Not since MAD magazine invented the fictional and satiric game of “43-Man Squamish ….”
Not since 1965 when San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal went after Los Angeles Dodgers catcher John Roseboro with a baseball bat …
And not since the Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners pushed and shoved each other on Sunday to liven up an otherwise dull game have so many baseball fans been moderately excited about a “violent” charade by men in short pants and numbered T-shirts.
A pitch that brushed back Mike Trout ignited a bench-clearing “battle,” which consisted of a lot of pushing and shoving much less dangerous than dancing in a mosh pit.
In general, sports fights are dull affairs, although they do tend to make the highlight reels for the lack of something else to show.
In baseball, honor requires that when one of your team gets “dusted” and rushes at another player (generally from another team, but there have been exceptions), you are obligated to hop off the bench and jog over into a scuffle over something you probably didn’t actually see happen.
Often a player will seek out a pal from another team and wrestle half-heartedly until the umps break it up and everyone can go back to spitting sunflower seed shells onto the dugout floor.
Football fights are even more lame. Trying to punch someone wearing a giant hard plastic helmet with a face guard and all kinds of other protective equipment is an exercise in futility.
Ice hockey embraces the on-field battle institutionally. The two “enforcers” drop their gloves and try to pull the jerseys over the other guys’ head until the officials tire of the dance, penalties are assessed – the NHL version of the time-out you give your 5-year-old child – and play resumes.
Most soccer fighting occurs in the stands, and those battles can rage for a long time and spill into the nearby neighborhoods as beer-fueled sports aficionados discuss the finer points of faked injuries.
Basketball, among the team sports, really offers the most interesting martial arts. Elbows fly like startled crows. “Establishing position” under the basket would be considered “assault with intent” if it took place out on the sidewalk. The fact that these athletes are – in effect – playing in their underwear makes each collision more likely to result in landing those involved on the injured list than in it would in other endeavors.
Now, we don’t mean to play down the attention-getting effects of getting hit in the noggin with what is rightfully called a “hard ball.”
Said Trout, “I get that you are trying to throw up and in, but not at the head. If you can’t pitch inside, don’t pitch inside. If you’re gonna hit me, hit me in the ribs, don’t hit me in the head. I don’t know if that was the intent, but anything at the head, you don’t do that.’’
Indeed. And as long as we’re calling out “bush league” behavior, let’s let the bench-clearing “brawl” fade into the past as well.
“Sports Monday” is written by Pete Zarustica with wire service reports.