LAS VEGAS — When a defensive end for the Green Bay Packers recently body-slammed a quarterback after a play was over and reinjured the man's shoulder, a nation was shocked and shamed, then angered.
But what if he had then kicked in three of the man's ribs? What if he had tried to kick his chin off, then stomped him and tried to bite him --long after the whistle had blown?
What if he had tried to chase and maim the people coming to the aid of the fallen athlete? What if he had run away from and then kicked them, too? What if it had taken three strong men on horseback and a lasso to get him off the field?
What would he get--life? Barred from the game as long as he lived? Arrested? Sued? Jailed? Indicted? All of the above?
In this case, they took the culprit out, fed him a sweet, bathed him, coddled him. Maybe put him in the "Guinness Book of World Records." Made a hero out of him. Like Sergeant York or Audie Murphy, he had simply done his job. They wished they had more like him.
That's the trouble with our society today. Crime goes unpunished, right? Nobody cares about the victims, anymore, right? The bad guys get everything but ticker-tape parades, true? Multiple murderers go free right and left.
Well, in this case, at least, the bad guy won't write any books. He won't cash in on his antisocial behavior on the lecture circuit, parlay an assault-with-intent-to-commit-murder into a penthouse in New York and a Rolls-Royce in the garage. This is not G. Gordon Liddy, this is a cayuse. If they make a movie, it'll be a Disney.
A typical case of over-concern for the lawbreaker? An empathy because he was culturally deprived in early life? His father didn't take him to any games? His mother split when he was young? No one taught him right from wrong?
Well, in this case, it's true enough. But in this case, society not only condones his sociopathic behavior, it encourages it. This one was trained from birth to hate on sight, to resist authority, to buck against discipline.
Because the "criminal" in this case is a four-footed--or hoofed--delinquent who resists rehabilitation. If he were human, there'd be a price on his head. If he could talk, he'd say, "Your money or your life!" He'd rob banks, push baby carriages into the water, mug old ladies, kill for hire. But that's the way they want him.
This athlete is a bucking horse in the National Finals Rodeo up here this week at the Thomas & Mack Arena. He goes by the name of Speckled Bird but he has an attitude more like a coiled rattler.
Now, Jim McMahon would probably just as soon his pass rushers not hate him to the point they would like to tear him limb fromlimb. He would probably settle for one who had a little milk of human kindness in his soul. That's because his own performance is not dependent on and graded by the degree of viciousness shown by his adversary.
Not for rodeo cowboy Monty (Hawkeye) Henson. The more like Jack the Ripper that Speckled Bird turned out to be, the higher Hawkeye scored.
Speckled Bird came out making Jack the Ripper look like a purse snatcher. "He came out a-clawin' and a-pawin' like he was going to kick a hole in the world," recalls Henson. He slammed the cowboy up against the chute fence, then against the ground. Then, he thoughtfully kicked a hole in his chin and kicked out two or three ribs.
Two nights before, another walleyed cayuse answering to the name Hell's A Poppin' threw Monty over a chute fence, rotating a few vertebrae and deposited him at the feet of another range-bred killer who "just missed kicking my hat in." What made that interesting was that Monty's head was still in it.
It's not that Monty is a tenderfoot who learned to ride on a Philadelphia bridle path. He's probably the most famous saddle bronc rider since Bronco Billy Anderson--or at least Casey Tibbs. He's won more money at the event than any other rider who ever rodeoed.
He won the world championship three times and set the all-time money record for riding bucking horses, $97,000 in 1982. Four times, he's had the highest National Finals Rodeo average earnings.
There's a horse called Short Crop who's only been ridden twice in his 11-year career in the national finals. Monty Henson and Bobby Brown are the only two who stayed on the required eight seconds.
But bucking horses are not named Hurricane or Ripcord or Dead Man's Drive for nothing.
The doctors are chagrined--it not only hurts Henson to cough, it's not too much fun to breathe--but Monty proposes to get back on a horse again tonight and for the rest of the national finals this week.
Does it depend on whether he can find a critter with a softer nature, a strain of compassion?
Quite the opposite. Monty won't get on one unless he can find one who would run over a litter of kittens or carry a baby \o7 into \f7 a burning building or lead a posse over a cliff. "If it hurts me this much to ride, I want something that I can score points on," Henson says. His chances are good of finding the equine equivalent of a serial killer in the pen. The cowboys take a vote on the stock who make the NFR draft. They pick the horses that have left the most hoofprints on them. They pick the ones Cossacks would ride into a crowd of orphans, ones a commissioner would rule off for life.
Not one nag in here would pull a wagon or prance for a ribbon or even carry the mail or chase the bad guys. And they get in their best licks after a whistle. And they like their work.
Hawkeye Henson recalls that as he lay torn and bleeding from the chin on the arena floor the other night, "As they led that horse off and they were coming to pick me up, I swear I saw him grinning."