FanDuel - WFBC

September 25, 2009

Arkansas player ends game with noble gesture: Thamail Morgan took the kickoff and headed up the field.
He was at the 20 ... 30 ... 40

He had been avoiding, dodging or just simply running through tacklers on the way. Football always had come easily for Morgan. This game was no different. By the time he hit midfield, only open space was ahead of him. The two-time Arkansas all-state selection was headed for a touchdown.

40 ... 30 ... 20

He glanced at the clock and saw the final seconds ticking away. He realized his team, Cave City, was on the way to a victory over Yellville-Summit, comfortably ahead, 34-16. He also realized two other things: This wasn't an ordinary game. And he wasn't the same Thamail Morgan.

When he reached the 2, he stopped. He took a few steps back and took a knee at the 5-yard line.

posted by BornIcon to football at 06:28 AM - 25 comments

That's a great gesture. The back story -- where he's suspended by one school for an entire season so he transfers to another -- seems a bit dodgy, though. Cave City's coach told his athletes that rules don't matter by bringing him in.

posted by rcade at 10:33 AM on September 25

The back story -- where he's suspended by one school for an entire season so he transfers to another -- seems a bit dodgy, though

Yes, I can agree with that. It's still a great gesture by Morgan.

posted by BornIcon at 10:39 AM on September 25

I dunno, I mean yes rules are indeed rules but if sport is a positive influence on young people then let the kids play. Find some other means of punishment than suspension.

posted by rumple at 12:32 PM on September 25

I don't get it. What is so noble about burning the whole team for 80 yards and then taking a knee. Maybe the intent was noble, but the execution seems a bit contrived. The score was already 34-16....what's another 6 or 7 points. He runs back 80 yards and then effectively says, "Yeah I can score at will, and I'll show you how I am good enough to run a kickoff back, but you folks deserve sympathy, so I'll take a knee just outside of the endzone." If I was a kid on the recieving end of that display, I would be pissed off.

posted by Miles1996 at 12:42 PM on September 25

I don't get it. What is so noble about burning the whole team for 80 yards and then taking a knee.

I get what you're saying a little bit. But, I think what Morgan did can be split into two "phases", with noble intent and execution all around.
Like it's been suggested on this site before in similar discussions, it's actually more offensive to play half-assed than it is to play all-out, even though the result might be hard to stomach. In a normal situation, there's a middle ground of still playing hard but reigning in the "method" (ie, lay off the deep passes or all-out blitzes when way ahead).
But, this was hardly the normal blow-out situation. What Morgan did was to return the kick as diligently as he ever would ... so, that's kudos #1. But, when the play was no longer in any doubt, ONLY after the play was no longer in doubt, and with only seconds left in the overall game time (as I understood it), he kneeled out of respect for the lost soul and losing team ... so that's kudos #2 - if nothing else, it demonstrated his team's condolences and kept the score from appearing ridiculously lopsided to the casual observer in the newspaper the next day. Also, I think that his entire team was yelling at him to not score - it's not like he was the only one with this train of thought. If I was a kid on the receiving end of that play, I would've been 30 yards behind the play, thinking "man, that kid's good and ... oh hey, that's cool".

posted by littleLebowski at 01:30 PM on September 25

Cave City's coach told his athletes that rules don't matter by bringing him in.

I understand why you would say that but I feel that it's also telling his athletes that people who make mistakes, especially young adults, deserve a second chance. It sounds like the coach is trying to reach out to the kid and help him to be a more productive part of a society. I don't believe it's in the same district as his former school so I don't have much of an issue with his playing football his senior year or feel that it's a blatant disregard for rules in general. I applaud the coach and school/community for getting involved in this young man's life. I hope the coach is successful in helping to rebuild the image of this young man.

posted by ampto11 at 01:48 PM on September 25

FWIW, although I don't take too much exception with rcade's thought, I'm with ampto on that one. It's not like Cave City's coach said "oh man, you're freakin' awesome, hell ya you can play for us". It sounds like this second chance was entirely contingent on following a strict set of guidelines for Morgan's football, academic and personal behaviors. I don't think that's a "rules don't matter" approach ... I think it's a "I care about people, but I'm holding you accountable" approach.

(But, I'm not proud of myself for having a morbid curiosity of what the kid did while at his previous school.) (how do you guys get the tiny text to show up?)

posted by littleLebowski at 02:11 PM on September 25

I'm with Miles on this.

To run all the way to the goal line, and then, very dramatically, to step back and take a knee, is to rub it the other team's face. "I could have run up the score but didn't". Everyone there knows that you really got beat 40 to 16, so what's the point other than to gain some noble recognition?

Beat my ass, but don't give me charity points.

Now, if he was truly concerned about not running the score up, he could have easily done a straightforward return, and pretty much just let someone tackle you. I returned punts and kickoffs in high school, and was told many times to "just take it straight up the field, no heroics, no fumbles". A few of those times were at the end of games that were out of reach for the other team. That Morgan had actually thought through that he wasn't going to score before the kickoff, actually makes it worse for me. He wanted to prove he could score, just didn't want to actually score. I find no class in that. To have just run up the middle and gone down easily, or run out of bounds at his own 35 would have far better. Give the honor to the other team, don't take it yourself.

posted by dviking at 02:56 PM on September 25

Man, you guys are a tough crowd. This kid and his team had the best of intentions, which is quite palpable if you read the article and interviews with them. Add to that fact that he is a high school kid who probably isn't going to execute his good intentions with perfection and you probably get the end result we have here. His team mates came off the field saying that the other team weren't in the game mentally. What do expect from high school kids? Just stand there on a kick off and get pummelled? He ran, because he IS a high caliber player. His instincts are good. It's his compassion that took 70 yards to catch up. But it did. He should be commended.

Nobody has mentioned that just maybe the other team wasn't ready to take the field. Perhaps they needed a bit more time to move on before playing in a game. Wanting to get back to normal is noble but it doesn't have to be right away.

I had someone describe the mourning process like this to me:

When someone you love passes, it leaves a hole right in the middle of your heart and soul. Time doesn't make the hole go away. All it does it move it a bit from the middle.

posted by THX-1138 at 03:20 PM on September 25

I played in a basketball league with members of my office once. The coach of our team died of a heart attack at age 27 practicing alone one Sunday afternoon at a public park (the rest of us had obligations).

We missed the next game a day later, but decided to play our final one in his honor. We were completely blown off the court and had no business playing, but it was a bonding experience I'll never forget.

posted by rcade at 03:24 PM on September 25

Give the honor to the other team, don't take it yourself.

Hmm, excellent take, dviking (good example of why I like SpoFi) I still slightly disagree. I mean, would there be a snowball's chance in hell that we'd hear about the tragedy that fell upon the losing team, if it wasn't for Morgan's actions? I'm not saying he was intentionally trying to get headlines for himself or the losing team. But, I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt that this was his way of honoring the other team. The fact that his actions resulted in some of the attention being given to him doesn't automatically diminish the fact that the intent was to focus the attention and respect to the other team. And again, this wasn't your normal, simple, overmatched blowout situation. I personally think that his kneeling is reflective of this being a moderate whooping that was partially due to a very sad situation. I wish I had a "long story short" mode, but I guess I'm saying that I can totally see merit in what you're saying, but on this one, I'll just choose to keep it as a feel-good story.

posted by littleLebowski at 03:31 PM on September 25

I had someone describe the mourning process like this to me:

When someone you love passes, it leaves a hole right in the middle of your heart and soul. Time doesn't make the hole go away. All it does it move it a bit from the middle.

I'd love it if I never had reason to use this in the future. But chances are, I will, and when that happens, sorry THX, I'm going to steal this. Great comment

posted by littleLebowski at 03:35 PM on September 25

What is so noble about burning the whole team for 80 yards and then taking a knee.

He didn't score. It was a dramatic, noble gesture. If he did it the non-dramatic way, no one would have even noticed that the team was sending a message that they cared about and understood what their opponents were going through. The message, however, was clear, and it was appreciated.

posted by bperk at 05:33 PM on September 25

bperk, that is my point altogether...he could have easily made a noble point by catching the ball, running 5 yards, and then taking a knee. That would have shown that they were not going to run up the score. His way was very much about first showing that they could run up the score. He gets honored for being noble, but only after proving his point. If his intent was truly to show compassion, which he said it was, then just take the knee. The point would have still gotten through, however, it probably wouldn't have made headlines.

Look at it this way. Say I want to do a good deed, something that costs me nothing, but makes someone else feel better. If I only do so after I'm sure that everyone knows I'm doing the good deed, I think that diminishes it. If my intent is pure, I accomplish what I set out to in a way that does not draw undue attention to me, but rather, truly ensures that the other person does feel better. To walk the elderly woman across the busy intersection is noble, to do so only after loudly proclaiming "look everyone, I'm going to walk this elderly woman across the intersection" is still the same act, just not as noble in my humble opinion.

posted by dviking at 07:18 PM on September 25

The message, however, was clear, and it was appreciated. I believe that he had the best of intentions. The act in itself was simply a gesture of sympathy and compassion. I appreciate that. The young man had enough empathy to do something, which is certainly commendable. However, I'm still left with the feeling that it was all about him. "Look at me run. Look at me sacrificing this TD in honour of the other team." Maybe what makes me feel this way is the fact that the article was essentially about this player, not those he was trying to honour.

Give the honor to the other team, don't take it yourself. Exactly.

There are other options that would make sure that the message registered without choosing one that is this self-centered.

But then again, I realise that this is an easy position for me to take being so far removed from the actual situation. As such, I will say this again: He displayed empathy and that is commendable.

posted by Miles1996 at 07:18 PM on September 25

dviking at 07:18 PM

Once again, my point being more eloquently articulated.

posted by Miles1996 at 07:22 PM on September 25

It sounds to me like Morgan made the decision to take a knee during the run, not before it. "As I was running, some of my teammates told me not to score, and I knew that scoring was not the right thing to do," he's quoted as saying.

posted by rcade at 07:24 PM on September 25

I guess I'm gonna be the cantankerous old doof here, but damn, it seems like some folks here just want to see the dark side of every possibly or seemingly noble gesture. About whom does that speak?

posted by outonleave at 07:44 PM on September 25

I think that the proof of the sincerity of the act is in how the players, the parents, and the coaches of both teams regard it with. If the ones most closely involved with that young man and this entire situation consider it a noble gesture, who are we to argue?

posted by irunfromclones at 08:26 PM on September 25

Sportsfilter: No Noble Gesture By A Teenager Shall Go Unsnarked

posted by Joey Michaels at 08:49 PM on September 25

To walk the elderly woman across the busy intersection is noble, to do so only after loudly proclaiming "look everyone, I'm going to walk this elderly woman across the intersection" is still the same act, just not as noble in my humble opinion.

In a world with a severe lack of nobility, I think the last thing we need is to criticize the less-than-perfect stuff. It was meant as a respectful gesture by a player who may be maturing as a person after a terrible start.

No parades, but a firm handshake and nod are in order.

posted by dfleming at 09:12 PM on September 25

You know, I do agree that given much of what we see in the news today that we ought to celebrate every good act, especially ones like this. I was just adding my opinion to a discussion that was already underway, though I don't think anyone was looking for the dark side, just wishing the light was shining on the grieving players.

My real point is this, the team that played through pain associated with the death of one of their teammates is the true story here, not the fact that an opposing player took a knee rather than run up the score in the final seconds of the game. But what's the headline? "Arkansas player ends game with noble gesture".

posted by dviking at 10:34 AM on September 26

Without the noble gesture, no one would have heard about that team playing with pain outside of their hometown.

posted by rcade at 10:58 AM on September 26

Without the noble gesture, no one would have heard about that team playing with pain outside of their hometown

would have that been such a bad thing?

The kid was clearly trying to impress any colleges that still might have an interest in him. Why even run a return play when up by 18 with only seconds to go, in any game, let alone one with these circumstances? I may be off base on this, but I just don't think I would have cared for it had I been on the other team.

posted by dviking at 03:06 AM on September 27

Hopefully, next time he is in this position, Morgan will realize that he should just score the touchdown so he can avoid the criticism.

posted by Joey Michaels at 04:57 PM on September 27

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