Friday, July 29, 2011

Them's Fighting Words

Since I forced you all to sit through a J.D. Drew post and a post about team doctors this week, here is something more entertaining. Although the doctor post only had 9 hits so I guess not too many of you suffered.

Sexy Boston Sports' Pugilistic Enthusiast Kati Welch sent me a post idea via text message a couple weeks ago: "Can u (sic) do a blog comaparing (sic) sports fites (sic)?And (sic) why hockey ones are bogus, haha” (yes folks, she is a high school English teacher). Done and done*. Today I am going to look at the brawl styles of the four major sports by comparing each sport to the different types of people who get into bar fights, with bonus video clips from fights from each sport. Let’s get ready to rumbllllllllllllllle!!!

*Before I get too deep into this I have to say that I think fights in sports that aren't based on fighting are all pretty ridiculous. If I wanted to see a fight I would watch boxing, MMA or The Real World/Road Rules Challenge. I don't think they really have a place in any of these sports and they just grind the games to a halt. If you are looking for a post about how cool hockey and baseball brawls are you have come to the wrong place.

Hockey: The Liability 
Hockey is easily my least favorite of the four major sports (so according to my friend Bouc the following is extremely biased) and a large part of that is the fighting. Whenever I tell a hockey fan that I don’t like their sport, they usually respond with something like, “I hear ya bro, but you gotta admit the fights are badass!” No. Hockey fights are not badass, I’m sorry. Now, I’m not saying that the guys who get into these fights are pussies or that they don’t land some real solid punches. Of all the sports fights these are definitely the most raw with the highest chance for blood. But for something to be badass, doesn’t it also have to be exciting? Hockey fights are like a real life version of Rock Em Sock Em Robots. Two guys grab each other with one arm and use the other arm to throw a bunch of robotic jabs until one guy falls down and the refs break it up. You’ve seen one hockey fight and you’ve seen them all. What’s worse is that you see two or three of these a game sometimes which adds to the mundanity of the fights and the sport itself. 

That’s why hockey fights are “The Liability”. Most people have a friend that they would consider a liability. At a minimum this friend drinks entirely too much every single time you go out. If you are lucky, this leads to that friend checking out of a party early by passing out on a couch or standing in a corner bobbing their head with their eyes half open, but most of us aren’t that lucky. Most liabilities turn that over-drunkenness into unpredictable rage. You cut me in the beer line? Let’s fight. You backed that thing up just a little too much? Put up your dukes. You are wearing the colors of a sports team I don’t like? Let’s duel sir. Your left eyebrow is a smidge longer than your right? Mother fucker it’s time to die! Hockey follows this same general pattern. If someone checks you too hard, skates too far into the goalie’s crease, celebrates in front of your bench or calls your celebrity girlfriend sloppy seconds, the game stops, the gloves come off and the red and blue plastic fists fly back and forth. They only way I’ll ever not find these fights annoying is if one out of every three times somebody’s head actually pops off.

Football: The Guy with the Hot Girlfriend

Imagine for a second that you are a man that stands about 5’6”, weighs 130 lbs and wears thick rimmed glasses. On a looks scale of 1-10 you are about a 4. You have a great sense of humor and a successful cartoon jingle writing career. One day you meet a tall, beautiful woman, a no doubt 10, who is totally out of your league, but you get to talking and she finds you charming and cute and you start to date. On your first public date together, men approach her with reckless abandon as if you were nothing more than the bus boy. You get annoyed but figure it comes with the territory of dating such a beauty and anyway you don’t want to do anything to rock the boat and ruin your chances with her. The next few times out its more of the same. The men swarm like moths to a much hotter moth. After a while you get used to it and even find it kinda funny. Here I am with this beautiful woman that every man wants and none of them can have her because she chose me. But then maybe one night you’ve had a little too much to drink. Also your most recent jingle was rejected by Procter and Gamble even though you thought it was gold. So guy number 6 of the pickup line parade approaches your girlfriend and says, “Why don’t you ditch the zero and get with the hero” and then double thumb points to himself. And suddenly you snap. After hundreds of hits, this one was just a little off and on a day when you just weren’t having it so you throw a punch and a fight ensues. This is the NFL fight.

NFL fights are rare. When I searched for them on YouTube it returned only 2,300 results (compared to 4,300 for baseball, 6,900 for basketball and a whopping 58,900 for hockey. I told you hockey fights are played out). The reason for this is probably the physical nature of the sport (also with all the pads it is kinda pointless to get in a full fight as you’d probably do more damage to your hand if you punched someone in the helmet). If someone hits you in a way you don’t like you can just hit them harder on the next play and it is all part of the game. There are verbal spats and some little shoving matches, but for the most part the physical altercations play out from when the ball is snapped to when the whistle blows. There is a quiet dignity in letting your play do the talking (and throwing crotch punches and eye gouges in the pile). In fact, football fights seem to not occur between the behemoths of the sport, but between the players on the edges. The wide receivers, corners and running backs dominate the video above probably because they don’t get as physical as players between the tackles so if the physicality escalates they interpret this as a fight brewing. Sometimes after hit after hit after hit after hit, you just can't take it anymore and you've got to do something about it.

Baseball: The Dance Fight

***BIAS ALERT*** If I had to choose a favorite fight, it would be the baseball fight. I know, I know. I’m a baseball guy so it’s not exactly earth shattering that I’d choose these fights as my favorite, but let me explain myself. First of all, a baseball fight usually starts by one person firing a projectile 90 plus miles an hour at another person’s head making it the only sports fight where someone could conceivably die, unless Happy Gilmore is involved or if an NBA or NFL player is packing. It’s also the only one of the three sports that is called a “brawl” instead of a “fight”, eliciting images of back alleys of foggy London town and drunk hooligans. Unlike football and hockey, the players do not wear pads (except the catcher, but sometimes that doesn’t matter). The brawls also have the highest participation rate if the bullpens and benches clear (there are more players on a football team but rarely do the sidelines empty). There’s usually three or four peripheral fights going on as well. But what I like most about the baseball brawl is the beautiful choreography involved and it's this choreography that makes the baseball brawl "The Dance Fight".

When the pitcher throws the sweet chin music, this is akin to him hearing his favorite joint on the ones and twos. Sometimes when you hear your favorite joint you just have to find some unsuspecting bustah in the crowd to challenge to a dance off. Now that he’s been challenge, it’s his turn to accept. Sometimes this starts with a point back with the bat, “Oh you really want me? Do you know who I am?”, other times he just charges right into it with his best move to set a high bar. The challenger responds with a counter move and by this time the crowd is into it. They swarm the fighters creating an insulated bubble around them. Sides are chosen. As sweet moves are traded back and forth, the crowd starts to get heated in their support and new battles break off. Soon, people from different areas of the bar catch wind of the epic battle taking place and rush to the melee. It’s an all out war. Then the music stops. The sides are separated. The judges/umpires (yes, every bar has judges standing by in case an impromptu dance fight breaks out) get together to decide a winner. They let the sides know their decision and the crowd goes wild. You just got served.

Basketball: The Chick Fight
Full disclosure: Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Garnett and probably 99% of all NBA players could probably destroy me (I could definitely take someone like Vince Carter). However, when they go at each other on the court the fight looks about as tough as a scene from Eat, Pray, Love.  They like to scream and flex and jump around and glare and stick out their bottom jaw, but when time comes to man up and fight they throw it in reverse and let fly a flurry of slaps. There have definitely been some serious NBA fights over the years (the Kermit/Rudy T fight, any Celtics or Pistons fight from the 80’s like the one above, the battle at Auburn Hills), but more often than not you get something like what happened with the Knicks and Nuggets a few years ago when Carmelo threw a punch and ran away or Garnett’s nut tap on Channing Frye earlier this year. NBA fights usually generate anything from an exaggerated eye roll to outright laughter over the level of absurdity. Just like the “Chick Fight."

Just watch this video. There is screaming. Running around. Swearing. Name calling. And it all comes to a head when one chick grabs the other chicks hair and starts smacking away. Am I wrong, or could you slap an “Anthony 15” jersey on one and a “Garnett 5” on the other and this would be an NBA fight? Actually, these girls are probably tougher than the majority of the locked out league. Maybe I’m doing a disservice to chick fights by putting that label on NBA fights. Maybe we have to go down the fight spectrum to kindergarten fights or something before we get it right. Regardless of what we call them though, basketball fights make all other sports fights look Ali-Frazier, Gatti-Ward, Hearns-Leonard, or Portia-Natalie of the Bad Girls Club.

1 comment:

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