Brown not at fault for loss
In the game of football, the lazy-boy recliner invokes superior hindsight and maturity. With nachos and a six-pack close at hand, the critic calmly calls the plays, takes the hits and wins the big games.
On Saturday in Ann Arbor, Bobby Brown and Jarious Jackson connected for a two-point conversion that gave the Irish a three-point lead over Michigan with 4:08 left in the fourth quarter. Brown's "excessive celebration" following the play resulted in a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff. From their 42-yard line, Michigan responded with a game-winning drive.
Call Brown a "hot dog," dwell on his "carelessness" and give a lengthy dissertation on the magnitude of his mistake. Call him immature and stupid, cry about another wasted season. Have another beer, and then trade your season tickets for front row at the Backstreet Boys.
Do not blame Bobby Brown. Admire his athleticism, applaud his ability to read the defense. Acknowledge the righteousness of his pride and understand his emotion. Consider his gesture a modest wink of the eye, a slight nod of the head toward college football's largest crowd.
Did he make a mistake? Yes. However, he defines maturity and sportsmanship in his response to criticism: "I'm not going to make excuses for a mistake."
Is Bobby Brown responsible for losing the game? No. The NCAA rule concerning "excessive celebration" is designed to promote sportsmanship. Positive emotion is too often mistaken for unsportsmanlike conduct, and, as officials proved to a record crowd, interpretation of the rule can be as spontaneous as the emotional display itself.
College football is a colorful game blessed with colorful individuals. The NCAA must redefine "excessive celebration" and consistently enforce it's decision. Until then, the referee is always right.
Before the Monday morning quarterback had time to put down the remote control and point a finger, Bob Davie issued an open invitation for the critics: "I'm not blaming Bobby Brown. I'm blaming myself."
As the coach, Davie faces the difficult task of encouraging energetic play while defining the limits of expression. "I don't care if (the celebration call) was even close — we can't have that." Bob Davie knows the rules, and it is his responsibility to foresee and avoid the "close calls."
In hindsight, zero tolerance of any gesture should have been a team policy. In hindsight, Brown should have crawled back to the bench with his head down and his tail between his legs, begging Wolverine fans for forgiveness. But when the Irish took the lead in the Big House, when Brown brought a crowd of 111, 523 to climax, hindsight was impossible.
No individual lost the game because the team played with heart. The team represented itself and our student body with due pride.
Bob Kerr is a senior English major. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Monday, September 6, 1999