Kareem Calls the Shots in Sports: Hockey Violence, Prayer on the Football Field, Ninja Warrior an Olympic Sport, and More
Four Recent Sports Stories that Caught My Eye
As goes sports, so goes the country. We can find many of the major social issues rocking the country reflected in our sports. Violence in hockey tells us what our values are when it comes to conscience versus commerce. Prayer on a high school football field tells us the dark road down which the country is heading, guided by a Supreme Court on a mission to dismantle 50 years of rights.
On the brighter side, we also have a television-inspired new Olympic sport and a history-making climb up Mount Everest. Read on—oh, what joys await you.
Is Hockey Violence Necessary?
I thought this question had been answered in Paul Newman’s hilarious 1977 film Slap Shot in which a desperate hockey team amps up the violence to become more popular. Guess not, because fist fights still abound (witness the team-wide brawl during the second game of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Finals last month) and are only discouraged the way a fussy aunt discourages a child from placing their elbows on the dinner table. In 2019 NHL commissioner Gary Bettman testified that intermittent fighting prevents bigger acts of violence and dangerous plays.
That’s like saying we should allow shoplifting to prevent armed robbery. You know how you stop frequent violence in a sport? You fire the perpetuators. Start with large fines, then end with termination. Clearly, Bettman was trying to justify continuing what some consider a major draw of the sport. Fortunately, an Ohio State University social science researcher and former collegiate and professional hockey player, Michael Betz, debunked Bettman’s lame excuse with an actual study he conducted that proved that fighting did not discourage greater violence and that brawlers commit increased incidents of violence and unsafe penalties.
When I played in the NBA, I was guilty of a couple spontaneous acts of violence, which I am ashamed of. But those acts occurred over 20 years. I understand that it’s inevitable that tempers will flair during sports with lots of physical contact and sometimes fists will fly. But every league should aggressively discourage violence. It’s an insult to athletes and to the sport to make outbursts of fistfighting a feature to bring in audiences. It’s telling the fans that the sport and the athletes aren’t entertaining enough.