I can sit and wonder why Elizabeth Lambert behaved the way she did in a Mountain West Conference semifinal game against Brigham Young University last week, or I can wonder why this is the only news coverage I can recall seeing about women’s soccer, ever.
Or I can do both at the same time.
I mean, granted, if you’ve seen the video (and you’ve probably seen the video) you know that you do not want to make Elizabeth angry, at least not on the soccer field. She might punch you in the back (especially if you elbow her in the stomach first, sister) or sit on you. She is also capable of yanking you by your hair and pulling you to the ground. Then, and let’s hope finally, she is not opposed to tripping your ass, which is what a referee apparently decided last Thursday was bad enough to get pulled from the game, 76 minutes in.
I was sitting in a restaurant bar with a friend on Friday night when I watched her do all of these things – over and over again, thanks to Pardon the Interruption and then just the regular repetitive ESPN news cycle. The first time I watched her pull her opponent, BYU forward Kassidy Shumway, to the ground I’ll admit that I said “Ouch” out loud, as Shumway hit the turf face down and, in what is always the longest span of time in televised sports for me no matter how long it lasts, didn’t immediately get up.
I said “Ouch,” and I’m a hockey freak.
The University of New Mexico Athletic program has suspended her indefinitely for her actions.
Lambert released a statement Friday taking responsibility for her behavior.
“I am deeply and wholeheartedly regretful for my actions. My actions were uncalled for. I let my emotions get the best of me in a heated situation. I take full responsibility for my actions and accept any punishment felt necessary from the coaching staff and UNM administration. This is in no way indicative of my character or the soccer player that I am. I am sorry to my coaches and teammates for any and all damages I have brought upon them. I am especially sorry to BYU and the BYU womens soccer players that were personally affected by my actions. I have the utmost respect for the BYU women’s soccer program and its players.”
Athletic Director Paul Krebs has not been clear so far on what that punishment will be, beyond saying that:
“Liz’s conduct on the field against BYU was completely inappropriate. There is no way to defend her actions.”
Coach Kip Vela said:
“Liz is a quality student-athlete, but in this instance her actions clearly crossed the line of fair play and good sportsmanship.”
Kind of, yeah, especially if she is a quality student-athlete.
Facebook group Ban Elizabeth Lambert of New Mexico From College Sports is the usual fountain of random comment wisdom and there you will find her tried in the court of public social media opinion on a level I’m not willing to replicate here. I don’t know this girl and it’s not appropriate for me to make any blanket assumptions about her mental health or personal character based on her behavior on one day, although I will agree that it was very bad behavior indeed. I do have questions, though, which may never be answered.
*How much are young women encouraged to smack each other around in soccer games? Is this the norm for the sport or an aberration? I guess I should watch some more and find out.
*Has anyone else ever melted like the Wicked Witch on the receiving end of a death glare from Elizabeth Lambert like the one she gave BYU’s Carlee Payne after she whacked her in the back? Because I’m thinking that’s possible. Scary stuff.
*The Daily Lobo at UNM reports that Lambert has been “yellow-carded” three times in her career – all in the past three weeks. Odd? Maybe. If this really is uncharacteristic behavior for her, who’s paying attention to it?
*Is womens’ sports only news when Serena Williams throws a fit? Does the WNBA need to tweet itself to death to get coverage for a league that has to share pages with the NCAA and gets minimal coverage until there’s a fracas on the court? Do women have to act out for press?
Like I said, I don’t know. I don’t in any way support her actions in that game, mostly because they looked like broken legs or closed head injuries weren’t out of the question given the way her opponents hit the ground. I think a lot of times more force than necessary is used on athletic fields, but I’ve never been out there so I don’t know what it’s like. I do know that winning is a huge expectation in high stakes games and pressure drives people to crazy behavior. I’m not sure that’s always a good idea. And whereas I do believe strongly in accountability I think it’s sad that of all the things a highly competitive, talented female athlete can be known for in her collegiate career, it boils down to headlines with words like “dirty” and “violent,” and stupid, videotaped, aggressive behavior. I’m sure she can do way better. Let’s hope she does from now on, no matter who’s watching.