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Boiling over

Recent displays of anger only lead to more problems

Posted: Wednesday September 26, 2007 11:04AM; Updated: Wednesday September 26, 2007 11:53AM
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Milton Bradley's anger at the umpire left him out for the rest of the season after he was injured when his manager tried to restrain him.
Milton Bradley's anger at the umpire left him out for the rest of the season after he was injured when his manager tried to restrain him.
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Summer is behind us and autumn winds are cooling the landscape, but hotheads, it seems, are immune to the change of seasons. Anger has been the dominant emotion in the sports world in recent days, with lids flipping and stacks blowing nearly everywhere we turn. Half the sporting universe is apparently hacked off at the other half and they spent most of the weekend getting in each other's faces before our very eyes. You know things have gotten out of hand when Terrell Owens, seen laughing it up on the sidelines with quarterback Tony Romo on Sunday night, seems like the most reasonable guy in the joint.

What kind of rage do you prefer? Player vs. official? The Padres' Milton Bradley lost his cool in an argument with umpire Mike Winters and ended up with a torn ACL when his manager, Bud Black, accidentally threw him to the ground in an attempt to restrain him.

Player vs. coach? Cornerback DeAngelo Hall of the Falcons took a break from committing costly penalties on Sunday to scream at a member of the coaching staff on the sidelines, as if his mistakes were the assistant's fault.

Player vs. player? Running back LaDanian Tomlinson and quarterback Philip Rivers, arguably the San Diego Chargers' two most important players, came off the field during Sunday's loss to Green Bay jawing back and forth, and it's safe to say they weren't complimenting each other on how they looked in San Diego's new uniforms.

Or are you more of a traditionalist, favoring the ever-popular coach vs. the media? Oklahoma State head man Mike Gundy took care of that one when he spent his entire postgame press conference turning 12 shades of Okie State orange as he berated a local writer for a column he didn't care for.

Crankiness reigns, which isn't completely surprising. We're talking about big-time sports here, and we don't expect the participants to join hands around the campfire. Competing for a living tends to heighten emotions and sometimes those emotions rise past the boiling point. But those players and coaches who can't keep their corks from popping should be aware of a few truths about fits of rage.

Your righteous indignation never looks as righteous as you think. It really doesn't matter if you have a good reason to lose it. You still look like a maniac. Bradley gave an impassioned and reasonable explanation for his rant, saying Winters, the umpire, had instigated the argument. It sounded plausible, but it didn't erase the image of him screaming at the ump one moment, and writhing around in agony the next. He just looked pathetic.

Gundy may have felt justified in his attempt to defend one of his players, who he felt had been unfairly criticized in the newspaper column, but at best he made a fool of himself, criticizing an article he kept insisting he hadn't read. At worst, when he made it personal by telling the female columnist she wouldn't have written what she did if she had children, he made himself look petty and small.

Be prepared to look like a raving lunatic forever. This is the age of YouTube and snarky sports blogs, all of which will make sure the footage of these temper tantrums will never fade away. We hope Hall's best side was facing the camera when he let the assistant coach have it, because he'll be seeing that videotape regularly until the day he retires. Tomlinson and Rivers can hug each other after every play from now on, and the suspicion that they have a bad relationship will be refreshed every time their sideline argument gets replayed, which will be often.

The consequences of losing control are almost always worse than the original cause. Ask Bradley if it was worth it to miss the rest of this season and a possible World Series shot, and probably part of the next one, in order to give an umpire a 30-second piece of his mind. Hall, who apologized for his outburst, is lighter in the wallet after being fined by the Falcons. Gundy may have thought he was protecting his player, quarterback Bobby Reid, from unfair criticism, but all he succeeded in doing was turning a local story that would have quickly died down into a national one with legs.

Every one of the weekend's hotheads will end up regretting their behavior last weekend, if they don't already. Uncontrollable anger rarely helps defeat an opponent. It just creates another one.