October 16, 2006

A Brief Note on Brawling Etiquette

Safe to say that by now we’ve all most likely seen footage of Saturday night’s throwdown between University of Miami and FIU. And here the term “throwdown” is not used lightly – this was no half-hearted, "let’s shove each other around for a few minutes to prove that we’re tough" skirmish. These two teams got after it.

And usually, that’s a good thing. Nothing quite like a hearty round of fisticuffs to liven up a sporting event (assuming of course that no one ends up severely injured, dismembered, or gets a trident thrown into his chest by an confused, overzealous and perhaps mentally retarded weatherman).

But on Saturday night, the respective brawling factions clearly crossed a couple of lines, and the specific infractions needs to be addressed here and now so that we’re all on the same page for the next time a group of athletes decides to entertain us with a large-scale melee.

Infraction #1 – The Helmet Swing: In case you missed it, at one point during the fight Miami safety Anthony Reddick came running into a pile of brawling individuals and, as though he were a butcher attempting to cleave a particularly chewy slab of rump steak, swung his helmet down to strike an unsuspecting FIU player.

Pretty gruesome moment, right? Well, not exactly.

You know the old routine where one sports commentator says, “On paper these two teams were pretty evenly matched,” and then the other guy says, “Well that’s why they don’t play the games on paper!” and then looks really quite pleased with himself?

Well, on paper Reddick’s helmet swing sounds pretty awful, and on some level it clearly was. But when I first saw the video, it was hard to stifle a laugh, and I know the other people in the room with me at the time shared the same impulse. (I know this because most of them immediately started cackling out loud.)

And I think the reason behind our amusement was primarily because it was so blatantly a questionable move on Reddick’s part. This was as cheap of a cheap shot as you can possibly take. Not only did he swing at a man who wasn’t looking at him, but he escalated the rules of the fight by adding in a new piece of equipment/weaponry that no one else was using. I already alluded to the scene in Anchorman where Brick Tamland is suddenly and without warning chucking a trident at another individual in the fight, and though Reddick wasn’t hoisting up a four-pronged death spear normally used by Lucifer himself, he pretty much crossed all lines by taking off his helmet and opting to use it as a bludgeon.

So why was this funny again?

Two reasons:

1) It was one of those cheap shots that just looked lame. You know how some cheap shots make you cringe and others make you feel strangely sorry for the pathetic bastard who attempted it? This falls into the latter category. It was a lame, desperate move by a guy who clearly wanted to get involved in the fight but before having that ingenious idea couldn’t figure out how to do so.

2) The moment after he swung the helmet, Reddick immediately popped up off the pile and assumed a defensive stance, helmet still in hand. He was either thinking, “Okay, who else can I crack with this helmet,” or perhaps more likely he knew that after such an incredibly uncalled for maneuver he’d better watch his ass because someone was going to take him down.

Infraction #2 – Stomping: Okay, so if there was anything remotely amusing about the helmet swing, even if it is just a product of my disturbed sense of humor, it goes without saying that there was absolutely nothing even remotely comical about seeing multiple players getting stomped while on the ground, including some instances where it appeared that one player was getting stomped on by multiple people at the same time.

This is where it turns from, Hey, this is great, these two teams are really knocking the piss out of each other to Oh my God I think they’re actually trying to kill people. There’s a clear-cut moment where this fight goes from edgy to scary, and it’s precisely when you can see that people are getting stomped.

My take on it is this: Things happen in the heat of a fight. Adrenaline, fear and desperation make you do stupid things. You scratch, you spit, you claw, slap, sometimes even take off something you’re wearing (such as a helmet) and start clubbing people with it.

But there’s something about stomping on another person on the ground that’s disturbingly premeditated if not downright evil. It’s sick and flat-out 100 percent wrong, and just like I can’t believe Albert Haynesworth of the Titans didn’t get suspended for the full season for stomping on Andre Gurode of the Cowboys, I can almost guarantee that anyone who stomped on someone else during the Miami-FIU fight will not get an appropriately harsh punishment.

A couple other thoughts to add before I start to sound like an attorney, at which point I shall have to request that one of you club me about the dome with a replica helmet purchased from the University of Miami gift shop:

  • It’s pretty amusing at the very start of the fight, right when things are really starting to escalate, to see the referees from all over the field start to throw their penalty flags. How well-trained are these guys? I mean, here’s a full-on fight breaking out and all these guys can think is (cue nerdy voice): “Umm…wait a second…that’s an infraction! You’ll be penalized for that! I’m throwing my flag!” Are they cyborgs? I understand that it’s their job to throw the flag when they see something wrong, but the sight of several of them chucking their flags at once highlights the absurdity of the whole situation and primarily the fact that they have no idea what to do in such a circumstance other than throw their yellow ribbons like pre-programmed drones.
  • I know I’ve already mentioned the famous brawl scene in Anchorman twice now, but did anyone else see the clear-cut underdog FIU players mixing it up with the bigger, stronger Miami players, wonder how they got the inspiration to do so and think of the Tim Robbins character’s memorable rallying cry before the Anchorman brawl: “Not so fast, you ingrates. Public News Team is taking a break from its pledge drive to kick some ass. No commercials, no mercy!”
By the way, if you have any objections whatsoever to anything I’ve said in this post, I will fight you.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love lamp.

7:57 PM, October 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw the melee on TV on Saturday, and my brother and I were wondering about the sanctions to be handed down. We were in a sports bar, so we couldn't hear if anything had been decided. But my brother asked me what I would've ruled. My response is not one being noted in the popular media, but perhaps is worth discussing:

I would've called the game at the spot and issued a double-forfeit.

I think everyone agrees the conduct was unacceptable. But I think both teams are equally culpable. Either team has the ability to walk away, but they chose not to, and their coaches lacked control of their players. A loss probably hurts Miami more (recorded as a loss to a mid-major, which is probably BCS damnation), but issuing a loss to both teams I think fits the gravity. A single loss in the scope of a football season means a lot. It can mean the difference between going to a bowl game and not going to one. It can make or break a team's BCS hopes. Granted, this was a non-conference game, a loss to both sides, combined with the suspensions already issued, I believe is necessary the communicate the severity of the issue.

Miami fans may complain the skirmish should not wipe out the great game they played to that point. But whether the score is 7-7 or 49-0, unacceptable behavior and conduct should have the ability to wipe out such an advantage. Just like in a wrestling match, where you can be ahead on points but immediately lose the match if you are pinned, assigning a double-forfeit in this game is a suitable penalty for Miami, even if they were leading at the time of the incident.

Now, this game being a non-conference game, only the NCAA or a joint agreement between the ACC and Sun Belt could declare a double-forfeit. Another potential hang-up may very well be the fact that a loss to FIU would damage the ACC's total strength, making is somewhat more difficult for the ACC champion to secure a high BCS ranking.

7:32 PM, October 17, 2006  
Blogger abe said...

I disagree with you about the Haynesworth suspension. 5 games is two and a half times longer than any suspension for an on-field incident - ever. The face stomping was also heat of the moment, and when you play the most violent position in a really violent game, people are going to do crazy things like that. A game or two is fine, but 5 games seems excessive. Especially since that Arizona DB wasn't even reprimanded for trying to rip off Larry Johnson's head later in the day. And it wasn't like he gave multiple stomps like the Miami guy did.

Just a thought.

4:39 PM, October 18, 2006  
Blogger The OCC said...

I think this is an interesting idea. Though it's kind of tough because if you were going to institute some kind of double forfeit rule, where would you draw the line? Such a punishment could really only happen for a truly massive brawl, but how do you classify when a fight has gotten so out of hand that a double forfeit is warranted?

I guess people getting stomped on is probably sufficient.

4:39 PM, October 18, 2006  
Blogger The OCC said...

As for Haynesworth, all I know was from what I could tell that was the most unprovoked stomping of someone's bare face I've seen. My understanding is that Gurode really didn't do anything to instigate it. And Haynesworth went back for a second stomp.

The fact that it was bigger than any suspension for on-field stuff ever just makes me think that suspensions have been too light in the past.

I agree that people will do crazy and violent things on a football field, but this was pretty much criminal.

And as for the DB (I believe it was Antrel Rolle) who tried to tear LJ's head off, I think he probably should have been suspended.

4:43 PM, October 18, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home