Saunders

Much ado about 'the kick'

Staff WriterSeptember 10, 2009 

After hours of solemn contemplation, after visiting that spiritual place that lies deep within us all, I have finally crafted a suitable response to the misguided souls who insist they saw my son kick an opposing player during last week's football game between N.C. State and the University of South Carolina.

Aw shaddup, punks.

That Zen-like message is aimed at the relative handful of Wolfpack football fans who've been blogging, calling and writing to tell me what a creep Weslye Saunders, South Carolina's tight end, is for kicking one of their beloved players when the Gamecocks beat the Pack.

Only problem was, the kid didn't kick the dude. I saw the play in question at the game and on television later and never would have thought there was a kick until hearing from people who swore they saw one. These are people, obviously, blinded by team loyalty.

Being the kid's dad, I figured I might be blinded by paternal bias. That's why I called Jeff Gravley, the sports anchor at WRAL-TV, and a sports cameraman at WTVD-TV and asked them to review the game tape and tell me what it showed. "I'm going to write about whatever you say," I told them both beforehand.

If my young'un did kick an opponent, I'd make him call and apologize.

If he didn't kick him, I'd tell those loopy loyalists who claim they saw a kick to go French-kiss a snaggle-toothed llama that's been sucking rotten figs.

An hour or so later, Gravley called and confirmed what I thought -- no, what I knew: My son didn't kick an opponent.

"There was no kick," Gravley said. "The Wolfpack player was holding onto his leg after the play was over, and Wes kicked away from the guy. He was trying to shake the guy off his leg." The cameraman who reviewed his tape said the same thing a day later. So there.

Of course, no third-party perspective is going to shut up people who read a Web site with the headline "Barry Saunders' Son Wants an Unsportsmanlike Conduct Penalty."

That story prompted one fan with a decent sense of humor -- which is what college sports calls for -- to write "I wonder if Little Saunders has one of those ridiculously goofy hats like his dad?"

There was no humor when a guy named Nicholas wrote: "Some son you have there, kicking people. What a disgrace. Looks like your kid needs more discipline. Nice work raising him."

That's just what I said, Nick, when the kid spouted off a week before the game about doing a touchdown celebration if he scored. "Where is that kid's dad," I asked, "and why doesn't he tell him to hush?"

Nor was there humor in the rant by a fellow named Bob who wrote to tell me "[T]here is video ... where your son kicked an opposing NCSU player. If this had been an NCSU player kicking your son I bet on it that we'd have had an article in The N&O about the terrible, racist attitude of whatever NCSU player kicked your son."

Chill, homes. There was no kick, although if I see some of the more obscene callers, there may be.

barry.saunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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