freeSpeech: Mike Lupica

Last week there was a press release from the University of Miami athletic site that urged people to support their team in the upcoming Miami-Florida International game.

"Show your true colors in this backyard brawl," someone wrote.

It wasn't a backyward brawl, as it turns out. It was a streetfight. A Miami player scored a touchdown and bowed and pointed to the other team's bench, showing up the other team the way the cartoon characters do in the NFL.

Before long, there was riot on the field at the Orange Bowl. You saw one player take off his helmet and beat another player with it. You saw players kicking and stomping other players who were down on the ground. On the street, this is known as assault.

Once again, sports turns into the dumbest fight in the schoolyard and you know what it really means? It means that a bunch of young guys who probably saw that brawl between the Pistons and Pacers a hundred times didn't learn anything from it. Like it was one more class they get to blow off because they're good at football.

Some of these players ought to lose the football season for what happened Saturday night. And if anything like it ever happens again with either school, next time take the whole team's season. Now understand something: This doesn't happen every Saturday night in college football.

What happened in the Orange Bowl isn't some kind of epidemic, but if an ugly moment like this is just one touchdown away, the people who run both these schools ought to ask themselves a question from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid about the so-called student-athletes on that field: Who are those guys?

Mike Lupica is one of the best-known and widely read sports columnists in the United States. He began his newspaper career with the New York Post in 1975, at the age of 23, covering the Knicks. In 1977, he became the youngest columnist ever at a New York paper when he joined the Daily News.

His work has also appeared in Newsday, The National, Esquire, Sport, World Tennis, Tennis, Travel & Leisure Golf, Playboy, Sports Illustrated and Parade. Lupica has written or co-written four previous nonfiction books: "Reggie," the autobiography of Reggie Jackson; "Parcells," an autobiography of former Giants and Patriots coach Bill Parcells; "Wait 'Till Next Year," co-written with William Goldman; and "Shooting From The Lip," a collection of columns. He has also written a number of novels including "Dead Air," "Extra Credits," "Limited Partner," "Jump and Bump, "Run," "Full Court Press," "Red Zone, "Travel Team" and the new "Heat."

You can read an excerpt of his book "Miracle on 49th Street" here. Copyright © 2006, Mike Lupica. All rights reserved. Published by Philomel, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.