from behind that very clearly shows a player kicking out before the person on the ground reacts by rolling away.
Today, we get another GIF, one that gives some credence to commenter claims Hazard “just” poked the ball away:
Hazard’s shin may have still made contact with Morgan’s ribs (the contention I made yesterday), but the reverse angle forces us to acknowledge: That may not have happened. And if it did, it’s not enough to justify the weight of the original outrage.
In one sense, that matters. A lot of people have made that contention all along, coming to the defense of Hazard. Most of us saw that as reflexive Chelsea fans who would support a player even if he shot an intern with an air rifle. As it turns out, they may have been correct Chelsea fans who may or may not support a player who shot an intern with an air rifle. Such is fandom — such is the type of skewed dialogue we get when dealing with the passions of blind devotion — but it’s important to remember those passions aren’t always wrong. Next time this happens, it might do some good to stop, listen, and talk it out (in more civil tones).
But in another sense, none of that matters. There is a reason Eden Hazard apologized to Charlie Morgan. It’s because he knows he was wrong, in the same way we knew the moment this happened he was very, very wrong. He allowed a 17-year-old to get the best of him, kicked out, and rightfully will be suspended. The second his right foot starts to come down on Morgan, he’s wrong, no matter the result.
Some have tried to mitigate that by claiming a 17-year-old is not a “boy” – irrelevant pettifogging. In the divide between manhood and childhood, there’s no doubt where Morgan falls. Nobody’s calling Morgan the infant some conveniently imagine when they read “boy.” Nobody’s trying to portray him as fragile and unaccountable. But he is still a boy, just as all 17-year-old males are. They can be big and unmanageable, but their still young, naive, and nowhere near as physically capable as the 22-year-old version of themselves will be. Hazard gets no credit for kicking an old boy instead of a young one.
This also isn’t the best time for the I told you sos. Within 24 hours this has gone from something unfathomable to the type of jokes were any impassioned opinions become woefully disproportionate. Save your vindication for something that matters.
More than that, the evidence we had near-24 hours ago we pretty strong. If this had been in a courtroom, we would have had photographic evidence, witness testimony, and a confession. And Hazard would have been convicted.
Thankfully, this wasn’t an actual trial, so just as we do every time new views surface, we stop, reconsider, and potentially correct our narratives. The idea that Hazard nailed Morgan in the side — the idea we had reason to believe after yesterday’s game — is very possibly wrong. At the same time, there is a reason Hazard apologized.
Now, instead of looking like a complete idiot, Hazard looks like a well-meaning moron. The felony becomes a misdemeanor. He didn’t kick the kid, nor does it appear he was careless with his poke. But it was still a terrible decision, and as immature as Morgan was in denying that ball, Hazard was more immature by concluding kicking out at a ball in the hands of a boy was a viable tactical decision. Having played organized soccer for most of this life, there is no way he could have been under the at-the-time misconception his actions approached acceptable.
In light of the new camera angle (which, I’m told, was shown live), it’s hard to think this all isn’t overkill. Hazard made a mistake, and he needs to be suspended. But the photo shows some consideration in his actions. His apology showed remorse. And the ball boy provided sufficient provokation.
Action needs to be taken to illustrate Hazard’s decision is unacceptable, but will this turn into the career-defining mistake I defined in yesterday’s post? Thankfully, no.
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