Thursday, October 9, 2014

MEDIA COVERAGE OF FISTFIGHTS AT FOOTBALL PRACTICE


I understand completely why the news media would want to report on the Treon Harris case; he is accused of an awful crime. But the attention given the Skyler Mornhinweg/Gerald Willis fistfight is a bit much. I don’t blame the police for responding to the call for assistance, but I’ve got to wonder what the person who called them was thinking. The media is another matter. Don’t they have anything better to do? Football, in case nobody noticed, is a game of violent physical contact played by young men inured to such violence. Players fired up by physical contact at football practice can become involved in on-field fistfights. So long as that’s all there is to it, an at-practice fistfight is a matter of team discipline, not a police matter, and certainly not anything the media should be concerned about. The players, after all, are wearing armor designed to protect them from violent blows. The main thing that a player needs to remember in such a situation is to keep his helmet on. 
I remember a long ago fight on the practice field at UF which was handled, I think, appropriately. We’ll call the combatants Moe and Larry. It happened like this: Moe, a redshirt offensive player, was woolgathering on the sideline while the defense scrimmaged against the freshman team offense. (I said it was a long time ago). Having nothing better to do, Moe decided to walk over to the field where the offense was scrimmaging the freshman defense. (The two fields were side by side with a distance of about five yards between them). Moe engaged Larry, a redshirt defensive player, in a conversation which soon became heated. The next thing you know, they were squared off like boxers throwing punches at each other. Since neither one of them really knew how to box, and neither one of them was going to back up, most of the punches landed. I saw no body shots, only head shots. Moe wasn’t wearing a helmet, but Larry was. The fight was short-lived, with the coaches quickly intervening and separating the combatants. When I say the coaches intervened, I don’t mean that they physically got between the two—they didn’t have to. Snarling “break it up” at the combatants was enough to separate them. Then came the tongue lashing.

Aside from bruised knuckles, Larry was none the worse for wear. Moe hadn’t fared so well. His face was a bloody mess, and his knuckles were cut and bleeding from contact with Larry’s nose guard and chinstrap buckle. They sent Moe to the infirmary for medical attention and practice continued. The police weren’t called and the media weren’t notified. Aside from the tongue lashing they got on the practice field, I don’t know if Moe and Larry received any other discipline. I think the worst repercussion Moe suffered was the ribbing he got from his teammates for getting into a fight with his helmet off.