Barking Mad: Don't Take it Personally

Michael Desmond returns with a new column, which manages to find empathy for... what the heck... France??!? Yes, it's true. He must be Barking Mad...          

It's not just us.

That's what I thought as I watched the slow-motion replay of French star Zinedine Zidane head butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi during the taut World Cup Soccer final on Sunday. One second, France is outplaying a tiring Italian squad; and the next, France's best player is ushered out of the game with a red card.

It's the kind of cruel turnaround to put into perspective the ceaseless suffering of any Browns fan.

I mean, think about it. Your team is poised to win the World Cup—an event that comes around only once every four years. Most players will get one or perhaps two chances to play in this tournament. It's the kind of pressure that famously-noisy periodic cicadas must face. These insects emerge once every 13 or 17 years for a frantic week of mating before they die.

Even more incredible, France's epic run was led by none other than Zinedine Zidane, an honest-to-goodness living legend. The aging superstar had come out of retirement to try and recapture the brilliance that led France to a World Cup championship in 1998.

And he had nearly done it. Six minutes into the championship match, Zidane nailed a penalty kick to spot his team a 1-0 lead and an excellent shot at an improbable championship. Italy evened matters soon after, but the score held into overtime.

And then Zidane head butted Materazzi.

Really, he didn't so much head butt Materazzi as sort of "go rhino" and charge skull first into the Italian's chest. It was violent, certainly, and merited Zidane's ejection from the match. But what a strange, strange way to end a career.

This was The Drive, The Fumble, Red Right 88, and The Helmet Toss all in one.

To understand how incredibly huge Zidane's ejection was, imagine Jim Brown coming out of retirement to lead the Browns to the Super Bowl. With three minutes remaining in the game, Brown has run for 125 yards and scored two TDs. Cleveland is clinging to a three-point lead, when suddenly, Brown randomly kicks a defensive tackle, tears off his helmet, and punches an official in the eye.

Flags are thrown, penalties assessed, and Brown gets tossed out. On the very next play, backup RB William Green fumbles the ball, which the other team returns for a touchdown.

The Browns lose. Jim Brown is disgraced. And the video of Brown's lunatic assault is destined for eternal replay.

That's the kind of harsh that soccer-mad fans in Paris and Marseilles face today. And it's the kind of harsh that should help convince most Browns fans that, no, it's not just us.

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