Violence in sports underscores entertainment
Published: Saturday, April 28, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 17:08
Circling each other waiting for that perfect opportunity to strike. Two muscular men facing off toe-to-toe to see which one is the baddest.
No, it’s not a heavyweight bout, but instead enforcers in the NHL squaring off on the ice in the middle of an officiated game, with their bare fists.
Fighting has long been accepted in North American hockey, but it is divisive amongst fans of the game. Some see fighting as a necessary means to protect stars from big hits that carry the repercussion of only a penalty or suspension. Others think it is a prehistoric act that needs to be removed from the game immediately.
Getting rid of a practice that has no direct impact on the outcome of the game seems obvious, especially when violent play is involved.
In Game three of the Chicago Blackhawks’ first round playoff series with the Phoenix Coyotes, Hawks star forward Marian Hossa was leveled on an illegal hit by Coyotes goon Raffi Torres. The officials deemed the hit to be legal on the ice, but when it was shown in super slow-motion it was apparent Torres had deliberately hit Hossa directly in the head without the puck.
Headshots have no place in any sport, and it is easy to see why such severe penalties (25-game suspension for his hit on Hossa) are handed out to multiple-time offenders like Torres. But, in the heat of the battle in almost every sport, players are taught to do whatever they can to win. Sometimes the less disciplined players take that to the extreme.
Decades ago in the NBA, players routinely clobbered one another to keep each other from easy baskets at the rim. Nowadays any hard foul around the basket almost immediately goes under the microscope to determine whether or not it is a flagrant foul.
Metta World Peace proved Ron Artest was still in there somewhere when he brutally elbowed James Harden in the side of the head after celebrating a dunk. World Peace, who has been suspended 13 times, received a seven-game suspension for his hit on Harden, which was dangerously close to his temple.
Major League Baseball is the least violent of the four major sports, but collisions at second base and home plate routinely are accepted as part of the game.
Until one of the collisions knocks out a rising star of the game.
Buster Posey, catcher for the San Francisco Giants, was injured on a collision at home plate that led some around the league to call for the elimination of such plays from baseball. Catchers who choose that career path are generally accepted as the toughest players on the field. If a backup catcher, who plays no more than 40-60 games a year, received the same fate as Posey there would hardly be a blip on the radar. When gruesome things happen to Hossa, Harden and Posey, people tend to take notice.
The sport where violence is most prevalent is the NFL. Players are paid to bash into one another as hard as possible in order to get to a certain spot on the field. Similar to the other sports, football has recently been under scrutiny because of a scandal involving the New Orleans Saints, in which players were paid sums of money based on the injuries they inflicted on their opponents.
It’s frowned upon to intentionally try to hurt someone during a game, but do you think a football player making a tackle or a hockey player going into a hit is really thinking about the livelihood of the recipient he is about to crush?
No, he is trying to inflict as much pain as possible, within the rules. No matter how much the focus shifts towards violence that takes place outside of the rules, the fact remains that most injuries take place on plays that are legal and a part of the game.
Ray Easterling, a plaintiff in the concussion case of former players suing the NFL, was a safety on the Atlanta Falcons for the better part of the 1970’s. The depression and dementia Easterling suffered from later in his life was thought to be a direct result of the repeated hits he took to his head during his career. Easterling’s battle with his life after football ended with suicide.
No matter how many rules there are or how harsh suspensions are handed down, players will always be in danger of being seriously injured. Being paid millions of dollars to play a child’s game seems great on the surface, but at the end of the day fans of professional sports are less worried about the safety of the players as a whole and more worried about whether or not their team is winning or losing.