Malee: Alonso misstep another twist in eventful narrative

During one particularly memorable play in last Saturday’s Spring Game, linebacker Kiko Alonso and tight end David Paulson met at midfield. Paulson had just caught the ball and turned to start his run. Alonso, having other ideas, wrapped his hands around Paulson’s waist, turned, and flipped him backwards onto the turf. It more closely resembled a wrestling takedown than a football tackle.

It was a stirring exclamation mark on what had been a fabulous spring for Alonso. And yet, less than 24 hours later, it would come to mean so much more.

Just as cavalierly, and violently, as he flipped Paulson over his back on Saturday, Alonso upheaved his own career path with yet another troubling arrest the next morning.
We don’t yet know what the ultimate fate will be for the junior linebacker, who has been suspended indefinitely, and I’m not here to provide any further speculation regarding the matter.

It would be easy to chastise Alonso for his behavior, or poke fun at him for his alleged actions. But when I look at this situation, I see a perfect example of a phenomenon we see quite often that is unique to sports.

A narrative can turn on a dime.

Just look at Alonso’s career path in four years at Oregon. After redshirting for a year, he showed immense promise in both the 2009 Civil War and the Rose Bowl against Ohio State.

Then came the first flip.

He was suspended for a full season after a DUII arrest, and suffered a severe knee injury in the spring that he would spend the next year rehabbing. A bright future was temporarily derailed.

He righted himself this spring, impressing coaches in practice and flying all over the field during Saturday’s scrimmage. The aforementioned takedown of Paulson was one of the highlights of the day, and it looked as if Alonso’s redemption was near completion.


The news came late Sunday night. Another arrest, this time on charges of burglary, criminal trespassing, and criminal mischief. Alonso was suspended the next day, and Chip Kelly announced on John Canzano’s radio show that he was “really, really, really disappointed.”

It’s all very sad, particularly if this spells the end of Alonso’s career at Oregon. It would hurt the team, yes, but it’s also difficult to watch a 20-year-old man head down such a dangerous path after seemingly righting the ship.

Flips, wrong turns, promises unfulfilled — whatever you want to call these stories, they are littered throughout the sporting landscape. They aren’t always of such a depressing quality as Alonso’s, and at times they are generated partially by the media.

Take, for instance, some of the NBA playoff action on Monday night. The Dallas Mavericks narrowly edged the Los Angeles Lakers, even after a 36-point night from one Kobe Bryant.
Bryant had the chance to win the game with an open three-pointer at the buzzer. Had it gone in, all you would have heard about on Tuesday was how clutch Bryant was; how, with every passing day, he approaches the stature of the game’s all-time greats.

The ball sailed through the air and appeared on a direct line to the hoop. The crowd watched, ready to explode in jubilation. Instead, they groaned as it hit back rim and rolled out. In a matter of seconds, Bryant went from a heroic winner to a disappointed loser. You might say his fortunes, well, flipped.

Where the real world holds nuance, judgment in the world of sports is cut and dry. No matter what happens throughout the course of an athlete’s career, they are usually defined as triumphs or failures. One championship, or a single clutch play, can create a legend. A string of arrests can destroy one.

I hope that Alonso doesn’t come to be defined by his missteps. I hope that he has another flip in him, that he can reshape a narrative that has seen countless twists and turns.
If he is Kobe Bryant, that shot is still hanging in the air. We’ll have to wait and see if it ever falls through the net.

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