Shop Fantasy Central Golf Guide Email Travel Subscribe SI About Us  
  U.S. SPORTS
  scoreboards
baseball S
pro football S
col. football S
pro basketball S
m. college bb S
w. college bb S
hockey S
golf plus S
tennis S
soccer S
olympics 2000
motor sports
women's sports
more sports
 WORLD SPORT  

EVENTS
 Sportsman of the Year
 Heisman Trophy
 Swimsuit 2001

CENTERS
 Fantasy Central
 Inside Game
 Multimedia Central
 Statitudes
 Your Turn
 Message Boards
 Email Newsletters
 Golf Guide
 Cities
 Work in Sports

CNNSI.com GROUP
 Sports Illustrated
 Life of Reilly
 Television
 SI Women
 SI for Kids
 Press Room
 TBS/TNT Sports
 CNN Languages

COMMERCE
 SI Customer Service
 SI Media Kits
 Get into College
 Sports Memorabilia
 TeamStore

Scorecard

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Tuesday March 21, 2000 03:51 PM

Pleased As Punch  

Why not ban NHL fisticuffs? Because fans love a good fight

By Michael Farber

Sports Illustrated

Fighting in the NHL is morally reprehensible, ideologically indefensible and one of life's guilty pleasures, like watching Chevy Chase in one of those Vacation movies or eating a hunk of leftover cherry cheesecake for breakfast. Maybe a few breakfast bingers, before scarfing down the cheesecake with some milk drunk directly from the carton, might seek intellectual underpinning for their pig-out -- Hey, I'm getting protein from the cheese, fiber from the crust and fruit from the topping -- but realists accept that an occasional wanton act of gluttony needs no further explanation than Just because....

This is the unspoken truth about fighting in the NHL: In measured doses -- and through the league's efforts fighting is becoming less frequent -- people like it. Not people who write editorials. Not people who are predisposed to dislike the sport, who turn their rheumy eye to the NHL only when Marty McSorley attempts to perform a hockey-stick lobotomy on Donald Brashear. The people who like hockey fights are the ones who go to the games, the ones who pay the freight in a league that still derives more than 60% of its revenue from the gate.

When a fight breaks out on the ice, the noise level in the arena swells fivefold, electricity crackling along with the odd haymaker. In living rooms the visceral response is to pay closer attention to the television screen, not to click to the Discovery Channel. The traditional, tired justifications for fighting -- its spontaneity, the safety valve it provides for those who might otherwise be tempted to commit mayhem with a stick -- are hooey, of course. Fights in the NHL are simply part of the show, the equivalent of the chorus in Greek drama. They provide a respite from the action and a commentary on what already has occurred (usually a fight will break out in a chippy game), and then the narrative resumes.

The league would survive, and maybe thrive, without fighting, just as the cheesecake commando would do fine if force-fed a daily bowl of Raisin Bran. But some of the good, irrational fun would have seeped out of the sport.

If that's the case, let us eat cake.

Issue date: March 27, 2000

For more Scorecard see this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands Wednesday, March 22. Click here to subscribe to SI.

 
Related information
Stories
This week's issue of Sports Illustrated
Inside the NBA
Inside the NHL
SI Online: Current Issue and Archives
Multimedia
Visit Multimedia Central for the latest audio and video
Search our site Watch CNN/SI 24 hours a day

Sports Illustrated and CNN have combined to form a 24 hour sports news and information channel. To receive CNN/SI at your home call your cable operator or DirecTV.


CNNSI Copyright © 2000
CNN/Sports Illustrated
An AOL Time Warner Company.
All Rights Reserved.

Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.