November 18, 2009
The New Mexico soccer player whose dirty play in a conference tournament game became a national news sensation two weeks ago has finally broken her silence. Elizabeth Lambert granted an interview to The New York Times in which she apologized for her various violent actions against BYU opponents, which included hair pulling, punching, elbowing and kicking.
The clip, which was featured on news programs nationwide and viewed over six million times on YouTube, turned Lambert into a national villain. But she says it's all a misunderstanding
"I look at it and I'm like, 'That is not me'. I have so much regret. I can't believe I did that.
I think the way the video came out, it did make me look like a monster. That's not the type of player I am. I'm not just out there trying to hurt players. That's taking away from the beauty of the game. And I would never want to do that."
The video makes Lambert look like a monster because she's acting like a monster. It isn't camera tricks or selective editing; she did those things and it's not the camera's fault she did.
Also, the "that's not me" defense is acceptable when the incident in question is isolated, but it doesn't work when the actions are repeated throughout a whole half of soccer. It's not like Lambert just threw a kidney punch after getting nudged in the stomach with an elbow. She did that, plus the hair yank, plus the tripping, plus trying to take out another player's legs. Lambert might not think she's that "type of player," but the video suggests otherwise.
The junior was deluged with calls and letters after the video went viral. Some of those were threats, but others came from men who wanted to ask her out. She was disgusted by both. In the interview, she tried to analyze why her actions became so infamous:
"I definitely feel because I am a female it did bring about a lot more attention than if a male were to do it. It's more expected for men to go out there and be rough. The female, we're still looked at as, Oh, we kick the ball around and score a goal. But it's not. We train very hard to reach the highest level we can get to. The physical aspect has maybe increased over the years. I'm not saying it's for the bad or it's been too overly aggressive. It's a game. Sports are physical."
Lambert is probably correct in her belief that her actions got more attention because of her gender. There was a certain titillation factor at play. But the second part of her argument, that it would be OK for men to do this, is preposterous. It's never OK for any athlete, male or female, to pull the antics that Lambert did on the field. It was straight out of the bully playbook. That's why this story became so big, not because she is a woman, but because the offenses were so cheap and so dirty as to be completely unbelievable. How did she keep getting away with it? Why didn't her teammates tell her to cool it? Why didn't somebody on BYU give it right back to her?
On the bright side, at least Lambert recognized that her actions were wrong and expressed regret. (Although, if she ever said she was sorry, the Times didn't print it.) But the explanations seem hollow. For Elizabeth Lambert, it seems, actions do speak louder than words.
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