July 13th, 2006

manning: uberbitch

On the infamous head-butt.

It seems to me that just about all the European media reports on Zidane's "apology" for his behavior are missing the point. The only thing he gave was a highly qualified statement. He said he was sorry that the children watching the game had to see him perform the head-butt. Forget his refusal to repeat Materazzi's exact words. Forget Materazzi's feigned ignorance about the definition of the word "terrorist." Forget the speculation, the insinuations of racism and the conflicting translations of the lip-readers. Forget his failure to apologize for letting down his team-mates. He didn't apologize for the action itself, and therefore, in my mind, he hasn't apologized at all.

The only way either Materazzi or Zidane could truly put the incident behind them would be for the following to happen. Materazzi must say, "I provoked Zidane verbally. It was wrong for me to do that, and I'm sorry." Zidane must say, "I attacked another player on the pitch in the middle of a match. It was wrong for me to do that, and I'm sorry." Both apologies must be unconditional and independent.

Perhaps if they did that, we could focus on the fact that world seems to be exploding around us. (See: Israel attacking Lebanon, synchronized train bombings in Mumbai, North Korean missile tests, escalated fighting in Afghanistan.) But I sincerely doubt that they'd be willing to lay aside their egos and their pride. If they can't, then neither of them deserve to be called true sportsmen.