If you love sports for the right reasons, you have to denounce in the strongest terms fist fights in sports outside of boxing and MMA. If the game is about scoring touchdowns, putting a ball in the hoop, or puck in a goal, fights are antithetical to us purists. And even worse, when players put on a uniform representing an institution of higher learning, the privilege to do so comes with the responsibility to carry that pristine banner above the banter of foul language or foul play. So when Xavier and Cincinnati basketball teams had a bench-clearing brawl we were outraged, offended, and embarrassed.
Therefore, when it comes to punishment, the respective institutions should send a message as they did. It could have been much like Oregon’s former running back LeGarrette Blount. He threw an impressive roundhouse hook that connected to the jaw of an opposing player who was jawing with him after Oregon’s first game loss. The University sent a message. One punch cost Blount one season, his last in college. Apparently the lesson was learned and Blount is having a very good professional career – punch free. If Blount-like punishment was imposed and the most recent boxer-ballers lost the season many would consider it appropriate. Instead the worst punishment is six games. Regardless of the amount of punishment, we all agree something was necessary. But is this all just about the players or are they receiving mixed messages from the rest of us?
If we so abhor punching in basketball, why are there already 25 separate YouTube videos the morning after? All highlight the most damaging punch, from Yancy Gates’ fist to Kenny Frease’s face. The first of those videos has fan commentary of a verbal “boom” on delivery of the punch and then a laugh. When Frease was then kicked after he was clocked, there was another “boom” and another laugh. More commentary: “ba-ba-boom-ya”, “down by decision”. By the time you read this, there will probably be hundreds of thousands of views. The commentator was disappointed it ended so soon. I dare say there are more who felt the same way in the privacy of their homes, as those who are publically outraged.
Even the purists among us should admit we don’t really deplore all violence in basketball. We just define some violence as more acceptable aggression than other forms of aggression. We want a delicate balance.