Tennis

Hold off on judging Mariotti

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Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock writes about the sports world from every angle, including those other writers can't imagine or muster courage to address. His columns are humorous, thought-provoking, agenda-free, honest and unpredictable. E-mail him, follow his Twitter or become a fan of Jason Whitlock on Facebook.

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Let me try the impossible: a defense of Jay Mariotti.

There are few people in America more unworthy of a vigorous defense than the ESPN screamer and Fanhouse.com executioner.

OPEN BRAWL

 
U.S. Open brawl
 

When running back LaGarette Blount sucker-punched a Boise State defensive lineman after a game, Mariotti argued that Blount, a kid, should be incarcerated. When talking on TV or ranting in a column, Mariotti prefers justice that is swift, savage and unconcerned with redemption.

Now that Mariotti stands accused of a crime — domestic assault against a woman — many people, including yours truly, wanted Mariotti to get a taste of the kind of America he champions.

Well, now I have second thoughts. A friend called me Friday morning asking if I’d seen the video from the U.S. Open spectator fight that is making its way around the Internet. I hadn’t. My friend waited for me to find the video and then started a debate about the way the public perceives confrontations between men and women.

If you haven’t seen the video, a large woman in her late 40s confronts a normal-size young man who appears to be in his mid- to late-20s. The woman seems to be complaining that the young man is talking loudly during the tennis match. She is in his face ranting. He shouts back and uses profanity. As best I can tell, he never calls her a name. He simply strongly defends his right to talk between points in the match.

She erupts and slaps the young man hard across the face. To his credit, the man shrugs it off and does not respond physically. I was thoroughly impressed with his composure. He tells her the slap was nothing and demands that she sit down and mind her own business.

An older man in his 50s is standing behind the woman and appears to be her friend. When the woman finally sits down, the older man gets out of his seat and confronts the young man. Within seconds, the older man attacks the young man. The young man dumps the older man on the ground and returns to his seat. He again keeps his composure.

The woman gets up and attacks the young man again. Another man comes from several rows down and attacks the young man. Finally security arrives and breaks up the incident. In the background, throughout all of the confrontations, you could hear other spectators lobbing insults at the young man who kept his composure during all the incidents.

My friend asked an important question: If there was no video footage and this was a he-said-she-said or he-said-they-said, how would the event be reported?

I don’t care how much the kid was talking during the tennis match. I don’t care that the kid was a smart-aleck when confronted by the woman. I don’t care that he cussed. He remained calm. He never resorted to violence. The older woman and the older man were completely in the wrong. They should’ve reported the kid to security and let trained people deal with him.

 

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The witnesses didn’t react the way I would have. They seemed to believe the young man was the bad guy. They screamed for security to kick him out of the stadium. He had committed the crime of getting in a dispute with a woman that turned violent.

Trust me, I know how vulnerable women are in physical confrontations with men. I realize domestic violence is a plague. I’ve known women who have stayed in physically and mentally abusive relationships. I get it. Domestic violence is our burden. Men have the responsibility to change a violent culture that harms women across the globe.

But the U.S.Open video reminded me that we should wait before judging Jay Mariotti. His media shtick portrays him as an unenlightened hypocrite and a punk. It does not, however, paint him as someone who roughs up women.

Before he moved to Los Angeles to pretend to be a TV celebrity, Mariotti was a longtime husband and father in his private life. There was no controversy in his personal life that we know of.

For now, let’s judge him by that track record, not his long public record of being a human gasbag for dollars. We don’t know what happened between Mariotti and his girlfriend. Let’s wait to hear from the participants before we Mariotti Jay Mariotti.

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