Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Violence in sports? Say it ain't so!

Current opinion: none

By nature, some sports are violent. No way around it. Boxing is the first example that comes to mind. It isn't any accident that someone gets hurt. Two people get into a ring to hit each other and the only protection they bring with them is boxing gloves and mouth guards. So for violence in sports, I'm talking about sports that don't HAVE to be violent. Sports are about competition, not violence. American Football fans may appreciate a hard tackle, but they don't really want to see one of the two players stay down on the field, injured, and have to be carted off to the doctor.

Yes, injuries, and even death, occur in all major sports. This post is not about the accidents that happen. Baseball players get hit by balls or broken bats. Ice Hockey players get hit by a high-stick. This post is about violence that doesn't have to happen in sports; when a Baseball player charges the mound and a fight breaks out; or a Basketball player punches another player for perceived rough play.

On one end of the spectrum is Baseball. With one exception (discussed in a moment), Baseball is a no-contact sport. Pitchers throw the ball, batters hit the ball, and fielders catch the ball. No players purposely try to hurt another player. If a runner to second base gets out of the basepath and tries to 'take out' the fielder, they are called out because Baseball doesn't want to injure players. The one exception in Baseball is at home plate. When a runner rounds third base, the catcher, with ball in glove, physically tries to prevent the runner from touching home plate and scoring a run. This is one part of Baseball that I could do without. Baseball is a no-contact sport and should eliminate the potential collision at home plate. The catcher can try to tag the runner out, but can't prevent the runner from trying to touch home plate.

Further up the scale is Soccer/Futbol. Players do get injured in this sport, but it comes from players colliding when jumping in the air to 'head the ball' or when someone hits the opposing players' foot without touching the ball. Players get penalized for infractions. A foul is called and the 'injured team' gets to kick the ball from the spot of the foul. If the infraction is too rough, the player can get a yellow card as a warning. If they make an egregious foul, they can be given a red card and sent off the field, not playing the rest of that game OR the next game. Yellow and red cards are recorded, but these are 'bad stats'. A statistic to be avoided.

In Basketball, the usual roughness is when one player 'charges' another and is called for, appropriately enough, 'charging'. A foul can be called when one player tries to shoot at the basket, and an opposing player hits their hand or arm. As with Soccer/Futbol, the Basketball Association doesn't want players hurt, and has penalties that reflect this.

American Football is a rough sport. No doubt about it. But 'violence' is not tolerated. Players wear lots of protection and, while they can physically tackle a player who has the ball, are penalized if they tackle too soon, or display 'unnecessary roughness'. Even the quarterbacks, who can be quite vulnerable when they are passing the ball, their arms up in the air, are protected by the 'in the grasp' rule. If the defender has the quarterback 'in the grasp' the play is over and the defender must release the quarterback.

As for Ice Hockey, it's the one major sport where violence is encouraged and the league keeps one stat regarding it. When a defensive player tries to get the puck away from the offensive player, if they are any where near 'the boards', the wall surrounding the ice rink, they slam or 'hit' the player into the boards. If the offensive player had the puck when this happened, it MIGHT be understandable. But the offensive player could have passed the puck seconds ago. If the defensive player still has the opportunity to hit the offensive player, they will do so, using as much force as they can to slam them into the wall. In American Football, you can tackle the player with the ball. If someone does not have the ball, no tackle. Otherwise, you are penalized. No such idea exists in Ice Hockey. And the Hockey league records slamming other players into 'the boards' as a 'hit'. Does this cause injuries? This Wikipedia article says Ice Hockey players have a 'high risk of injury'. Ice Hockey: Injury

So, of the five major sports in America, Baseball, Soccer/Futbol, Basketball, American Football, and Ice Hockey, Hockey is the only one that encourages 'hits' and keeps track of them. I've been told this is 'part of the game'; has been around for a long time. For me, Ice Hockey is fun to watch. Players are highly skilled and there is great excitement when a team passes well, shoots, and scores. But slamming someone 'into the boards' and the well-known 'hockey fights' should be banned altogether. None of the other major sports have websites devoted to fights. Ice Hockey is the only one. You won't find or

New opinion: (changed) There is too much violence in Ice Hockey

UPDATE: A friend pointed me to this site (which doesn't look like it is being updated)  Baseball Fights

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