Commentary: Why is fighting accepted in some sports?

June 15
04:00 2017

Fighting in sports such as hockey or baseball seem to be “part of the game” in the minds of many players and fans.  But for sports like football and basketball, the same sentiment cannot be said, as many frown on fights in those sports.

Recently I was watching SportsCenter and observed a fight between Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper and San Francisco pitcher Hunter Strickland.  The fight was a bench clearing brawl that resulted in a concussion for one of the players coming off of the bench.  After a week the fight seemed to fade away and fans and reporters moved on to the next story.

This quick fade to black about the fight led me to think about if the same type of incident had happened on the football field or a basketball court, would it fade away as quickly?  I then began to recount the number of fights I have seen in baseball, hockey, football and basketball.

Hockey fights seem to happen in almost every game and some spectators enjoy the fisticuffs in this sport.  Sports reporters rarely even bat an eye at a fight in the rink as they are looked at as mere boys being boys.  I have seen countless fights in the hockey rink that have led to bloody and broken noses along with teeth being knocked out and even concussions.  I understand that fighting is a part of the game, so to speak, but I just wonder why those fights are not talked about as much as fights in other sports.

There is actually a term for a player whose main purpose is to fight and rough up the opposing team and that is a “goon.”  Goons are not as prominent in today’s game as they were say 20 years ago but they do exist and everyone knows who they are and what their purpose is on the ice.

Baseball is a sport with deep rooted tradition, one of which is having the players “police” themselves when an opponent breaks one of baseballs unwritten rules.  Things such as staring at a homerun, bat flips or taking a hard slide into a base can result in a fastball to the back or thigh.  In turn the batter may take it upon himself to charge the mound, which always results in a bench clearing brawl. 

Baseball has had its share of memorable brawls such as the Yankees and the Redsox, where pitcher Pedro Martinez threw Yankee coach Don Zimmer to the ground.  This stays in my mind because Zimmer was nearly 80 years old at the time.  Just last season Blue Jay slugger Jose Bautista was decked by Texas Ranger infielder Rougned Odor.  Both of those fights were brutal but once again they were not talked about for very long.

For the sport of basketball there have been a number of fights throughout the years in the NBA but not even close to the level of baseball or hockey.  My question is why are fights in the sport of basketball held on to by the public more so than in hockey or baseball? 

Legendary fights like Julius Erving and Larry Bird, The Bad Boy Detroit Pistons and the Boston Celtics in the playoffs in 1987 and the “Malice in the Palace” fight between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons crowd all seem to live in our minds to this day.

The same can be said for football.  When Josh Norman, then of the Carolina Panthers, had his dust up with Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. a few seasons ago, that story stayed on SportsCenter and sports talk radio for the remainder of the season. 

The question I had to ask myself was, is the difference in how fights are looked upon in certain sports based merely on tradition in those sports or is there something more sinister involved?  It would be easy to play the race card, but I would rather just open the discussion.

About Author

Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors