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The Lombardo Trophy: When a politician forgets his place

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FEBRUARY 20, 2013

Let’s call it The Shove. No, let’s call it Shovegate. Maybe Shovepocalypse. Wait, I’ve got it — Shovegatepocalypse. Yes, that seems appropriately hyperbolic.

For those of you living under a rock — and even then, I doubt you cave dwellers have not heard about this; I am sure ESPN, Grantland, Deadspin and the rest have at least a few subterranean channels — Cal coach Mike Montgomery gave a two-handed push to the chest of star guard Allen Crabbe during the low point of Cal’s game against USC on Sunday. It wasn’t a particularly vicious heave ho; Crabbe fell backward just a shade.

That it went viral nationally is no surprise. A coach should never lay a hand on his players, period, and he should be held accountable for his actions. (Personally, I favor something along the lines of a fine. It’s harsher than the reprimands issued by Cal and the Pac-12 but takes into account the remorse Montgomery has shown in the days after the incident.)

The sports media is right to highlight these incidents. It is also right to condemn Montgomery’s actions. If proper scrutiny is applied to situations such as these, they will decrease in frequency.

But there is one voice among these that does not belong. On Monday, state Sen. Leland Yee, whose only direct relationship to the incident is being a Cal alum, called for Cal administrators to suspend Montgomery. Not only that, but Yee — who worked as a psychologist prior to his election — did it with a level of sanctimony achievable only by politicians: “As a psychologist, I can assure the university and Coach Montgomery that physically pushing a student-athlete does nothing to motivate them.”

Yee’s intentions may be honorable, but let’s face it: No one gives a flying fruit bat if he’s got a degree in psychology. Armchair diagnosing the situation does nothing but diminish his voice to a petty whine (which is unfortunate, because beneath the shrill self-righteousness, he does raise an important point about the double standard the university is applying to Montgomery). Regardless, Yee has styled himself a crusader for the people and intends to hold the university accountable.

So Yee has continued to splash his words across social media and local media outlets four days after the incident, disregarding all the while that no one has been looking to him for guidance. The vehemence and style with which he pushed his message reeks of camera-grabbing. Who’s running for Secretary of State again?

Yee clearly considers the university account­able to him. (In an interview Wednesday, his Chief of Staff Adam Keigwin said, “Anything that tarnishes (the) legacy of the UC he wants to clean up… (The Cal athletics teams) are accountable to the Legislature, they are accountable to the taxpayers, they are accountable to the students.” I also remember quite vividly an interview I conducted with him almost two years ago in which he declared that the Legislature, as “the voice of the people,” can ask whatever it wants of the university whether it is given “one penny or a billion dollars.”)

But if this is true, then perhaps he has forgotten the flip side of that relationship: He is also accountable to me, a student of this university.

I count on him to fight for an appropriate level of funding for UC Berkeley and the rest of the UC campuses. That has not happened, despite his best efforts. So I, for one, would much prefer it if he channeled all his energy into the job tax dollars pay him to do rather than spouting pablum no one cares to hear.

Contact Jordan Bach-Lombardo at [email protected].

FEBRUARY 21, 2013

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