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Hot Pot: Fighting The Right Way

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Fighting alone isn’t the biggest problem in box lacrosse. In my opinion, fighting is much more a symptom of a rough, and often under-referreed game, where players can take unseen liberties, and possibly inflict serious bodily harm through the pace of play. As it stands now, with small referee crews and, at times, loosely interpreted rules, it allows the players to sort things out themselves, and maintain some sense of order and safety.

Like in the NHL, a lot of the time this system works, sometimes it doesn’t, and sports philosophers (sounds better than bloggers), like me, tend to talk about it non-stop, and in idealistic terms. I just can’t help myself, as the idea of two grown men punching each other out at a sporting event (that isn’t boxing) still rubs me the wrong way. In the stands, on the street, or on the court, I don’t love fisticuffs.

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That being said, with the way the game is played today, fighting is very much a reality. I know that. So in order to reduce the fighting further, some change would need to be made, and I’ve laid out what I think can be done to see it through, on multiple occasions, and with different ideas. Admittedly, some of these ideas are better than others, but when I see a video like the one I saw a couple of days ago, even I think that the issue is still up for a good debate, and I’m pretty biased. Maybe fighting does have a place in lacrosse?

Unfortunately, this example of a good box lacrosse fight, like many others out there, was taken down off YouTube, while the worst offending videos (mostly brawls) tend to stay up and garner big view counts. Go figure. Allow me to describe the action of this good fight:

In the now-deleted-video, two Junior WLA players agreed to fight, and as play was set to resume with a face off, they slowly backed away from the action at the draw, set down their gear, and duked it out, 1-on-1, once both pugilists were ready. Helmets weren’t ripped off, and both participants were willing. At one point, one player was in a headlock, and the other was still throwing punches, but that was the cheapest it got. Both players gave and received, they went down to the floor together, the refs pulled them apart, THEY SHOOK HANDS, and then each was sent off the floor to their respective locker rooms.

For two guys punching each other in the face, it was as classy and correct a thing as I’ve seen in a long while. And usually, at least according to most of my Canadian friends, that’s how a box fight goes down. Two guys agree to it, they thrown down, and the game moves on. And when this is the type of fighting that occurs, I can actually see the validity to it. As the game stands now, I buy it all. Surprised?

In the end, I guess I’m just not sold that certain players and teams don’t take advantage of the opportunity. When the cheapest and toughest guy on the floor instigates a fight or two (I’ve seen that happen before), it’s not policing. It’s using fighting as a way to win the game, or wow the crowd, and there really is no sportsmanship in that. And when that type of stuff happens, this kind of stuff can happen too, no matter how rare it is:

Now I am not arguing that the above level of fighting and brawling is at all common, but it is at least a little disgraceful to our sport. When ESPN shows a baseball brawl on SportsCenter, I change the channel. It’s embarrassing to watch. When a big scrum of basketball players pushes, slaps, and yells at one another, on the floor or in the crowd, I have to laugh at them. It’s not toughness, it’s a front. When there is a brawl in lacrosse, there are some tough guys out there, but I still feel for my whole community… Sure, I can rationalize it or explain it away as an aberration, just like an NBA fan can rationalize what happened in Detroit. But that doesn’t make it right.

When there is a one on one, agreed-to fight, where two sporting men duke it out, and then shake hands? I’m surprisingly OK with that. All of the other brawling and extra curricular stuff? Let’s leave that to the tough guys of baseball and basketball, ok?

I wish that other video were still up, so we had a recent example of a good fight. Instead all we get is stuff like the above, and this video, below:

So while I can see the value in fighting, and I have been impressed with the sportsmanship shown in many fights before, it just seems like the damage that it does to the sport is not entirely worth it. Like I said above, and John Nicholson of the Nanaimo Timbermen said in the video, the fighting isn’t really the problem. It’s the other stuff that LEADS to the fighting.

If we want to reduce brawls, and make sure that the rare fight is the worst of it, then the rules need to be tightened up, enforced, with the game put back in the hands of capable refs. It might lead to a lot of penalties especially as players adjust, but they will adjust. A high crosscheck is illegal. Call it a lot tighter, and this could all be a non-issue in a season or two.