- Keith Hickey

This past weekend should have been about soccer. It should have been about star players like Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry finding their feet and finding the net. It should have been about Chivas USA grabbing their first win of the season. It should have been about wondering what has happened to San Jose. It should have been about a fabulous goal by this year's Next Big Thing.

But it wasn't.

Thanks to Brian Mullan, the big story this week was not soccer games, but the near-removal of Steve Zakuani's leg below the knee.

The usual line of  "he's not that kind of player" has been dusted off and trotted out.

That, pardon my French, is a big steaming pile of Merde de Tareau. As though previous innocence removes all responsibility for your actions. 

Would that defense work anywhere else in life? "Yes, officer, I was drunk and texting and cut off a tanker truck which slammed into a bus full of nuns and quadriplegic orphans who were coming back from adopting a litter of puppies, but really, I've never done anything like that before. I'm not that kind of driver, you see."

Perhaps the Nazi defendants at the Nuremberg trials should have used this defense in place of their "just following orders" argument. After all, it was only their first systematic genocidal campaign. They weren't that kind of totalitarian regime

Did Brian Mullan intend to break Zakuani's leg? Probably not. Only he knows. But that's beside the point. He made a reckless, sloppy, aggressive challenge with both feet. It's a type of tackle known as a "reducer," and its objective isn't as much to win the ball as it is to intimidate a skillful opponent. This was not an isolated incident. This is an epidemic that has been going on for generations, all across the world, and too often it's explained away with any number of limp variations on the NTKoP excuse.

Tackles like that have no place in the game of soccer. If Zakuani is lucky, he'll rebound like Henrik Larsson did and have a glittering career. If he's unlucky, his leg break could affect his ability and diminish his potential, like similar injuries did Eduardo Da Silva and Djibril Cisse. If he's really unlucky, like David Busst, Alfe Inge Haland, or Neils Kokmeijer, a broken leg could end his career.

I wish I could  have talked about soccer today. But soccer is only a game, as much as we love it. And a dangerous one already, without tackles like Mullan's. And as much as I'd like this to be a snarky review of the weekend's action crystallized into a few punchy one-liners, thanks to Brian Mullan's reckless disregard for the safety and well-being of a fellow athlete, this is not that kind of blog post.
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