News flash: Hank Haney ‘resigns,’ as Tiger Woods’ swing coach 24 hours after Woods says everything is, “the same,” with Hank. I’m just not going there today. I will leave it for others to point out the obvious.
Instead, I’m going to write about a subject I’ve avoided for a week now in large part because I’m not sure there is anything that can be said that adds to what we all already know. That would be the murder of Yeardley Love. There’s a reason why some things are described as, ‘unspeakable.’ I find this almost unwriteable.
The most over-used word in sports is tragic. There’s no missed putt or missed shot or missed tackle or dropped fly ball that is anywhere close to tragic. THIS is tragic, not only because a 22-year-old college senior is dead, but because another human being—not some awful disease—killed her.
I’m not going to defend George Huguely on any level—obviously. Whatever defense his lawyer or lawyers come up with is up to them but the fact that the best his lawyer had on the day he was formally charged was to call this a, “tragic accident,” does not bode well for him in court. To me, based on the facts that we know as described by police—and not denied by anyone to date—the very best Huguely can hope for is to plead down to murder in the second degree and escape the death penalty, which does exist in Virginia. Remember, pre-meditation, which is the test for first degree murder, can be seconds—as in kicking in a door can be proof of pre-meditation.
Enough legal mumbo-jumbo. I’m no lawyer.
Let’s also deal with the so-called, “Duke/Landon,” angle of the case. Because the case involves two lacrosse players and because the accused went to the same prep school that one of the three accused Duke players went to, parallels have been drawn including the notion that this is another example of rich kids out of control.
The portrait that has emerged in news reports about Huguely is certainly that of a rich kid who was used to getting his way. The Duke kids, as we now know, committed no crime. As a team they had earned a reputation for partying hard—too hard at times—and there’s no doubt what went on that night in 2006 wasn’t the sort of thing that would make their parents proud. But that’s as far as it went and prosecutor Mike Nifong’s refusal to drop the case after the DNA testing came back negative ultimately caused him to be disbarred.
There’s no parallel here. The Duke kids were boys behaving badly—very badly. This is MURDER. Even if Huguely’s lawyer convinces a jury that his version of events is true he will be convicted at least of manslaughter.
That said, I don’t buy the notion that some have put forth that people at Virginia should have seen this coming. We all know bullies and we all know bad guys. Do we ever think they’re going to commit murder? I don’t think so. If, as some people have reported, Huguely had hit Love in the past, she or someone close to her probably should have taken some action. Then again, there are all sorts of reasons why women don’t take action—I’m not saying they’re right but we know it happens—against men who hit them. Sometimes they’re scared. Sometimes they have feelings for them. Sometimes they think they’ll end up the subject of ridicule. Tragically, we’ll probably never know any answers to those questions.
All we know is that Huguely went way across a line very few people imagine someone will cross. He had a history of acting like an out-of-control jerk when he drank too much. I’m still not sure that means people should have seen this coming.
There’s also the question of whether the Virginia men should be playing in the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament this weekend. Again, I don’t have a clear answer in my head about this. The women should play. They should play to honor Love and because there isn’t a soul watching—other than those with a connection to whomever they are playing—who won’t want to see them succeed. It’s corny, but I’m sure they all know that Love would want them to play and play well.
The Love family has told UVA that it wants the men to play too. I think that’s important and the school was right to take that into consideration. It’s also clearly true that none of the other members of the team had anything to do with what happened. The fact that other team members have been arrested in the past on alcohol-related offenses really isn’t relevant. Should the culture that exists within the team be examined or re-examined going forward? Absolutely—as with many teams at many colleges I’m sure.
But should they not play? I don’t know. The reason not to play is this: it would be an acknowledgment that one of their own committed a horrific act, one that can’t possibly be fixed in any way by playing lacrosse. It would send a message that would say this: we are so horrified by what our teammate did that our hearts can’t possibly be in competing. Instead, we’ll go to the women’s games and lead the cheers for Yeardley Love’s team. That would be awfully powerful, wouldn’t it?
Here’s the other side of the argument: the Love family has said the men should play. The players on the men’s team no doubt feel a terrible sense of loss and guilt and should be allowed to move on with their lives. Lacrosse is their escape from the tragedy, even if only for a few hours a time.
I’m just not sure on this one. I do know I found myself wincing when I heard Coach Dom Starsia talking on Monday about what a challenging schedule his team had played. I know he didn’t mean it that way, but it almost sounded disrespectful to bring it up.
I guess all I know is this: I hope the Virginia women, who are seeded sixth, find some special strength the next couple of weeks and win the national championship. I just don’t know what to say about the Virginia men. I have nothing against any of the kids who will be in uniform this weekend. No doubt they’ve earned the No. 1 seed in the tournament. That said, I don’t think I want to see them win the championship. That may be unfair but it is the feeling I have in my gut. I suspect I’m not alone.
John's new book: "Moment of Glory--The Year Underdogs Ruled The Majors,"--is now available online and will be in bookstores nationwide May 13th. Visit your favorite retailer, or click here for online purchases