Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sports And Violence

by Dick Mac

Sports can be rough going; and some sports are rougher than others.

In baseball, there is rarely an incident or injury that is life-threatening. On August 18, 1967, Jack Hamilton, of the California Angels, threw a pitch that hit Tony Conigliaro in the eye. Hamilton was a tough pitcher and Conigliaro was a batter who did not give the pitcher a lot of room with the strike zone.

In the NFL, players are often injured seriously. I remember Darrel Stingley, of the New England Patriots, being paralyzed for life after a hit during practice; and Lawrence Taylor weeping on national television after he cause a compound fracture of Joe Thiessnam's right leg.

Soccer players are regularly stretchered off to the the hospital for broken bones and head injuries from the fierce contact made without the benefit of padding. Just last week, Shea Salinas, a young player for the San Jose Earthquakes, was carried off to the hospital with a broken clavicle after a particularly nasty tackle by Red Bulls midfielder, Rafa Marquez. I don't think Americans have much of an appreciation for the physical strength and dexterity of soccer players, nor the remarkable physical danger in which they find themselves regularly.

Hockey, of course, is supposed to be vicious. There is the occasional Bobby Orr or Mark Messier or Mario Lemiuex who are incredible athletes and gentlemen; who are tough enough to hold their own, and gentle enough to stand-out as paragons of sportsmanship.

There are also monsters in hockey. The vicious stick fight between Teddy Green and Wayne Maki, in 1970, that led to a severe head injury to Green, is commemorated everyday by the use of helmets by all hockey players. Prior to Green's head injury, hockey players wore no protective head gear (goalies didn't eve wear masks, yet!).

I stopped watching hockey a couple decades ago after hearing for the umpteenth time: "I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out." I grew-up in the era of Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali. I don't need hockey to be a display of boxing.

Earlier this week, during a playoff game, Blackhawks' Marian Hossa was taken off the ice on a stretcher after Coyote Raffi Torres took him down with a vicious, illegal hit to the head.

My problem with hockey, and one I find hard to overlook, is that somehow no official saw this majorly egregious hit in the middle of the ice, and Torres sat peacefully on his bench during the entire emergency. He was not escorted from the ice and he was not arrested.

I have just returned to following hockey, because my daughter has become enamored of the New York Rangers and their goalie, Henrik Lundqvist. To hear her cheer for him is a wonderful thing (even if he does play for the Rangers).

Having this vicious incident take place so soon after my latest attempt to embrace the sport, makes it hard for me to continue.

It was vicious. Pay close attention at 5 seconds in:

I don't want my daughter watching that.

Blackhawks’ Marian Hossa leaves game on stretcher after Raffi Torres hit (VIDEO)


Michael said...

By the rule book, the hit on Hossa should have been a penalty. Three different reasons: 1) Hossa no longer had the puck when the hit was made; 2) Torres made Hossa's head his "principal point of contact"; and 3) Torres left his feet when delivering the hit. While the refs on the ice blew the call, it looks like Torres is going to receive a multi-game suspension from the NHL.

Nevertheless, I agree that the NHL game can be awfully dirty. It seems to go through phases where play deteriorates, and this is one of them. It is unfortunate, as I think hockey can be both very exciting *and* clean (see the Olympics). Unfortunately, there's a neanderthal mindset behind the facade of the NHL. Even worse, I find myself subscribing to it at times.

On an unrelated note, your daughter has good taste: Henrik Lunqvist is my favorite player as well.

Michael said...

Dick: Just reread your post and saw that you note the illegality of the hit on Hossa. My apologies for the redundant lede in my comment.