Friday, April 13, 2007

Owner with Soul

By Michael Rushton
Phanatic Magazine

I've purposely waited before tackling this subject, holding out to see what line America got in for the fallout. Thankfully, the masses have performed just as I could have hoped.

After all, no one was really hurt by it, were they?

I guess this would be a good time to point out I am not talking about Don Imus. No, I'm talking about the obscene gesture Philadelphia Soul majority owner Jon Bon Jovi made Monday night while attending his team's nationally televised game against the Georgia Force.

While I am sure Bon Jovi is as happy as the rest of the AFL that ESPN2 is televising games this season, it was in fact that national exposure that burned him.

To recap, the Soul were trying to prevent what was their first loss of the season by rallying against the Force. Down by six, the Soul defense allowed Troy Bergeron to haul in a long pass along the left side. Bergeron, though, fumbled the ball at the four into the end zone, but recovered for what was ruled a touchdown despite the fact many believe it should have been ruled a touchback and Soul football.

The play was ruled correctly, as it turns out. Still, as the boos rained down on the field from the stands, cameras caught Bon Jovi disagreeing with the call in his box to the extent he flashed the dreaded middle finger towards the field.

Bon Jovi was apologetic after the game, rushing down to talk to reporters, hoping to diffuse the situation.

"I reacted to something I didn't know," he said. "The Georgia Force are a class act. The turnovers killed us. They have a hell of a football team, and a great coach. I apologize for the middle finger thing. I didn't know the rule, simple as that."

The rock star then went on to publish an apology to the Soul's fans on the club's Web site.

"As everyone knows my passion for our game and my passion for our team runs very deep and last night it got the best of me. I was caught up in a moment and my emotions took over," part of the statement read.

Now, I'm not surprised if some of you out there have no idea what I'm talking about. In the wake of the Imus controversy, Bon Jovi's bird got little media attention sans the next morning, when it was featured in the game's highlights. The clip was usually aired along side chuckles by the commentators running the highlight.

But here is what concerns me. I just have this feeling that if America and its self-proclaimed watchdogs weren't so busy with Imus, Bon Jovi may be the one feeling the heat right now.

(And by the way, I am fighting all of my urges not to reference a Bon Jovi song each paragraph and hope you appreciate my discipline.)

Part of the reason I didn't address this issue earlier, even the next day seeing as I was in attendance for Bon Jovi's apology, was because I really did want to see the fallout.

I was waiting for a mother of two to write in and complain how she thought it would be okay to let her nine-year-old son watch AFL football, not knowing he would be subjected to such vulgarity.

As of now, the AFL has taken no action against Bon Jovi, seemingly content with his continuous apology.

Hopefully, the reason this event has gone unnoticed is because people took it for what it was; a harmless gesture many of us have made at a sporting event before, only we don't get caught on TV.

What Imus did was wrong beyond all comprehension. His words hurt people personally. What Bon Jovi did was innocent. Maybe American is finally figuring out the difference.

Tell Michael Rushton your favorite Bon Jovi song at mrushton@phanaticmag.com.
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