Overreacting to Jozy’s Red

Jozy Altidore received a red card at the close of the first half against Sunderland for “head butting” Scotsman Alan Hutton – queue the commentary of Jozy as an immature thug that is wasting away his talent.

Please.

The red card came after a mêlée in sued following Hutton provocatively picking up the ball and throwing it at Jozy as he laid face down on the ground. While Hutton’s act caused no bodily harm it was a deliberate effort to both disrespect and provoke. If this were baseball Hutton would have gotten a fastball in his ear the next time up. Jozy proceeded to get up and aggressively push Hutton and when leaning forward clashed heads with Hutton. Now by definition this was a “head butt” as the English media have pointed out. Steve Bruce went so far as to describe Jozy’s act as a deliberate effort to inflict “grievous bodily harm.”

I think this is bogus. Altidore did “head butt” Hutton, but from my viewing this was entirely unintentional. As Jozy started pushing Hutton he leaned forward and they clashed heads, with Jozy’s head lowered the contact had the effect of a head butt and Hutton went down as if he were shot. Now of course, only Jozy knows if it was intentional or not, but I find it hard to believe that Jozy, an American, would instinctively head butt someone. We aren’t Scottish after all. So in my view the red card offense, was not a deliberate act of aggression.

This doesn’t make Jozy’s red card stupid. Jozy got duped into losing his cool and that sense showed his immaturity. Could he have handled it better? Yes. But assuming the head butt was unintentional, Jozy had every reason to get in Hutton’s face and if heads did not clash both would have likely received yellow cards – something that would have been quite advantageous to Hull since a defender on a yellow means much more than a striker.

Alas things went poorly and Jozy deserves criticism. But a few have gone way over the top, such as Eric Altshule at MLS Talk, who wrote that:

Jozy Altidore is a wonderful soccer player from the neck down. Unfortunately, he is gaining a deserved reputation as a player with a million dollar body and a ten cent brain. Jozy needs to put away the twitter, stop with the silly antics on the field and become the outstanding professional he has the potential to be. Otherwise, he is destined to become another American journeyman player in Europe whose only honors will be the Clint-Mathis-Memorial-What-Could-Have-Been Award.

Now Eric writes some great stuff, but this is asinine.

“Getting a deserved reputation” really, from whom? As I recall there have been two negative incidents with Jozy – this latest one and another for tweeting an apology for being late – which for some reason Hull’s former manager thought was a big deal. By all accounts Jozy handled his dressing down exceptionally – he apologized and took his punishment well, he didn’t pout, and was shortly back on the field. That is exactly what you want from a 20 year old. Using the latest technology and social media is not evidence of a lack of maturity – it is evidence of being 20 YEARS OLD! Following this weekend’s incident even after receiving a red, sincerely – in my eyes – checked in on Hutton, and instead of stomping off the field in a huff, Jozy covered his face as he left in shame. In his statement afterword expressed shame and apologized to the fans – the very reaction one would hope for.

In fact, the last thing I think of when I think of Jozy is a prima donna. Did you not see his activism in response to the earthquake in Haiti? He put his career on hold, taking a leave of absence from the team, to help raise money and awareness for the relief effort. He traveled to Port-au-Prince in the wake of the earthquake to see the devastation first hand and to do what he could to raise spirits of Haiti’s soccer obsessed kids. Throughout his emergence, Jozy has shown tremendous maturity beyond his years. From blogging for the New York Times, to biding his time and waiting for an opportunity with the national team, to handling playing for three different sides in the last two years, Jozy has shown maturity and wisdom well beyond his 20 years.

Yet one incident was enough for Altshule to write “For Altidore to reach his potential, he needs to build up the muscle between his ears.” Jozy’s head is on as straight as any 20 year olds. He just had a full and relatively productive season in the best football league in the world, all the while playing for an abysmal team. And Jozy, will in all likelihood be challenging for a spot with Villarreal next year. At the very least, the people of Hull seem to want him back.

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2 Responses

  1. You’re probably right, it’s just one incident, no need to go overboard.

    Besides, MLS Talk is a wasteland of utter crap.

  2. And there’s more than a hint of racism in seeing Jozy as a “hothead” and a “thug” for what you rightly point out was an overreaction, but not a grievous one.

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