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Competition brings out the worst

It has been a tough couple of week for sportsmanship and good behavior in the world of football.

The New Year’s first week is traditionally filled with college bowl games and fans were treated to a memorable Rose Bowl game between the University of Southern California and the University of Texas. Unfortunately, the bowl games were somewhat overshadowed by the media firestorm and public outrage that occurred following an incident concerning former Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick.

Vick, the younger brother of All-Pro NFL quarterback Michael Vick, maliciously drove his cleat into the leg of an opposing player during the Gator Bowl.

Vick, no stranger to trouble, had several &uot;run-ins&uot; with the law before the Gator Bowl &uot;stomping&uot;. While a student-athlete at Virginia Tech, and I use that term lightly, Vick was accused of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, marijuana possession and driving with a suspended license. He was eventually dismissed from the team and quickly proved how much he learned from the humbling experience by brandishing a firearm in a Suffolk, Va. McDonalds parking lot just a few days later.

Another recent and ugly event in the world of football involved Washington’s Redskins safety Sean Taylor.

Taylor spit in the face of Tampa Bay’s Michael Pittman in the first round of the NFL playoffs last weekend. Taylor’s reputation as a vicious hitter is only eclipsed by his reputation as a trouble maker off the field. Taylor is facing a trial on felony assault charges in South Florida after allegedly pulling a firearm on individuals he claimed stole two all-terrain vehicles from him.

His tumultuous rookie season included several fines for on the field and off the field infractions, including $17,500 for unsportsmanlike conduct and a one-game suspension by the team for a DUI arrest.

Cincinnati receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh accused Taylor of spitting in his face last season, but the NFL found insufficient evidence to discipline him in that instance.

Taylor denied spitting on Pittman, but the incident was caught on tape and he was fined $17,000. Strangely enough, Taylor was not ejected from last week’s game and will not be suspended for this week’s playoff contest with Seattle.

Principles are often sacrificed when money is at stake, regardless of the business or organization, and the feeding frenzy surrounding Taylor will only boost television ratings for this weekend’s game.

The off the field infractions from these players are inexcusable and the on the field incidents display very poor sportsmanship, but it is important to recognize the differences.

People who commit crimes, especially violent crimes, are a threat to everyone and must be dealt with accordingly. While the on the field incidents were ugly and set a terrible example for young people, they take place in the context of a game and should not be decried as the end of the civilized world.

Most sports, especially football, are violent games where physical domination of your opponent is part of the game. Brutal injuries are common. Anyone who has ever spent much time competing in the athletic arena knows these things.

Sometimes competition brings out the best in people, but unfortunately sometimes it brings out the worst. Games often become heated, tempers flare and raw emotions often lead to bad decisions in the heat of the moment.

Although cheap shots and disrespect during an athletic event may serve as a precursor for more serious problems, only in extreme circumstances does poor sportsmanship make someone a criminal.

Unfortunately some very talented athletes are just that, criminals.