03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Is Elizabeth Lambert a Victim?

I already wrote a post about Elizabeth Lambert, the newest member of the Sports Hall of Shame, for her unsportspersonlike behavior during a recent college soccer game. But I had another perspective I wanted to share because of all the attention she has gotten in the media.

I actually feel sorry for Ms. Lambert. Don't get me wrong. She deserved whatever punishment her coach and her school's athletic department chooses to mete out. Personally, I think suspension is much too lenient; a public apology to the opposing players and team (she just gave) and expulsion from the team would seem appropriate.

But my sympathy goes out to her for the much greater punishment that she is suffering at the hands of the ravenous sensationalistic news media, notably, the 24-hour cable-news channels. I can just imagine the drooling mouth of this rapacious beast salivating over another big kill. Ms. Lambert will be publicly humiliated and flogged by this beast.

My question is: Does she deserve it? Certainly, if she had acted so deplorably in an era before the Internet, no such public punishment would have resulted. Tonya Harding, whose organized attack on one of her competitors, Nancy Kerrigan, was much more sinister and injurious, yet she quickly slipped away into private ignominy. Unsportspersonlike behavior occurs daily on the fields and courts of high-school, collegiate, and professional sports. One of her crimes is simply that she was caught on video and those images were transmitted virally on youtube and beyond. Sadly, many professional male athletes, Michael Vick for one, have been forgiven and once again idolized for much worse transgressions. Is there redemption in Ms. Lambert's future? I doubt it because she didn't just defy our notions of sportspersonship, she violated our most basic beliefs about how women should behavior (however antiquated they may be).

Is she a perpetrator of shameful behavior? Absolutely. But she is also a victim of a media that thrives -- dare I say, survives -- on such lurid episodes.

Maybe she is a bad person and that her behavior in that soccer game is her modus operandi. But I'm going to guess that, though she is a fierce - and decidedly dirty - competitor on the field, she is likely an intelligent, hard-working, and nice enough person off the field who is loved by her family and friends.

So let her suffer reasonable punishment. Let her accept the public flogging she is currently getting from the media, whether justified or not. But then let's realize that, in a world with so many serious problems, what she did is really so undeserving of our attention and interest. Let Ms. Lambert hopefully learn from this experience, rebuild her life and perhaps even return to the soccer pitch. Let us turn our attention to matters of real import to us. And, of course, let the sensationalistic media move on to the next feeding frenzy that will likely come to down the pike in the very near future.