Friday, April 19, 2013

Baseball brawl reveals a disturbing trend in professional sporting world

By Brian Bruns, Columnist
When San Diego Padres slugger Carlos Quentin started a bench-clearing brawl after charging the pitcher’s mound on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Zack Greinke, it resulted in a broken collarbone for Greinke and an eight-game suspension plus a $3,000 fine for Quentin.
I hate fighting in sports. It’s a disgusting, stupid waste of time. In this instance, the Dodgers have lost a starting pitcher for eight weeks due to injury and the Padres have lost a solid bat for eight games. I hope both players feel satisfied at the outcome.

We’ve seen these types of fights in sports before, and based on the weak and pathetic punishment MLB handed out, we are bound to see them again — at least in major league baseball.
Every ESPN baseball analyst I listened to agreed with Quentin’s decision to charge the mound. They also felt any more than an eight-game suspension would have set a bad precedent for a fighting punishment. By these analysts’ standards, Quentin had only two choices: charge the mound and fight or be labeled a wimp by his teammates.
What a childish rationale for a fistfight.    
It’s not as if Quentin’s family was being threatened or he was attacked. No, Quentin’s ego and manhood were at stake. In Quentin’s defense he did get hit with a pitch, but that’s always part of the risk of standing in the batter’s box.
It’s obvious that baseball players do not respect the system of penalty that MLB issues for hitting a batter with a pitch. Batters who are hit earn a walk to first base. In extreme cases, a pitcher could be ejected from the game.
So, since MLB won’t punish these pitchers any more severely, the players take matters into their own hands with a well-timed mound rush and bench-clearing brawl. This self-regulation has obviously worked to curb the fighting in baseball.
Of course MLB, as well as other leagues such as the NBA and NHL, will always publicly decry these types of fights, and all their language in the media will indicate that league management wants fighting to stop. Don’t believe that for a second.
Major league baseball, and any other professional sports league, could eliminate fighting and bench clearing brawls at any moment if they wanted to. If major sports leagues were ready to issue lifetime bans to players who throw punches or instigate fights on the field of play, then I’m sure that the foolishness we witnessed last week would never happen.
Sports leagues that refuse to outlaw fighting are complicit in the result and are also admitting that the sport may not be exciting enough on its own to warrant watching without the brawls. They’re telling fans that fist fighting has a place in their sport. That message travels down to the kids who are learning to play and watching their heroes on primetime television.
People rationalize fighting in sports in many ways. Some say sports are inherently violent and that emotions often run high during physical competition. Others will say their sport has always been that way or advise me to not be such a wimp.
I understand contact sports assume some physical assault as part of the game, but in America we have more than one sport for people that want to hit each other in the face. If you want to fight, go box or study mixed martial arts.
Make no mistake, this will keep happening. It will probably take some superstar getting seriously injured to alter perception on fist fighting in sports.
Sports leagues fear that any serious ban on fighting will lose them a portion of fans who tune in to see carnage. These are the same people who watch NASCAR for the crashes, NHL for the fights and the same people who yell at little league umpires when their kids are called out.
I would argue those people are a minority and aren’t really true fans of the sport. It’s a ridiculous and reflexive notion that banning fights would lead to lower turnout at events. True fans attend sporting events to watch the skill of the players and experience the unpredictable outcome of the live game, not to watch a fight break out.   
Come on people, we have pay-per-view for that kind of thing.
Brian Bruns is a father, a husband and a U.S. Army veteran. Sarcasm, wit and a good cup of coffee are all keys to his success. He can usually be spotted Thursday night working for Mast TV’s News @Nine or Friday nights hosting Lutes, Listen Up! on LASR.