Is it only Americans who love to brawl at sporting events? Probably not, but I’m an American and live here, so for this column, I’ll focus on just our country. I want to know why we act so stupid and uncivilized by fighting and brawling at athletic games. It’s embarrassing. Creating these endless donnybrooks at sporting events makes us look asinine to the rest of the world.

My daughter-in-law once took her 10-year-old daughter, who happens to also be my beloved granddaughter, to see a local ice hockey game, when suddenly the players, just as they’d seen their heroes do on TV, tore off their gloves and helmets and went at it. They began a huge melee, a fight, a sickening display of rage and loss of control. My daughter-in-law had to soothe her dismayed child, tell her to not look, to sit down, that it would soon be over. Her child was shocked and horrified and didn’t understand why the team members were doing that. Why did that happen? Why did their time together have to be shattered by that sight?

Because we see it on the tube, that’s why, and that appears to give us permission to act like primitive sub-humans. Ask the refs why they slowly skate in circles around the enraged professional skaters as they slam the entrails out of one another and make no effort to stop them. Because it’s good theater. They’ll say, “Oh well, you gotta let them blow off steam.” No, you don’t gotta. What they gotta do is stop them. That sort of brainless savagery is a total embarrassment, it’s shameful and sends out the message to all kids everywhere that if they ever have a problem with someone, to make every effort to seriously hurt or even kill the person with whom they disagree, and all will be well. It’s disgraceful and it is extremely worrisome.

I once watched a group of very young, tiny newbie hockey players at a local ice rink learning to play the game. They were so cute, all decked out in their hockey regalia. They wobbled and fell on the ice and were having a great time when suddenly one or two decided to imitate their ice heroes and began to bash at each other with their sticks, pulling off helmets and gloves like the men did on the tube, and punching each other in the face. The majority of parents in the bleachers laughed, cheered and shouted encouragement, and thought the kids were so cute, “just like on TV!!!” They bellowed out to their darlings how to hit and kick and knock their opponents down so they could hit and kick them again, this time with their skates. It was scary. But those kids, barely able to even stand up on the ice, were doing an imitation of their ice hockey heroes and thought that to play the game right, they really should smash each other.

Do you recall how the American Olympic ice hockey team of some years back disgraced themselves by doing that during an Olympic game? Was the other team Russian? I’ve forgotten. Whatever nationality they were, they just stopped and stood on the ice, staring in complete disbelief at the barbaric Americans giving themselves permission to pull a Katzenjammer with millions and millions watching, shaming themselves, the game, our country and the Olympics.

Are we the only warring people on the planet? Hardly. Do other countries have hideous melees at sporting events? Of course. Do all coaches today encourage or tolerate this kind of behavior? Absolutely not. Many forbid it. But just because it’s done in other countries or done anywhere in fact, do we have to behave that way here? Why do we have to do this? Is it only in hockey where men attack one another throughout a game? Of course not. It happens all the time, in all sports. Do female athletes behave this way? I am not sure, but I’ve never seen it happen nor have I heard of its happening.


I understand fully that players get very tense during professional games even though they are paid an obscene amount of money. So they allow themselves to fight, to riot, to make a good macho show for the spectators, and most importantly to make good TV whenever they wish. I know because I see some of them taking a quick glance to make sure the little red light is on at the top of the camera before they begin their fracas. My husband Steve once took a few Japanese businessmen to a Red Sox game and was truly embarrassed about the fights that began amongst the spectators. Disgusting. Mortifying. Shameful. His Japanese friends tried to ignore it, they didn’t react much and kindly blew off Steve’s awkward apologies, but it was ugly. And it happened a few times more during that afternoon, including out on the field amongst the players. Disgraceful.

Yes, I know, all nationalities have made war on each other so you’re thinking that I’m making much ado, but I’m not. I’m talking about fighting during sporting events. I think it debases us. I think it’s a national disgrace. I think it’s stupid and accomplishes nothing. I think it should not be permitted. I think there should be a law. And I find it disturbing that we’ve become so inured to all that free-for-all brawling that we either think it’s funny, or shout encouragement, or go for a beer, or are simply unaffected by it at all.

Do you remember the great hockey player Bobby Orr? A couple of decades ago he made a bunch of PR commercials that appeared all over the country. In that ad he asked us to please stop all this stupid and futile fighting, that the battles he sees on ice sicken him and that they shame American sports, and America also. He said that he wished the sport fights would just simply stop, that nothing is gained from them and that furthermore it gives our country a very bad image, that fighting like that does not show kids the right standards, that it gives them nothing and no one to look up, or aspire, to.

It didn’t work. The brawling continues and now is far worse and far more frequent, but thank you for trying, Bobby Orr. Alas, your efforts changed nothing. Yours was a voice in the wilderness.

LC Van Savage is a Brunswick writer. 

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