Blood, Sports

I’m not much of a guy. I don’t say “dude,” I can’t build anything, I don’t know what “torque” is, and I’ve never measured anything in horsepower (except, one time, a horse). And so, as an outsider, I’m fascinated and often troubled by the behavior of my fellow men. What motivates them? What drives them? Why do they wear hats?

Take, for example, the subjects of sports and fighting. Most men have engaged in these activities at least once, some of them many times. Both are foreign concepts to me. I mean, I understand how they work, and I sort of get why they happen. In the case of sports, it’s because men are driven to compete, and in the case of fighting, it’s because men are stubborn jerks. But I lack whatever it is that would make me be interested in either of them. The only scenarios I can imagine that result in me engaging in a fistfight involve my defense of a helpless victim, and even then I suspect I would carefully weigh all the options before I actually threw a punch. (For example, could I just push the person down and run away instead?) And I can’t imagine ANY scenarios that result in me playing sports.

These two activities were combined a few months ago at the Pistons/Pacers basketball game when a brawl erupted between players and spectators. I remember it well. I was eating at Squatter’s, minding my own business, when suddenly I was assaulted by images of fisticuffs on the TVs, which were all around me. It was worse than the time I was accidentally watching the Super Bowl and got an eyeful of an aging pop star’s nipple.

Now, already we have something here that I don’t really “get,” and that’s a basketball game. To me basketball is like a vasectomy. I understand how it’s done, and I can appreciate the skill involved, but I have no interest in watching it performed, much less participating. And then we add a fight to the mix, and I’m completely baffled. What is going ON here?

I think it boils down to this. The players are spoiled millionaires, many of them from the streets in the first place and now accustomed to getting anything they want because every Friday, a huge dumptruck pulls up to their houses and drops big piles of money on them. Factor in that a lot of these guys are hotheads anyway, perhaps from years of being teased for being 11 feet tall, and yeah, you’re gonna have a fight or two. I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often.

It’s interesting that the sport where you see the most bench-clearing brawls is baseball, an otherwise very passive — some might even say boring — sport. I suspect it’s because the players spend most of their time sitting around. You’d have a short fuse, too, if you had to stand in a field next to a fence all day doing nothing. And so when a pitcher does something minor like hit a guy in the head with a baseball, next thing you know all the players are on the field, shoving and cursing. I think they’re just glad to have the exercise.

But back to the fight in Detroit. Several players received major suspensions, but I wonder how much good that’s going to do. Ron Artest was benched earlier in the season already because he asked for time off to go promote his rap album. People this rich and this pampered aren’t like normal people. A slap on the wrist, even one that costs them millions of dollars, isn’t going change their attitudes. I think we need to turn the baseball players loose on them. Then you’d see some fights, my friend.

A few months before this was published, a news director from KSL-AM radio contacted me and asked if I was interested in writing and recording some occasional 90-second commentaries on current events -- sort of like mini-columns, recorded for the radio and broadcast during the news hours. I said it sounded like fun, so he had me do a few of them as samples. By the second one, I had it exactly the way he wanted it in terms of format, content and delivery. By the fourth one, we were beginning to discuss how frequently I would do them and how much I would be paid for them.

Then he suddenly stopped returning my phone calls and e-mails. I doubt he was intentionally giving me the brush-off, since it had been his idea in the first place. I suspect he's one of those people who gets more ideas than he has time for, and the one involving me simply fell by the wayside as he became distracted by other, more pressing matters. Not that that's any excuse for rudeness, but there you go.

At any rate, some of the material I wrote for those samples I did made it into my blog, and some of it made it into this column for City Weekly. Which is why I brought it up in the first place, to tell you that.