Trevor Freeman
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July 16 - The Headbutt Heard 'Round the World

It was a Thursday night affair against a nationally ranked Princeton squad. While unranked, we had
hung tough and were down only two midway through the third quarter. Beating Princeton at Princeton
would have been a huge feather in the cap of Fordham water polo. A win there and perhaps our name
starts getting mentioned as a top twenty caliber ballclub.

I played 2 meter offense for Fordham. It is the equivalent of playing point guard in basketball or
quarterback in football. It is the most important offensive position in the pool. The kid guarding me
was a former high school All-American whom I had always thought was kind of a punk. All game long
he had been reminding me about how Princeton was an Ivy League school and Fordham wasn’t. At
the same time, I complimented him on his girlfriend’s ability to…..ummm….cram a full stick of salami
in her throat/esophagus. It went back and forth. Finally after he punched me in the kidney underwater,
I snapped. I waited for the ball to go ahead of me on a counterattack (water polo equivalent of
basketball fast break). I looked both ways to see if there were any refs around. When I saw there was
none……..I grabbed him by the back of the head with my left hand and pulled him into a right hand
punch which landed square in the mouth. Unfortunately………I wasn’t careful enough, because a
referee did happen to look over and immediately ejected me from the game. My team had to play
down a man for the final quarter and a half and we lost.

Why do I tell this story? Because I think the entire media has been a tad
bit hypocritical when talking about the headbutt Zinedine Zidane put on
Marco Matarrazzi. It wasn’t “thuggish” and it wasn’t a “tantrum”. It was just
a guy trying to lay a shot on somebody else and hoping he wouldn’t get
caught by the refs. Was it wrong? Of course. But it was wrong in the
sense that he got caught and it was wrong in the sense that he slightly
hurt his team (let’s be honest, France lost because Barthez didn’t come
close on those PK’s). The action of trying to get in a quick blow on an
opponent in any game that is of a physical nature happens all the time and it isn’t something to be
crucified over.

The men on that field weren’t there to take in an opera. This wasn’t ballroom dancing. France and
Italy were playing for the World Cup. The biggest prize you can score in the world of soccer. How
amped up do you think those guys were when they took the field? And especially, how juiced do you
think Zidane was for his final game? He was probably as fired up as Ricky Williams at a “store” in

Here’s something nobody has brought up this week. Did Marco Matarrazzi have it coming? You hear
people talk about Zidane being a bully but you don’t hear anybody ask that question. How do we know
that Matarrazzi wasn’t aggravating Zidane for 110 minutes straight and calling him the “son of a
terrorist whore” was just the icing on the cake? The people who would say, “he still shouldn’t have
done it” are generally the same people who prefer to sit in a circle and sing “Kumbaya”. Everybody
who has played a competitive sport has been in a situation where they’ve wanted to punch somebody
out. Let’s give Zidane some credit. He at least attempted to do it behind the play in a spot where there
is a 50-50 chance you might get away with it.

Over the past week, we have heard many things. They have ranged from people writing that Zidane
has permanently scarred his legacy to talk that he should be stripped of his MVP. First off, stripping
him of the “Golden Ball” would be as ludicrous as the decision to nominate “Kathy Griffin’s Life on the
D-List” for a Best Reality TV Show Emmy. Zidane was the best player in that tournament and is
deserving of that award. Secondly, his legacy had already been secured. Zidane won a World Cup in
1998. Zidane’s already got the Green Jacket; he’s got a spot in Cooperstown. In my opinion, the
headbutt he threw may in fact enhance his stature for a casual fan like me. It showed me that Zidane’
s not your stereotypical pretty boy, European soccer player. Not being a “diver” should have been my
first clue, but that headbutt showed me Zidane has some “nails” in him. And I think that inner rage is
probably the reason he became the best player in the world’s biggest sport.

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