Steve Zakuani (Photo courtesy of Seattle Sounders FC)
Steve Zakuani is an amazing human being. Ever since he first started talking about the injury that has so far left him with a nasty scar, already cost him a year of his career and quite possibly changed him as a footballer forever, he's opted for the high road. In talking to the media before Saturday's game, which should be the first time Brian Mullan will face the Seattle Sounders since he threw that ill-advised tackle, Zakuani urged fans to be forgiving, too.
"I want the fans to understand that I have no issues with the guy," Zakuani said about Mullan. "It’s not like we had some previous history and he came into to do it. He just made a bad tackle."
Nearly a year after the incident, it was clear that no one affiliated with the Sounders was really dying to talk about this issue. I'm sure many harbor some ill feelings in private, but everyone is doing their best to at least try to focus on the game at hand.
"It’s over with," Sounders midfielder Brad Evans said. "At the time everybody’s mad, but even then it happens on the field and then you finish the game. You’re upset that you lose a player, but it happens. It happens everywhere. Every sport it happens. Stupid mistakes happen. You deal with it the best you can. We’re lucky that we have Steve back in full training and we kind of move forward."
Zakuani, every the humanitarian, took an even further: "My advice is let it go and use that energy to support the team, the guys will need it."
While it's certainly admirable that Zakuani does need the fans sticking up for him, it hardly seems inappropriate for fans to want their own pound of flesh. The question is, what does that mean?
Clearly, Mullan is going to be booed. No pleas from authority are going to stop that. From the moment he's introduced and likely every time he touches the ball, derision will rain down from every corner of CenturyLink Field. This is sports, after all, and booing the perceived villain is just part of the norm all around the world.
From where I sit, there's nothing wrong with a loud chorus of boos. It's what Mullan expects. It's what the Rapids expect. It's what Zakuani, the Sounders and everyone else in the stadium knows will happen.
It can't be allowed to be more than that, though. I hate to be "that guy", but nothing good can come out of throwing anything at Mullan. Save the threats of violence for your private thoughts. Let's be bigger than that.
Perhaps the best punishment is complete silence.