A late season interview with a member of the Washington Redskins heard him remark that a win (while rare for the ‘Skins this season) was fun. They just played the game, had some fun, and rolled with it. Some recent antics in sports would seem to dispute that sentiment.
In a game that was billed as the “Crosstown Shootout”, local rivals Xavier and Cincinnati faced off in an annual hoops contest. Both schools are in Cincinnati, and the annual game is looked forward to by many, much like a VCU vs. U of R game here.
In interviews and on social media during the week leading up to the game there was a significant amount of jawing and braggadocio. Players and fans of both schools claimed prowess and challenged their opponent’s abilities. Then came game time.
After Xavier led most of the game and seemed to have victory in hand, the verbal taunting that had ruled the contest blew up into a physical altercation. With less than 5 seconds left in the game, a Xavier player pushed a Cincinnati player, benches cleared, and fisticuffs ensued. Players grappled, swung, kicked, and coaches struggled to clear the floor. In a most egregious display, one player was caught with a blindside punch that left him on the floor, and as he struggled to cover himself was kicked repeatedly. The end of the melee saw a player standing on the scorer’s table celebrating with the crowd. At this point, referees called the game.
Things got really interesting after brawl. For some inexplicable reason, Xavier coach Chris Mack made some of his players available for a post-game news conference. Tu Holloway of Xavier, who was the celebrant of the scorer’s table, said that their behavior was to be expected. “That’s what you’re going to see. We’ve got a whole bunch of gangsters in our locker room. That’s what we said we were going to do, zip ‘em up,” said Holloway. Like, zip up a body bag? Because that’s what gangsters do?
Did we mention that Xavier is a 180-year old Jesuit, Catholic school?
It was a little different across the hall. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin lit into his squad and took away their jerseys. They didn’t deserve them. He then went in front of the cameras and lamented that most of his squad would be lucky to be representing the school come Monday. More to the point, he would be lucky to be coaching the team. Cronin told reporters, “It’s a complete embarrassment no matter who started what. Toughness is doing the right thing. True toughness, you walk away from it.”
An Ohio prosecutor was considering pressing charges against some of the aggressors in the brawl. He later declined to move forward as the schools seemed to have things in hand. Yancy Gates, who knocked Kenny Frease to the floor with the blindside, received a 6 game suspension. Tu Holloway, a brazen ringleader, was suspended for one game.
In 2009, Oregon Ducks running back LeGarrette Blount punched an opposing player after a game. He was “suspended” for the rest of the year. He ended up sitting out ten games and is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.
Texas Ranger Yorvit Torrealba is keeping in shape this winter by playing in Venezuela. It was there that the catcher struck an umpire after striking out. Venezuela has suspended him for 66 games, which is effectively the rest of this year and next season. Major League Baseball and commish Bud Selig are “looking into it”.
James Harrison of the Pittsburg Steelers and Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions have been fined, chastised, suspended, and vilified. Both use questionable tactics, but in Suh’s case, he was actually suspended for stomping on a player after a whistle. Harrison has survived by paying several hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.
And at last we see the return of the NBA.
Players and owners went back and forth for months to see who was greedier. Just when Disco Sports fans thought all was lost, they came to terms. Our Christmas gift this year was to get to watch some professional basketball. In their first game of a ridiculously short season, Kevin Garnett of the Boston Celtics put his massive hand around an opposing player’s throat. Perhaps he mistook the nape for a Spaulding. Kevin’s penalty? Nada.
If any of these players were gloved up and squaring off in the Octagon then some of this would make some sense. But it doesn’t. The New York Times recently did a series on Derek Boogaard, an “enforcer” in the NHL. An average skater and mediocre stick-man, Boogaard was, at well over 6 and a half feet, respected for his fists. In a career that took him from Minor League Canadian hockey to the New York Rangers, he played in almost 300 games, scored less than 20 points, and spent over 600 minutes in the penalty box. He died of a drug overdose of painkillers mixed with alcohol and an autopsy showed a degenerative brain condition caused by concussion. He was 28. At least one NHL player has admitted to retiring rather than having to face Boogaard on the ice.
Not a fan of the hockey fight, either.
If two people in a parking lot contested the same parking space and an altercation ensued, there would be consequences. If one shopper sucker-punched another, charges would be pressed. If a dispute at the drive-through saw a driver reaching through the window and choking the attendant, someone would be facing jail time.
“sport: (spohrt) noun: diversion; recreation; pleasant pastime. an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess.”
It’s fun. Just play the game and roll with it.