Brawling and Basketball Don’t Mix
December 12, 2011 by Andrew Jones • Print Story •
The brawl that took place immediately after the Xavier vs. Cincinnati game last Saturday was not unique. It was simply another glaring example of athletes in popular sports lacking integrity, emotional stability, and common sense.
When I first saw the fight, I think most of my disappointment was directed at the Bearcats. Then I heard the Xavier press conference and the disappointment spread quickly to the Musketeers.
When I was a younger fan, I would see sports brawls on occasion and I assumed I just didn't understand the adult world. Maybe there were rules I didn't know, written or unwritten, about when such fighting was justifiable.
Now, I'm older than every college athlete that appears on TV and I've come to the conclusion that it's not me who doesn't understand: it is the athletes who are participating in the fights who don't understand. It's time that they understood.
Xavier guard Tu Holloway's comments after the game have received scrutiny as he said Xavier had "a whole bunch of gangsters" in the locker room. While this comment is disappointing and unhelpful, his lead line bothers me a lot more. Holloway said, "Yeah, you know, that's what you're going to see from Xavier and Cincinnati."
No, Mr. Holloway. No. When I see Xavier and Cincinnati play in a college basketball game, I want to see a college basketball game. And that's what everybody needs to see when Xavier plays Cincinnati or any other team ever again. College basketball is college basketball. The same is true of every other sport where fighting is against the rules and not a part of the sport.
Fighting has become far too accepted in the sports world and the excuse given to athletes is that "[insert sport here] is an emotional game" or "emotions run high" or something similar.
I don't care. I repeat: I don't care. I don't care at all that emotions run high is sports. Human beings are emotional people and athletes aren't the only people who have jobs or college commitments that are emotional or stressful.
I'm tired of sports getting a pass. I'm tired of high emotions being a valid excuse for inappropriate behavior. It isn't a valid excuse. A lawyer who punches another lawyer or a judge will be charged assault. A patient who learns he or she has cancer isn't allowed to punch the doctor who tells them. McDonald's employees are not allowed to punch customers who yell at them because their cheeseburger has onions and no tomatoes. You are not allowed to punch a co-worker because they stole your leftover pizza from the office fridge. All of that is unacceptable. All of those examples would likely lead to criminal charges, loss of job, and significant loss of reputation.
In sports, however, none of those things have been happening. (Although, a prosecutor is looking into pressing charges at the moment with the Xavier and Cincinnati fight.) Athletes caught in one fight usually do not encounter problems with their reputations so long as they handle the press conference well and don't do it again.
I believe in forgiveness and I believe in second chances, but the culture of sports and its allowance of fighting as the result of being "emotional" is out of control. It needs to be reversed. It cannot continue. College and professional basketball courts, football fields, and baseball diamonds are not playgrounds for elementary school recess. Educators around the country and throughout the world are working to rid their schools of bullying and fighting, letting children know that such behavior is not acceptable. That message becomes diluted with every sports brawl that occurs. If those behaviors are unacceptable for kids, how can they possibly be acceptable for any adult?
Tu Holloway also said, "We're grown men over here." No, Mr. Holloway. No, you are not. Grown men do not act like that. A grown man is not defined by his ability to fight. Grown men and all human beings are defined by their choices and the impact those choices have on society. Well-adjusted adults have the ability to realize what things are important in life and to make choices that showcase what is important.
Mr. Holloway, you have acted like a child. No, that's an insult to children. You have acted as though your actions have no effect on anyone in the entire world. Your choices and your comments highlighted a fight you helped to start and escalate instead of the basketball game you helped to win. What was that fight about? A disrespectful comment? An insult or two given through trash talk?
The appropriate response to such disrespect is not violence. It is not even confrontation. The appropriate response is another piece of what Holloway said in the post-game press conference: "You let your play on the court talk for you."
Yes! For the love of all that is sacred, winning the game is how you respond to disrespect! Xavier did that. They won the game in convincing fashion, but their performance during the game has been completely muffled by its antics after the game and their immature comments in the press conference. In sports, if you want to prove somebody wrong, the only way to do that is to win and to do so with dignity and integrity.
Tu Holloway did not let his play on the court speak for him. He helped bring about a brawl that is an embarrassment to both universities and to the NCAA as a whole.
Sports-loving children and teenagers around the country saw this fight. Some heard Holloway's comments after the game and I hope they all have the good sense to say, "What an idiot." That's what Tu Holloway should have said about himself, his teammates, and his opponents.
I would have liked to hear the following: "Those actions were stupid. That was not basketball. I'm ashamed that I was a part of such an inappropriate display. I expect more out of myself, my teammates, and my opponents. We should have let our actions on the court speak for us."
People have complained that the suspensions issued were not long enough, the longest being six games. In general, I agree. That being said, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin's comments after the game gave me hope that this situation will be dealt with well on Cincinnati's side.
Yet the suspensions are in line with the current rules. I think the rules could be rewritten, but such a rewriting should occur in an offseason and not as a reaction to any one specific event.
College basketball's current rule is that throwing a punch equals a minimum one game suspension if the officials deem it to be a fight. Two fights in one season means the player is disqualified for the season.
I think a one-game minimum is rather soft for a first offense. I think five games for a first offense is more reasonable as a minimum with an option for more punishment if it is deemed necessary. I also think the NCAA and its schools need to seriously think about stripping scholarships for those involved in fights. If a player were charged with and convicted of assault in the off-season, would they retain their scholarship? I doubt it. Colleges and universities have a responsibility to teach their student athletes discipline. Many are currently showing they are failing in that responsibility.
Fighting after a basketball game is as ridiculous as a boxer bringing a basketball to the ring and trying to spin it on one of his gloves. It makes no sense. It has no place. It adds nothing to the sport. It only detracts from it. Other sports need to think about intensifying their rules as well because this is not a basketball alone problem, nor is this a college only problem.
In the end, athletes who have the good fortune to appear on television because of their athletic talents need to do a far better job of understanding the reach of their comments and actions. I respect an athlete's private life and I'm not asking anyone to be perfect, but they are going to remain role models for children and teenagers, as long as sports are televised, whether they like it or not, and whether society likes it or not. More athletes need to choose to be good role models. And being a bad role model on live television requires stricter punishments.