The excoriation of Zinedine Zidane for shoving his head into the chest of an admitted provocateur has been a bit much. Some writers have claimed that this cost the French the World Cup, but that is nonsense, as the French had been camped out in the Italian half for most of the game and extra time, while posing a minimal threat to score. And the 5 perfect penalties from Italy had nothing to do with the presence or absence of Zidane on the pitch. The one thing that is clear is that Zidane snapped after 110 minutes of frustration and took it out on Materazzi, who had almost certainly crossed the line of sportsmanship.
My view of the incident is thus a bit closer to that of SI's Dr. Z, a long time observer of the NFL.
Picture this. Michael Strahan is tired of offensive linemen grabbing him, strangling him, chopping at his legs, talking never-ending trash, generally messing with him in fringe illegal methods and getting away with it. So he head-butts someone.
Will he get thrown out of the game? Probably not. He'll get a flag. But put him in the context of World Cup Football and the ridiculous grand opera tragedy it has become and he would not only get thrown out but a lifetime of greatness would be ruined -- at least for now.
"Ruin" is temporary in this case, I'm sure of that. But I do wonder what Zidane will say about the incident later in the week, as promised. Will he follow the editorialists at L'Equipe, and tell the children not to do what he did? Or will he stress that the game needs to cleansed of the "fringe illegal methods" (and worse) referred to above? Tough call, mon amis.