Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Fight Fan's Measured Response To Sanctimonious Drivel


Ordinarily, I have nothing against Dave Hodge. Anyone who can sit that close to Steve Simmons and listen to his clueless stammering every Sunday morning without succumbing to the well nigh irresistible urge to drive an icepick through his own eardrums just to make it stop deserves a measure of respect in my book. But sometimes...

For those who may have missed it, dear old Dave went off on a wee rant between periods of last week's Sens/Caps game on the hockey topic du-jour, fighting and the possible banning thereof. In a nutshell, while decrying and tut-tutting the specious arguments and not-so-subtle name calling that has marked the debate from both sides of the issue, he helpfully adds his weighty oppinion by...giving us specious arguments and ever-slightly-more-subtle name calling before slapping on a coat of condescending sanctimony for good measure (full transcript here).

So to turn Dave's argument on its head, I too would like to propose a change to the debate "that might make the dinosaurs and the granola eaters agree on something."

I want the proponents of a fighting ban tell me that the game is more entertaining without a fight than it is with one, that the 18000 or so ticket buying souls who stand and roar during every single fight have been wrong all along. I want them to swear to me that now that fighting has been eliminated, they will flock to the rink and buy jerseys and beer and pizza and car flags in numbers never seen before.

I want them to tell me that in no way whatsoever should a player from their team seek to administer some kind of retribution on a fourth line call-up nobody from the other team who took a run at their star player and knocked their star player out of the game or season with an unpenalized cheap shot because it makes them feel bad.

And as long as we're engaging in stereotyping smear campaigns (Dave), I'd like to hear that they want fighting banned in hockey because it's too long to wait for the next UEFA Cup soccer game.

I want them to state, catagorically and without any doubt, that banning fighting will not cause an increase in stick infractions not only because the officials will always catch those fouls, but also because the NHL has such a stellar reputation for imposing subsequent fines and suspensions based, not on the name on the back of the jersey, but on the severity of the infraction.

I want them to finally admit that the "but nobody fights in the playoffs" argument is a canard, a red herring aimed at those who can't see or won't admit the difference between a regular season game in February and the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Final.

But most of all, I want them to watch tonight's All Star Game and tell me that that's the way they ultimately want to see the game played, bereft of physicality or emotion.

Do that, and I'll have no argument with them. I like hockey. They don't. But at least we'll be able to agree on something.

11 comments:

Canucnik said...

To Lost Cojones:(1) This is the Brian Burke argument and it is so yesterday.
(2) The "Big Meat" don't fight they Wr"A"stle.
(3) You saw what happened on Friday night in the "A", when they do fight.
(4)You take your "hat" off to go (Burke's instuctions) and you are going to get hurt man.
(5) Brian Burke "A RANT!"....... (a)He was too small and not tough enough to fight an "Enforcer" in the American League. Thus he has no "feel" for it.
(b) I grew up with a Canadian family of Burkes (tough boys) they would have had to take him to the wood shed to straighten him out, early and often.
(c) To see Burke stand behind and above those huge "Ducks", arms folded like "King Kong Bundy".... It's guys like that, guys who never laid a glove on anyone, but can direct their young charges over the boards to do their fighting for them. (Did someone say gutless!)
(d)To have this big Yankee Air Bag speaking from the Bully Pulpet of Toronto on behalf of the Leafs is hockey "sacrilege" and I ain't no Leaf fan!
So I think it's time, the "Big Fellas" have got to go (We knew that 40 years ago)!

dzuunmod said...

Agreed totally. The NCAAs have no fighting and nobody goes to watch their games. And just look at some of the absolute pansies who've come out of that system.

And they have so much dirty play and stickwork as a result! I mean, did you see when Bertuzzi sucker-punched Steve Moore in that Bowling Green-Colorado tilt? Or when Jonathan Roy went nuts on that Vermont goalie? Christ, we can't have that kind of stuff in our game! Which is exactly what will happen if there's no fighting in the NHL and CHL, I tell ya. The players won't be able to police themselves anymore, so they'll take it into their own hands.

Senators Lost Cojones said...

Canucnik: So the argument should be dismissed because of the source making it? By the way, Lord knows I hate the Leafs more than anyone, but Burke played Division I NCAA under Lou Lamiarello and spent a year in the A. Pretty sure he may have laid a glove on someone a time or two.

Dzuunmod: Bertuzzi's actions had no place in a civilized anything and he was duly punished (and will continue to be pending the outcome of Moore's lawsuit). As for Jonothan Roy, here's what I said about that.

And just because I enjoy a good (meaningful) scrap, doesn't mean I wasn't as disgusted with either of those incidents as anybody else. To infer otherwise is being as disingenuous as Hodge.

And I agree, the NCAA is a great league, but I ask you this. When was the last time somebody paid $250 to sit at ice level at a Wisconsin Badgers game?

dzuunmod said...

You can't fault the NCAA for not having the best players in the world; that's not what the league exists for. Put the NCAA rules on the NHL, and I doubt you'd lose much in the way of the gates you get now.

And you never know - you might even gain some families who have been turned off by the roller derby on ice image of the league in the US. Neither of us can really say for sure one way or the other on that though, right?

Here's a thought though - team sport major leagues in North America that tolerate fighting: NHL

team sport major leagues in North America that are more popular than the NHL: all of them.

Anonymous said...

The league would be better with no fighting. It no longer has a place in the game. It has very little entertainment value, and the game would be better in every way without it. I have been a hockey fan for over thirty years, and every time there is afight, I'm embarassed for the NHL. Of course, if fighting is eliminated, officiating should be strict and consistent, but then it should be anyway. You want fighting, go watch UFC or whatever. I want to see skilled guys ripping it up on the ice not thugs that can barely skate.

Canucnik said...

Brian Burke was the back up man (and point man for this arguement) for Norris, Lamiarello, various wrestling and boxing promoters who owned and ran the league for the last 30 years. Burke gave University Hockey a bad wrap, he was supposed to be a rough and tumble college guy. 60 pims in 58 games, no one would even invite him to dance. "Lou" wanted a College Graduate; they even helped him financially with his Post-Grad studies the next year (rare for that era). They had him pegged as Mgmt's answer to the Locker room lawyer (Correctly) (Mouth piece type). It was a different era then, if you were a tough guy you were expected to bring it now and then. I don't know how he got away with it. He may be the last man standing in this, I may have to go down to Hog Town and tip him over the edge, personally.

WRowanH said...

SLC,

there is a "no fighting rule" in my garage league, but I don't believe any single game has ever been played bereft of physicality or emotion (of course, we're all middle-aged public servants who can't tie our own skates, but that's beside the point). The All-Star game is a dud because it's a meaningless game. It's a meaningless game because the only player who wants to be there is Alex Ovechkin. With the 30-team, 82-game setup the league has, nothing is going to change that. At any rate, I think the All-Star Game argument is specious in regards to fighting.

Now, if the only way we can generate any kind of interest in-arena at the pro level is when a fight breaks out, then our sport has got some serious problems. Fortunately, there are other occasions when the "18000 or so ticket buying souls stand and roar": when the home team scores , when it plays hard and when it wins. Between you and I, if the Senators concentrate on those three vital parts of the game, I don't particulary care whether they start wearing pink uniforms, whether they start blasting Celine Dion's greatest hits during every break in the action, or whether not a single Senator fights an opponent all season long.
My two cents, anyway.

Mike said...

SLC,

I'm a fan of your blog, and it is thus with the utmost respect that I confess I find your argument on this issue to be entirely backwards and utterly without merit.

Firstly, you adopt a stance on fighting that places an onus on your detractors to disprove several counter-factuals. Frankly, we don't know what will happen if fighting is eliminated. Essentially, you leave yourself no room to be incorrect and your standard of proof is unachievable. You are in essence stating that the only way for an opposing viewpoint to be viable is through proving beyond all doubt that which cannot be proved. It would be like me saying I'll believe that there is no extra-terrestrial life when I am showed categorical proof there is no life on any planet in our universe. We only have so much capacity to deliver proof on both issues at this stage - to prove anything beyond a reasonable objection would be impossible.

Secondly, I feel you neglect the core reason for evaluating the role fighting plays in the game: employee safety. NHL athletes, specifically pugilists, are getting bigger and stronger with each passing season. As the role of the enforcer diminishes and competition for jobs becomes more stringent, that trend will only be accelerated. A man died fighting, and another came close within the last month. Eventually, more people are going to die. While crashes are arguably one of the most exciting parts of NASCAR and other forms of auto racing, the governors of the sport do not encourage their athletes to risk their lives to sell popcorn. There comes a point where you have to sacrifice spectacle for safety. These people are somebody's child, and often somebody's father, and I think many fans of sport in general lose sight of this. Think how you would have felt if you grew up without your dad for the sake of his entertaining 18000 strangers and so his employer could possibly sell more beer, hot dogs, and shirts.

Thirdly, you rely heavily on the contention that eliminating fighting would be detrimental to the game's fan base. If this is so, the game is already in big trouble The UFC is much better-quality fighting, and the NHL is marketing the game on skill, and changing the rules accordingly. Take a look at the coverage the NHL gets in the mainstream foreign press, and you will see it nearly all of it is negative, most of it tied to fighting. The NBA, NFL, and MLB do not tolerate fighting and market the game on the skills of the athletes. If you want to recruit non-hockey players as fans, you will need to win them over on the talent of the participants rather than brutality and machismo. Anyone who only attends hockey games for the fighting is not a fan of the game, and is likely to be disappointed when they attend as most games contain only one or no fights.
anyone reading is now thinking, "But the game will be out of control! Fighting polices the game! Think of the stick work!" A valid counter argument. However, it is high time the league followed every other sport and policed the game itself. If you increase the penalty for cheap shots and illegal stick work to an effective level, players will shy away from it. The NBA protects its star players from physical abuse with rules rather than retaliatory violence. The NHL can do the same if the resolve is there.

I concede that fighting in hockey is entertaining, and that I like many others, do enjoy that aspect of the game. I may even somewhat miss it when its gone (and it will be in my lifetime.) However, in light of recent developments, it is not unreasonable for the league to sit down and think about if the pros really do outweigh the cons.

If you wish to debate the issue further, I suggest we do so in a more public forum, so as to showcase our developed rhetoric and argument formulation abilities, and to create "buzz." My email address is on our blog.

Cheers,

Mike from The Senate Committee

Senators Lost Cojones said...

Mike: That was indeed a masterful deconstruction of what I wrote and I commend you. That said, if you read the Hodge article that inspired my rebuttal, I used the identical rhetorical pattern he did. In other words, he didn't do much to persuade the other side either.

WRowanH: Fortunately, there are other occasions when the "18000 or so ticket buying souls stand and roar": when the home team scores , when it plays hard and when it wins.

Absolutely agree, and I'll take a hard...er..."fought", well played game without fights any day.

When I say that fighting has a place in the game, I'm not talking about that pre-arranged "Wanna go?" crap off the opening face-off or an overreaction to a devastating but clean hit, which seems to be happening more and more often these days. Kick 'em all out, I say.

Just as there are "good" and "bad" penalties, a "good" fight happens within the greater context of the game in which it happens. Think of Tucker and Neil on the bench a few years ago, or the brawl in Buffalo after Neiler's hit on Drury. Both of those happened in context of that which immediately preceded it, and we, as hockey fans would be losing that emotion if the NHL institutes a ban and effectively throws the baby out with the bath water. My two cents.

dzuunmod said...

For what it's worth (and I know it ain't much), that SLC, is a pro-fighting argument that gives me pause.

Not saying you've changed my mind, but you've got me thinking there could be a middle ground.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind fighting in hockey. So long as it results in an ejection and an automatic three game suspension.

~Dr. Winston O'Boogie