Too much fighting in sports?

Without going into too much detail about the circumstances, there was a major fight in yesterday’s college basketball game between Xavier and Cinncinati. Fighting is something that we see in Major League Baseball on an almost weekly basis. Although some fights are much more mellow than others, every year brings us a few memorable ones. This past year saw the Orioles involved in one of those when Kevin Gregg and David Ortiz had their throwdown at the Fens. Again, without going into too much detail regarding who’s at fault in any of these “disagreements,” is there too much fighting and violence in sports?

Needless to say, sometimes in baseball the term big bop takes on a different meaning than a home run. The best (or worst…depending upon how you look at it) fight I’ve ever seen in a game is probably the Ron Artest fight a few years back when the Pistons played the Indiana Pacers. Luckily most of these incidents in sports don’t involve fans, however anytime fans are on the field/court or players are in the stands you have the potential for a truly memorable (in a bad way) situation.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to come across sounding like back in the day we didn’t have this kind of nonsense in sports. However that’s kind of how I feel. Years ago I feel as if America wasn’t quite as open of a culture as it is today. Week in and week out as I pass my time in the MLB off season by watching the NFL, I find myself saying that the football players of my youth weren’t quite as boisterous and outwardly emotional as those of today. What’s wrong with being emotional, you might ask? When I say that I mean that the likes of Art Monk, Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, etc. would hand the ball to the official after scoring a TD. (Yes, I’m an 80′s kid in case you were wondering!) Certainly they’d high-five their teammates after TD”s, however that was pretty much the full extent of their celebrations. The same was true of basketball players after key plays, and obviously in baseball as well. (Baseball’s a bit different in that the nature of the sport is a more reserved one to begin with.)

As time’s gone on, we’ve seen a departure from those times. We’ve seen Terrell Owens take a sharpie out of his sock and sign the ball after a TD, guys struting after slam dunks in the NBA, and even guys showing pitchers and opponents up after home runs in baseball. (Notice that I’m leaving the NHL out of this discussion; I am a hockey fan and I enjoy watching the sport, however the game itself is almost condusive to fighting.) We’ve always said that sports can make for great motifs for life, right?

In real life we’d like to think that our peers respect us just for the mere fact that we’re fellow human beings. That’s certainly the case in sports given that in all games the teams combat on the playing field only to shake hands with the other side afterwards. However with some of the showboating that we see in games these days, sometimes I wonder if that’s still the case. Perhaps even the postgame handshake is merely a formality. Speaking of which, the fighting argument even trickled down to coaches this year, when Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh almost came to fisticuffs shaking hands after the game. Schwartz felt that Harbaugh showed a little too much excitement at winning the game. Translated, he felt disrespected.

In baseball many fights come as a result of one team giving the impression that they’re showing up the other. Back in July, the Orioles grew tired of David Ortiz crowding the plate, watching his home run shots, and rounding the bases ever so slowly. The result: Kevin Gregg pitching inside and ultimately a fight breaking out. This same concept can be applied to most fights in all games. One team or player being given the impression that they aren’t getting the respect they deserve by the other.

My point to draw this together is that while I recognize that society now teaches that it’s okay to wildly celebrate yourself when you do something in a game, perhaps players and coaches alike should collectively decide to take a step back towards the days when Art Monk would score a TD and hand the ball to the official. Again, guys would certainly celebrate back then, but they would do so within the parameters of sportsmanship. The other side of this is maybe the other side shouldn’t be quite so sensitive to this kind of thing. That’s easy enough to say but when you’re out there on the sporting field and you’re giving your all to the game, umbrage should be taken at some showboater who’s trying to glorify himself.

While the term “No Fun League” is now often applied, I say kudos to the NFL for enforcing celebration rules. (Incidentally, if they really wanted to hit teams where it hurt when these celebrations go over the top, they’d hit them with a 15-yd penalty and they’d surrender the right to kick the extra point.) There’s no problem with celebrating, however it should be done within the confines of a team’s locker room, and thus be done as a team. Again, the other side of this is that maybe the other side shouldn’t take umbrage at this. In no way am I saying that they’re justified in starting fights. However maybe if leagues got to the root of the matter we wouldn’t see the kind of displays during games like we saw yesterday in the Zavier/Cincinnati game.

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala

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