UP Catholic 11 13 2015 E Edition Page 13

S ilenced. Stunned. Like mil- lions of fans either watching on television or in attendance, I sat in disbelief when, with just 10 seconds re- maining in a football fame it had all but sealed up, University of Michigan punter Blake ONeill fum- bled a punt and a Michigan State play- er scooped up and returned it 38 yards for an improbable, game-winning touchdown with no time remaining. However, what happened over the next 48 hours, breached the boundar- ies of common decency, put on display how cruel some people can be and exhibited the wretched side of social media. What an idiot, what a loser. Start chugging bleach my friend. Jump off of a cliff into a pool of spikes and cyanide. Twitter and Facebook lit up like a pinball machine. The vile overtone, the utter hate aimed at ONeil that spread across social media during the next few days was horrific. Here is a young man, a fifth-year se- nior from Australia who transferred to Michigan this summer with aspirations of earning a masters degree in sports management. The same man who left behind a successful modeling career in Australia to pursue an American edu- cation. The same man who launched a school-record, 80-yard punt earlier in the game. In a handful of seconds, he became a scapegoat, a target, if you will, of fans lacking any compassion. On its own, it was an innocent mis- take, and when putting it alongside the mountain of ills that plague our soci- ety, it doesnt even register a heartbeat. But, since it happened on national TV and IT IS a sporting event that regrettably features incessant media buildup that leaves ones head shaking, he becomes this evil creature for al- lowing a leather ball to innocently slip through his fingers and hit the ground. Granted, the hate spewed at ONeill came from a minority of people. I fet that. Still, heaps of empathy and compassion are difficult to balance out the ugly attacks of those who lash out without considering that a person with feelings, is on the receiving end of such hatred. No one, let alone a college student who had to return to the Ann Arbor campus on Monday morning to attend class, should be subjected to bearing the weight of a mistake that some, in a sick and twisted kind of way, equated to murdering a child. Pathetic. How sad is it, that in the wake of all this, Michigan athletic director Jim Hackett was forced to pen an open letter to fans. Im asking that our community not lose this game twice by condoning thoughtless comments, Hackett said in the letter. ...Today I awake to the shocking reality that our community who care so much about this program would send hurtful, spiteful and vi- cious comments to one of our students. To be clear, such comments come from a small minority, none of whom are re- lective of our institution. Its a game. Were sup- posed to have a good time enjoying it with family and friends. Instead, to many, it be- comes obses- sive. Betting on point spreads and subscribing to Draft Kings can do that to people. The game's final play was unbeliev- able and devastating. ONeill took it hard. He didnt need any more remind- ers from us. When the game ended, I turned off the TV, and as I sat in silence for a few minutes to collect my thoughts (yes, Im a Michigan fan), I asked God to place a comforting arm around ONeills shoulders and lift him to a safe haven. Prayers followed at Mass the following day, for him and for those who treated him with such dis- dain. I trust God listened. Editor's note: LaJoie is a member of St. Paul Catholic Church in Negaunee. He welcomes reactions to his column at jlajoie@charter.net. www.upcatholic.org THE U.P. CATHOLIC COMMENTARY November 13, 2015 13 Sister Ellen Enright, We thank you for your dedicated service! With prayers from your people of St. Anne's Catholic Church, Chassell and St. Albert the Great University Parish, Houghton IT'S A GAME. WE'RE SUPPOSED TO HAVE A GOOD TIME ENJOYING IT WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS. INSTEAD, TO MANY, IT BECOMES OBSESSIVE. Michigan punter on receiving end of unconscionable behavior j FROM THE SIDELINES Jim LaJoie Find full issues of The U.P. Catholic online at www.upcatholic.org

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