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The FA And The F-Bomb: Is Rooney’s Ban Fair?

As much of a glorious moment as his first hat trick of the season should have been, Wayne Rooney’s been dominating the headlines not for his achievement at West Ham, but for what occurred, or to be more precise, what was said in the aftermath.

By now, anyone who’s reading this (well, I’d assume so) knows that, in the midst of celebrating after he converted a 79th minute penalty to seal his hat trick and put United ahead 3-2 only 15 minutes after behind down 2-0 at Upton Park, Rooney looked into the camera and delivered a clear message with an even clearer F-bomb.

Now, I heard it when it was said and thought, ‘well, perhaps he shouldn’t have said that…’ but dismissed it, since it was in the heat of the moment and the significance of the goal for Rooney and for United’s hold on their place at the top of the heap in the Premier League title race.

Were it not directed at the camera, it would seem to be safe to assume that it’d be a non-issue, but as it was, it comes as no surprise that the FA has elected to punish him for his lack of a filter. What is surprising though is the punishment, a two-match ban, which was handed down today by the FA.

United are set to appeal the suspension and attempt to get it halved, but as it stands, he won’t be available for United’s next two domestic fixtures, a Premier League home match against Fulham and an FA Cup semifinal derby against City. And if his forthcoming appeal is rejected, the FA could see fit to extend the suspension, which means he could also miss United’s visit to Newcastle on the 19th.

Does the punishment fit the crime, or is the FA overreacting?

True enough, there’s no question that his choice of words should have been better, because not everyone out there has the same tolerance (or affinity) for expletives. More than that, his three goals in the span of 15 minutes did more than enough talking without him having to say a single word.

And true enough, this isn’t the first time his mouth has gotten him in hot water, and there’s a good chance that it won’t be the last. When your reputation precedes you, you don’t have much margin for error, and perhaps the FA simply see fit to finally mete out a little discipline instead of turning a blind eye to another famed ‘Rooney outburst’.

But considering the microscope he’s been under since his teen years and all that’s come with it, and all that he’s been through this season, self-inflicted and otherwise, and it’s understandable that, in the emotion of such a important moment, he might have felt compelled to deliver a message to those who’ve criticized, questioned, and doubted.

To be honest, that’s why I initially laughed it off when I heard it, because it was as good a sign as any that he’s back. That, the hat trick, that is, was a moment that he’d been steadily building up to over the last couple of months, with vastly improved performances and more regular appearances on the scoresheet, and if there were ever any doubts as to whether he’d return to his best, or if he still had that fire that’s made him the player that he is, they should be well and truly answered now.

Personally, I have no qualms about the use of expletives as forms of exclamation and expression in the right situation. But irrespective of my personal views, there’s no way around the fact that it was the wrong thing at the right time, that it’s against the FA’s standards, that it was was very audible, and that he was looking into the camera, which can easily be seen as intent.

And I certainly don’t like the idea of being without an in-form Rooney for even one match, much less two, even though we have Berba, Chicha, and a fit-again Michael Owen to call on. Those options are more than enough to do the business on Saturday against one of the league’s worst away sides in Fulham, and they’re also enough to navigate a difficult FA Cup semifinal against City the following Saturday. But now that he looks to be firing on all cylinders once again, the more he’s on the pitch, the better, and for something as frivolous as this to rule him out of a couple of matches gives reason to spew a few expletives of my own.

But rules are rules, and as such, we’ll have to wait and see if the FA decide to go by the book and then throw it at him or if they’ll chalk it up to it being exactly what it was: a comment delivered in the heat of the moment. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing worth a suspension, unless they decide to spring open the ol’ can o’ worms and start enforcing bans when players spew torrents of expletives at referees, which would seem to be equally as fitting, if not more, seeing as they’re so intent on emphasizing the Respect campaign.

Short of that, well…I’ll just let you use your imagination.