Hamburg’s Joseph Cominsky is tackled by Annville-Cleona’s Trace Seiple during the first half of the football game on Sept. 6. Cominsky is
Hamburg's Joseph Cominsky is tackled by Annville-Cleona's Trace Seiple during the first half of the football game on Sept. 6. Cominsky is accused of ripping the helmet off of Annville-Cleona offensive lineman Josh Hartman and hitting him with it. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

I have watched the video enough times to know the voice-over by heart.

WGAL-TV sports director Pat Principe was there:

"In my 30-plus years of covering high school football, I have never seen an incident quite like that. At the close of the play some pushing and shoving, and then, in the lower right-hand corner you'll see No. 15 in white, Joe Cominsky from Hamburg, rip the helmet off the head of Annville-Cleona player Josh Hartman and he hits him not once, but twice, the second time squarely in the head."

I've watched it in real time, and I've watched it a second or two at a time, pausing and playing, pausing and playing, as if the mouse were a coach's clicker.

What looked to be a routine play, Hamburg's defense making a tackle, escalated into an ugly scene.

The video of the incident, which took place Sept. 6 during the third quarter, lasts about 36 seconds. But it's the five seconds of the video -- zoomed in and in slow motion -- that's chilling.

Cominsky, a senior starter at quarterback and safety for the Hawks, can be seen taking off Hartman's helmet, and then hitting him with it, the second blow landing powerfully, with both of Cominsky's hands clutching the facemask.

It's tough to watch without wincing.

Cominsky was ejected, and according to PIAA rules, was suspended and ineligible to play in the Hawks' game Friday night against Northern Lebanon.

Hamburg principal Chris Spohn wouldn't say if the school meted out any additional discipline.


"We followed our board-approved policies and procedures dealing with this situation," Spohn told the Reading Eagle last week.

Spohn, citing the ongoing investigation, declined further comment. A call to the Cominsky home was answered with a polite, "No comment," by Joey's father.

What's yet to be decided is whether the South Annville police will file criminal charges against Cominsky. That process, reported, "could take weeks" to conclude.

"We've seen that happen in the NHL a few years ago with a hockey stick," Lebanon County District Attorney David Arnold told "Those types of scenarios instantly stand out as cases where potential criminal charges could be filed."

But even if charges aren't filed and Cominsky escapes the police blotter, he'll still have a record -- not criminal, but viral.

WGAL's video spread like bamboo, showing up throughout the country on TV stations, newspapers and their websites, as well as on CNN, MSNBC, Yahoo Sports, Huffington Post, Deadspin, Bleacher Report, CBS News,, Fox Sports and on and on.

If you've ever doubted the power and/or the far-reaching, virtually immediate impact of social media, welcome to the 21st century -- when news travels fast, and shocking news travels way faster. That the news was made in a small Main Street of a town in central Pennsylvania doesn't matter a bit.

People from coast to coast saw Cominsky brandish that helmet.

Maybe something happened earlier in the play, or earlier in the game, to provoke him; something that would lend some context to his actions, or help explain them.

But extenuating circumstances or not, heat of the moment or not, there's no excuse for bashing someone over the head with a helmet.

That said, doing a stupid thing does not make Joey Cominsky a bad kid. He's 17 years old and 17-year-olds have been known to do stupid things: They talk on the phone and drive; they text and drive; they drink and drive. Parents of teenagers could surely add to the list.

The difference in Cominsky's case is that his stupid thing just happened to play out in view of a TV camera and make national news, meaning everyone who saw it will forever assume him to be a thug.

But according to several people, who wish to remain anonymous, Cominsky is anything but. He was described as a great kid, a hard worker and a good student -- named to the 2011 Berks Football League All-Academic Team. (He missed all of the 2012 season with a knee injury.)

So we're left to wonder why, and Cominsky is left with knowing the video of him swinging that helmet will have a permanent home on YouTube.

But as disturbing as that video was, there was a highlight: We saw Hartman get up and walk off the field under his own power. Thankfully, he wasn't seriously injured -- just a scratch on his head -- and didn't suffer a concussion. He returned to the game and played without any lingering effects.

That won't be the case for Cominsky, if he returns to the game.