I’m a former ice hockey player. I led my league in penalty minutes. I fought…a lot. I was considered an “enforcer” on my team. The funny thing is, I’m not that guy “in real life”. I’m not even remotely tough and a “real” fight scares the hell out of me. I was a shy kid in high school when I played hockey and never had a fight outside the rink.
Fighting in sports is different. When I was on the ice, I felt part of a team and felt the rush of adrenaline that the violence of the sport infuses in you. There is an esprit de corps in team sports that creates an all-for-one mentality as well.
Which leads me to last nights brawl between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers (disclaimer, I’m a Dodger/Angel fan). While I appreciated the boys attempts a satiating my hunger for violence after my beloved LA Kings were knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the origin of the brawl itself was disturbing.
In sports, no matter the sport, there is an unwritten code. Others may argue all day that it’s the result of machismo gone wild, but I embrace that part of our male psyche…I feel that it’s an acceptable nod to our inner caveman. In fact, in both ice hockey, and baseball, the violence that you typically see is strictly confined to the playing arena and rarely do the emotions transcend that: witness the grand tradition of the post-game handshake at the end of a hockey playoff series.
What happened last night was wrong. In a nutshell, in baseball, if you drill my guy, I drill yours…but the drilling traditionally occurs anywhere BUT the head. A 90 mph fastball to the noggin can kill a human being, if not end their career. Ian Kennedy of the DBacks hit Dodger rookie sensation Yasiel Puig (see photo above) in the face. This is simply not done and as multiple baseball pundits have pointed out, if you can’t control the location of the pitch, you don’t throw inside to hit a player. Predictably, Dodger pitcher Zach Greinke nailed a DBack player…in the back…where you are supposed to do it. Typically, this ends the affair…score settled. But Ian Kennedy sees fit to throw at Greinke’s head on his next at-bat…igniting an ugly brawl, characterized by violence among members of the coaching staffs, which is RARELY seen. But these old-timers respect the code of the game and took exception to the arguably criminal recklessness of Kennedy.
Speaking of criminal, I had to chuckle while watching the fight last night…as the players were throwing haymakers, an LAPD officer stood just a few feet away, keeping an eye on the crowd, but taking no action to intervene in an incident that, had it occurred on the street, would have had the officer screaming for back-up into his radio. Another example of the acceptance that this type of violence has in our society. But this one was different…uglier and precipitated by the childish actions of one pitcher.
I’m writing this as I watch these two teams play the rubber game of their series. I applaud the Dodgers and especially pitcher Zach Greinke for their actions last night and scold the DBacks and their cowardly pitcher Ian Kennedy. Don’t step into an arena that you are not qualified to participate in.
Don’t cross the line…it could have been a lot uglier and likely will be next time.
PS: On a side note, I’m considering starting a “sports-only” blog…if it happens, I’ll let you know and thanks to everyone for your support!