FAYETTEVILLE (NWAOnline.com) - Mississippi State avoided a series sweep at Arkansas on Sunday but the Bulldogs will be without a starter for at least one upcoming game as a result.
And rightfully so.
Mississippi State Brent Brownlee was caught by TV cameras flipping off the crowd after the Bulldogs recorded the final out in the ninth inning. The junior had been playing in left field, where alcohol is permitted beyond the outfield wall. Not coincidentally, the crowd in the area is more vocal most games and had heckled Brownlee, like all other opposing left fielders, throughout the weekend.
That doesn't excuse the gesture, however, which was immature. Mississippi State coach John Cohen was quick to notify fans via Twitter Sunday afternoon the outfielder will be suspended for the gesture, though he didn't say for how long.
"Brent is a model student-athlete who had a ‘knee jerk' reaction to an unsettling situation," Cohen said. "No amount of verbal abuse or threats of physical violence from fans justifies Brent's reaction."
Had Mississippi State officials not acted swiftly to the action, it's likely the Southeastern Conference would have. The popularity of the sport in the league is growing and league officials understand actions like Brownlee's will be further magnified if they go unpunished. Making a swift example of Sunday's gesture will only benefit the future of the league's baseball brand, which is second-to-none.
It was inappropriate for a sporting event at any level and a damper on an otherwise well-played ballgame.