Baseball brawls are boring. Doesn’t it strike anyone else as strange that America’s pastime—which does such a phenomenal job of catering to our cultural desire to see slightly overweight men excel at childlike games—utterly fails to satisfy our collective thirst for violence, aggression, and trace amounts of gore? No wonder when it comes to means of intellectual and spiritual escape, baseball has been supplanted by television in the hearts of Americans. No would-be viewers are going to tune in on Sundays to watch ballplayers push and shove each other with the affectionate fury normally displayed by wrestling kittens when there’s Game of Thrones and its weekly dose of dismemberment, decapitation, and really cool non-white weddings available to watch. That’s just a fact.
The solution, though, isn’t just to encourage more fighting. That would be like counteracting the terrible music of Bon Iver by having him record even more whiny, derivative songs because, hey, more songs equals more chances for one to be good, right? It’s like math or something. Wrong! No, the solution is to encourage better fighting, to make the occasional donnybrook worth the price of admission by having the players fight in a way that transcends the current style of spastic cuddling.
The easiest fix would be to eradicate the practice of full-team involvement Yes, it’s understandable that a bench-warmer would want to charge out onto the field he never gets a chance to play on because one of his teammates is in a confrontation and SPORTS ARE WAR, dammit! NO MAN LEFT BEHIND! However, what this act of team solidarity creates is an obstructed view of the fighting action. Fans are given the thrill of watching large crowds of people mill about, which isn’t exactly top-dollar entertainment.
If you’re going to run out to participate in a fight, you better damn well participate. Nobody wants to watch ballplayers strutting about like drunk frat bros; macho posturing isn’t impressive or exciting. The phrase “bench-clearing brawl” should conjure up images of 300-esque combat, not images of pseudo tough guys acting like standing on the periphery of a scuffle somehow makes them “involved” in the fray.
Those guys are like the guy you partied with in high school who would drink one beer in an evening but spend the entirety of Monday telling everyone within earshot how much other people drank, as if retelling events he didn’t even participate in somehow didn’t come across as a pathetic and needy cry for help. It was lame then, and it is still lame now.
Another easy fix would be to teach baseball players how to actually, you know, fight. I don’t necessarily want reenactments of They Live or anything, but a well-placed jab or two would be nice. Baseball fights don’t need to be brutal, but they shouldn’t look like poorly choreographed fisticuffs from Glee.
Why isn’t there a crash-course in fighting during spring training? It isn’t like the players are that busy. If you can have a beer gut and rolls of back fat and still be dominate on a professional level (as you definitely can in baseball), then clearly your off-season training isn’t all that rigorous. I’m sure ballplayers could spare a few hours of playing pepper and slowly jogging the foul lines to practice some MMA.
The biggest tragedy of the so-called “steroid era” isn’t the tarnished records or the compromised integrity, but the fact you never got to witness a ‘roided-up freak hit someone with the rock bottom or tombstone pile-driver. If Major League Baseball wants to bring back the viewers it’s been losing to football over the years, elevating the style of fighting beyond sissy slap-fests would be an okay place to start.
Of course, there are obvious complaints to these suggestions that need to be addressed. One is the worry that encouraging fighting sets a bad precedent for kids, modeling “poor sportsmanship” for their malleable, impressionable minds.
I say that’s crap. Children need to learn about fighting, and they need to learn about fighting properly.
Does nobody remember Disney’s The Kid? Bruce Willis teaching that chubby dork how to box was a phenomenal life lesson, one the kid employed when he beat his bully to a bloody, mutilated, unrecognizable corpse (you have to watch the unedited director’s cut; it’s in there). The second most obvious complaint is that to encourage fighting would be to somehow damage the purity of good ol’ American baseball, disgracing a game that traditionally has been played by pillars of virtue and class like Ty Cobb and John Rocker.
Then there’s the worry about potential injuries, which seems like a legitimate concern until you consider how umpires could just monitor the fights akin to how refs handle fights in the NHL, pulling the players apart after physical dominance is established and before someone is in need of radical reconstructive surgery.
I admit there’s a chance I’m totally off-base here—perhaps I’m just a bloodthirsty sociopath with the magnetic poles of my moral compass reversed—but I think baseball could really benefit from changing the way fights are structured. We don’t need another Ray Marichal/John Roseboro incident (google it, young people), but something a bit more intense than what’s currently offered wouldn’t be bad for the game.
When it comes to baseball fights, I’d prefer to see players stop acting like polite boy scouts and start acting more like the the Starks and the Lannisters (did I get that right, George R.R. Martin’s allegiance of drooling fanboys? Were those the right families? I dunno, I don’t watch that nerd Dungeons and Dragons crap, sorry).