With four seconds left in the Egg Bowl, wide receiver Elijah Moore caught a two-yard touchdown pass, making the score 21-20. He then celebrated in the end zone, miming the act of a dog urinating on a fire hydrant. This warranted a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that pushed back the Rebels’ extra-point attempt to 35 yards. That extra-point attempt failed, and Ole Miss was defeated by Mississippi State.
If you’re an Ole Miss fan, there’s a good chance that you saw this moment live. There’s an even better chance that you’ve heard talk of this moment. Various national publications have called the moment, among other things, an “all-time sports blunder” and something worthy of infamy. No doubt, Moore’s decision in that moment was a blunder, and it might be marked by infamy for as long as it’s remembered. His enthusiasm was obviously misplaced, and his actions were clearly misguided. His choice affected and will continue to affect himself, his team and his school — as he, more than anyone, is well aware.
There is little tenderness in sports and even less in football, and there is little tenderness in talk of sports and even less in talk of football. Of course there must be consequences for poor sportsmanship and the like, but a bit more tenderness, a bit more compassion and a bit more perspective would go a long way in talk about this particular moment.
In that moment, Moore made a mistake. Sure, everybody makes mistakes, but most of us don’t make our mistakes in front of 60,000 strangers, and most of us don’t make our mistakes on national television. Those circumstances might not excuse — or even explain — his actions. However, those circumstances might instruct how we talk about this particular mistake. When we think about Moore’s mistake, we should have the humility to think also of our own. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, as it were.
“It is not the critic who counts — not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.” If there were ever a time to revisit Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech, surely this would be such a time. There is a cheap high in criticizing others, but “the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who strives valiantly, who errs … but who does actually strive to do the deeds … and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Maybe this is too much to say about a young man who pretended to pee on a football field, but maybe it isn’t. At any rate, we would do well to remember that there is a 15-yard penalty for piling on a ball carrier who is already down.
John Hydrisko is a junior English, philosophy and history triple major from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.