In 1987, during a game in Utah, Michael Jordan was dominating the Jazz. He took flight and threw down a dunk on John Stockton. A Jazz fan sitting courtside quipped, “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?”
Just last week in San Francisco, Shane Victorino was intentionally hit by a pitch. He flipped his bat, and began walking towards the pitcher. A few seconds later, both benches had cleared, and what could have ended with Victorino standing on first base and the Phillies cruising to another win ended up with the All-Star centerfielder being suspended for three games. This, of course, didn’t need to happen.
In 2004 during a 15-point Pacers-Pistons game with 45 seconds left, Ben Wallace was fouled hard by Ron Artest. Wallace couldn’t let it go. He got up and shoved Artest, was ejected from the game and refused to leave the court. A few seconds later, Artest was in the stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills duking it out with a balding Pistons fan. Nine players were suspended for a total of 146 games after the melee. This, of course, didn’t need to happen.
In 2001, Toronto Maple Leafs’ right wing Tie Domi was seated in his usual spot, the penalty box. Unfortunately for Domi, he was in Philadelphia. A Flyers fan couldn’t help but heckle the brawler as he served his time. The small yet scrappy Domi wasn’t going to take that, so he squirted water on the fan, who then climbed into the penalty box where Domi tossed some haymakers on him. This, of course, didn’t need to happen.
Last year, we saw the NFL’s best receiver landing a punch to the head of the NFL’s dirtiest cornerback. Cortland Finnegan of the Tennessee Titans had been harassing Andre Johnson of the Houston Texans all game. At the start of one play, Finnegan immediately grabbed Johnson’s facemask. From there they ripped each other’s helmets off and Johnson got the best of Finnegan. The announcer exclaimed “You just don’t see that in the NFL often,” and he was right. This time should have been no different. This, of course, didn’t need to happen.
So, why do athletes need to fight? At what point is the competition of sport not enough? Games are long and seasons are grueling, tempers flare – I get that. But many people have jobs that are far more stressful than shooting hoops or throwing a baseball, yet they manage to control themselves day in and day out. So what is it about these athletes?
Professional athletes are, in some cases, narcissistic and egomaniacal. For their whole lives, from high school to the pros, they have been told they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread. This fosters an “I’m kind of the world” attitude that takes some confrontations from standing up for yourself, to having to show that no one can step on you. This fuels the constant need to show that you’re the man. But this isn’t a prison, you’re paid millions of dollars, and it’s not a fight. Anger and stress are managed, for the most part, in other professions. Why can’t athletes control their urges to fight?
Egos are not welcome in the world of sports. If you are the best, go out and show it. Fighting only hurts your team.
Like it or not, some little leaguer is going to start a fight because he saw Shane Victorino do it.
These men are role models. Children look up to them for their incredible talent, and that must be remembered. Professional athletes need to let their playing skills do the fighting for them.
During the Jazz game in ’87, the next time down the court after dunking on Stockton, Jordan dunked over 7-footer Mel Turpin. He shrugged his shoulders and asked the Jazz fan, “He big enough?”
The best player in the world was sending a message with his skills – and that is a knockout punch.