If you weren't already glad Michael Jordan chose to play basketball instead of soccer, you should be now.
Jordan became the greatest basketball player in history ever and can go toe-to-toe with Pele as the best player in any team sport.
If Jordan had played soccer, though, he might have been suspended every other match. Jordan was a trash-talker, you see. The folks who run the soccer world, FIFA, have decided trash talk does not belong in their game.
This week, they suspended France midfielder Zinedine Zidane for three international matches for viciously head-butting Italy defender Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final. But they didn't stop there. They smacked Materazzi with a two-match ban for instigating the assault with on-field insults.
Now, I am no great fan of the childish pursuit of trash-talking. I think athletes could and should be above it. I think it can be counterproductive when it motivates an athlete toward a better performance. But I am a pragmatist.
For FIFA to suspend a player for what is said during the heat of competition - unless the insult is racist in nature - is ridiculous. Because the only way that can be justified is if every player is forced to wear a microphone and there are 22 backstage technicians examining their conversations for offensive material.
In essence, Materazzi has been suspended because Zidane acted like an idiot. Zidane should have been concentrating on trying to secure the world's greatest sporting title for his team and his nation. Instead, he was worried about petty insults about his family. Whatever Materazzi said, however tasteless it was, the remarks were empty. But because Zidane acted on them, Materazzi and his team will pay.
It is not a small price, either. The two matches Materazzi is scheduled to miss are part of qualifying this fall for the Euro 2008 championship. The European championship is the world's No. 2 international tournament. If Materazzi's absence contributes to an unfavorable qualifying result for Italy, how just will that be?
FIFA has not done well by its sport subsequent to the World Cup final. Awarding Zidane the Gold Ball for most outstanding player was atrocious, whatever the voting results might have indicated. Making him out to be a victim here is all the more embarrassing.