I know who Elizabeth Lambert is. She’s a junior at the University of New Mexico who plays defense for the school’s women’s soccer team. I don’t know the name of any other woman, or man, playing college soccer in the United States. Thus the amazing Internet.

A couple of viral videos shot around the Internet on Friday of some rough play by Lambert in a conference semifinal against BYU. Since the videos only showed parts of the game, it’s hard to figure what else was going on. In a nutshell. BYU was up 1-0 in the second half when Lambert committed some fouls, the most egregious being when she whipped a BYU player to the ground by yanking on her pony tail. She also gave an elbow to the back of another BYU player, gave a hip-check to a BYUer heading into the box, and engaged in some aggressive tackling. I thought the hip-check warranted a free kick (although I don’t know if one was given and the more dramatic sight on that play was another UNMer kicking the ball into the face of the fallen BYU player). The elbow to the back was pure, and immediate, retaliation for an elbow to the stomach.

Now the hair-pull warranted a red card; although the BYU player was tugging on Lambert’s shorts moments before, this was too much. And not having seen the rest of the game, I’m guessing that the ref was not calling a tight game generally. Only one yellow card was given, to Lambert for one of her fouls.

There ensued much Sturm und Drang on the subject. Today’s Times had a piece on whether there was a double standard between men and women. There have been the obligatory LetsRun threads (whence I learned of the thing in the first place).

But I actually am more sympathetic to what Paul Ciolino said on CBS News.com, “Elizabeth Lambert Video: Attractive, Aggressive, Suspended… Victim?” Sure the pony-tail pull was too much, as was Zidane’s head-butt. But if a ref lets people play to a certain level, the players will play up (or down) to it. When Pre returned from the Olympics, he said, “From now on, I’m going to be a dirty son of a bitch. I’m going to foul a lot of people. I’ll get thrown out of a few races, but it’s time we Americans learned to run like the Europeans.”

But what about the ladies? Back in the early 80’s, my Warren Street teammate Isabelle Carmichael was one of the top runners in the New York area. She told the story of being at an event after winning a race at which she described the woman she beat as a “tough mother-fucker” and how the people in the room where shocked to hear such language. Now, I wouldn’t use it, but I can think of more than a few women runners who would in a heart-beat.

It’s an attitude that translates into performance, in training and in work-outs, and you see it at any NYRR Club race. In the end, we’re all just athletes.

Back to Lambert. The amazing power of the Internet. One morning she’s just another college kid and the next the poster-child for bad behavior. She’s in a game (BYU went on to win 1-0) in which her team’s losing, she’s a bit frustrated, she overreacts a bit. It happens.

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