In case you missed it, last night Toronto Maple Leafs Captain John Tavares suffered a very serious injury in their first playoff game against the Montreal Canadiens. As he was making a pass, he was innocuously checked by Ben Chariot of the Canadiens. As he was falling, Corey Perry of the Canadiens was skating by and inadvertently ran into him, knee to head. The injury and subsequent interaction with the training staff was extremely unsettling, and I am not going to post any video of it. If you want to find it on Twitter to see what I am talking about, you can. Just know that, not only was it unavoidable, Perry tried to avoid it, raising his leg and attempting to dive out of the way. Afterward, Perry looked and acted crushed, as his (national) Canadian Hockey teammate lay prone on the ice and had to be stretchered off. He went over to see him as well and say some reassuring (and I am guessing apologetic) things to him. I can’t imagine what Perry was going through, watching a player he has played with and respects, knowing he might have just ended his career inadvertently. It’s like hitting a pedestrian who ran out in front of your car that you never saw coming and severely injuring them, except it was your friend and neighbor. So, of course, the response of Toronto Maple Leafs “tough guy” Nick Foligno was to demand Perry fight him.
Hockey fights are already a hotly debated topic in the sports world. In absolutely no other legitimate element of society are sports disputes, work disputes, or business disputes settled by people punching each other. For some reason, this has remained in hockey when other sports have eliminated this. I am not really here to get into this though. If two people want to fight each other, and there are parameters, and someone overseeing them with medical staff close by, there really isn’t much that needs to be done from my end. If that is what they want and you want, oh well. That’s how liberty works and I am pro-liberty. What happened last night was an embarrassment for hockey, however, and another in a seemingly endless parade of stupid “unwritten rules” that plague sports.
Closing in on a week ago now, Chicago White Sox hitter Yermin Mercedes hit a home run on a 3-0 pitch thrown by infielder Willians Astudillo in a game that was presumably over (the White Sox were up 11). After the game, his own manager, Tony LaRussa, blasted him for it and promised he would be punished. While it is unclear what that punishment was, he was summarily thrown at the next day by an actual pitcher of the Twins. Apparently, Mercedes had violated an “unwritten rule” by swinging at a 3-0 pitch in a blowout (not thrown by a pitcher, going 46 mph). This is a massive embarrassment for everyone involved, except Yermin Mercedes. It’s an embarrassment for the White Sox, who hired LaRussa almost straight from a cop car after a DUI to come in and refuse to back his own player. It’s an embarrassment for a Hall of Fame Manager in LaRussa, who now has to explain to his players exactly when he does, and does not, want them to play hard, and whether or not he will have their back when another team attempts to injure them. It’s an embarrassment for the Twins who got emotionally hurt because they put in a position player to pitch and got further embarrassed when he was bad at it. It’s an embarrassment for Willians Astudillo, who was put in a position he shouldn’t have been because his team decided to stop competing for the night but thought they could decide that for the other team too. It’s an embarrassment for everyone in the White Sox clubhouse, who now has to figure out whether they want to support a young player who was trying his hardest (and, frankly, build up his numbers so he could be considered for Rookie of the Year or get a better contract in arbitration) or their ancient manager who cares more about some old made up rules that don’t exist. It’s an embarrassment for baseball, because after years of trying to bring more fun to baseball (fun, the reason baseball exists), they now have to run cover for man who can’t figure out how to use his phone to order an Uber.
Unwritten rules plague sports. The concept of violent retribution for perceived slights is a plague on our society as a whole. Being a “man” has nothing to do with attacking someone for some minor perceived slight. It is simply immature and an impulse control problem for people who are insecure about their social status. Nick Foligno did no one a favor by attacking someone who accidentally injured his teammate. He might as well have started punching the ice Tavares landed on. It probably made him feel better, since he was upset, and there was nothing he could about it and this felt like something he could do. The problem was Perry was upset about it too. What if, after that car accident where you hit a pedestrian and could have done nothing about it, the cop showed up and started punching you. This sort of idiocy has been curbed to some degree, but until leagues get adamant about it, morons like Nick Foligno and Tony LaRussa will continue to set the narrative and everyone around them will be forced to blindly follow or face wildly unreasonable retribution. The NHL and MLB need to take serious and aggressive action to eradicate this garbage before something tragic happens. Imagine if Merecedes had taken that fastball to the head, or Perry himself had fallen to the ice in the fight and suffered a concussion. Would it have been worth it to perpetuate sports’ biggest stain for another season?