Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The tragic death of Yeardley Love

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



Anonymous said...

"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"...but you already did...a day after saying you would do your best not to. You just couldn't help yourself could you? You should've simply left that statement out completely considering the subject you wrote about.

Dana King said...

"Dedicating" a sporting event is trite and corny, but, since the Love family has said the men should play, i say let them play, but they should go out of their way to show their support and grief for the family. Maybe donate their awards (they must get a medal or a watch or something, right?) to the family, or auction them for a charity of the family's choice.

They shouldn't be punished for the offense of another, but they should also do what they can to make it clear they're not just "moving forward."

Anonymous said...

"The Duke kids, as we now know, committed no crime."
This is one of the great white-washings resulting from Nifong's blunders.

Under age drinking? Check
Serving minors? Check
Disturbing the Peace? Check
Verbal Assault? Check
Battery? Most likely
Violation of NC Hate Crime Statute? Possibly

If the Lacrosse team were a fraternity, they would have been disbanded. Instead, because of racial politics, these A-holes were cheered when the won a National Championship. Well played, Duke.

Tony said...


Your comments are such a welcome relief from the drivel that Sally Jenkins published in the Wall Street Post. She took wild leaps of judgment and assumption and stated that the UVA Men's lacrosse team could have prevented this action. It was a truly shameful column that still has me angry.

James said...

Just couldn't leave it alone could you John. You are OBSESSED with your 'GOTCHA Tiger'. If you would just report on interesting stories like underdogs or hero caddies you would be one of the best journalists ever. But instead you continue your witch hunt on tiger who has already done more to himself than you could ever do. NOBODY CARES ABOUT TIGER AND HANK HANEY. Why do you?

Tim said...

James - I sort of get your anger (assume it is anger BECAUSE YOU USE CAPITAL LETTERS), and while you think no one cares about Tiger and Hank Haney, you are way off target with that thought. If no one cared, ESPN wouldn't have Haney on, Haney wouldn't have multiple other outlets set up to tell his side (which he actually sounded like a defeated man in), and every media outlet that remotely touches golf wouldn't have it as a highlighted story.

I give him a little credit for leaving the biggest (agree or not, it is) golf story of the week alone for the most part.

Greg said...

The punk who killed Yeardley Love was a classi cexample of someone who has never heard NO for an answer qnd reacted badly, and criminally, when he did.

Like a kid from the ghetto who never had a stable family life to guide him morally, this kid likely had a family life that indulged his every whim, and protected him through the use of lawyers and other things money brings.

Even rich people have to be good parents, or their kids will end up as scum.

Anonymous said...

"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."

Yes, that is enough of a red flag to realize this isn't a person to get into/continue a relationship with. Women need to take more responsibility with their mating choices. Someone who gets out-of-control when drunk is DEFINITELY an indicator of future behavior. It doesn't exactly get better from there. It only gets worse.

But I guess we can excuse women because they have "feelings" for these lowlife pieces of crap.

John said...

I think the men's team should play exactly because they are not and should not be defined by the actions of one team member.

People are using this horrid event to try and define/pigeonhole lacrosse players in general. This is a bad kid. Let's not indict all lacrosse players, all Landon/prep school, all rich kids, for the actions of one bad kid.

JoeGish said...

John, would love to hear your thoughts about the 2010 Nationals. Is the GM as good as they say? How does a 38 yr old catcher continue to play at a high level? Is Ian Desmond DC's 'Derek Jeter'? How are the Lerner's different from Synder or Leonsis? Does Adam Dunn get traded for in July for a whole bunch of Red Sox prospects. What do the Nats need to do to connect with the city better? Perhaps Donavan Mcnabb should throw out the first pitch at the next Nats v Phillies game

R.H. said...

John, I appreciate your comments on the story on the UVA murder. I have to speak out, though, on your comment that you do not want the UVA men to win the national title on the account of Hughely.

That disturbs me greatly.

I interpret that as "putting a blanket" over them and considering them guilty on the account of one teammate's decision to commit a crime.

The entire team did not commit this murder and to associate them by "hoping" they don't win is troubling.

I'm rooting for both the women and men's team to do well and find solace in the sport they love. Even if it's for a few hours.

GP said...

John - (1) given the previous drunken violence incident where a female officer had to tazer him, did his parents take any action to monitor his conduct at school, keep in touch with teammates / coaches? Don't the coaches ask if you've ever been arrested as part of the recruitment process? (2) Why is it that the expected team reaction to bad behavior is defensive and protective, us against the world, and not proactive in the best interest of the team & treamate. I would have hoped teamates observing violent drunken episodes would have first talked to the young man and then if they persisted, talked to the coach. That would have been the right thing to do and the best thing for everyone. I know you are an admirer of the Naval Academy, you know an Annapolis team would have spoken up and done the right thing.

Brians said...

There is only 1 person responsible for this - Hughley - not his coaches, or his teammates (was anyone else there when he bashed down the door - then I would agree responsibility lies elsewhere. He was a mean drunk guy. I've seen alot of them - you steer clear if possible. For those moralizing about college drinking - how old are you ? I'm 45 years old, and 20 years ago, it was commonplace. I have no reason to think it was invented when I was in college, or that it would have ceased since then. Well meaning people do their best to coach or administer, and again, 1 person to blame here.

Greg said...

Blame the kid, but you become who you are, in part, by who raises you. I was a drinker in college, but I never got in trouble with the law, and when I got dumped, I accepted it. I was taught that hitting a woman is wrong.

Cannot blame the university ofr the teammates, but what kind of parents did he have???

Anonymous said...

john, we always hear the tv reporters saying things like: 'everyone is missing to the right,' or 'there's a bigger break on this green this afternoon and is playing slower'... then almost always we see the players missing to the right and not hitting it far enough....

can a player hire someone to walk to course and watch the other golfers and learn this as the day progresses?

thanks for your answer...


Anonymous said...

Initially I agreed with comments by "Tony" above concerning the Sally Jenkins Op-Ed. Then I reread her article. I think what really bothers me is that she is right. I am not saying that this murder could have been prevented. We will never know that. Yet it appears that lots of people had an opportunity to know there were problems and no one appears to have tried to do anything. In a culture that rewards effort on the playing fields, I think we could expect more.

Romelle said...

Greg, we don't know what type of parents Hugely had, but we hope they were good parents who happen to have a child who made a decision that cost another person their life and permanently altered his.