Wednesday, 8 February 2012


In avoidance of the article I’ve been writing for my entire adult life on next season’s MLB playoff expansion, I decide to take a quick look at the vast expanses of twitter and collect a few notable tidbits here for the enjoyment of you, my dozen of readers!

Now, if you’re like most women you’ve probably had a long standing desire to try your hand at fantasy baseball.  I mean, given how sexually attractive it is when guys do it, how could you resist?  The problem you've probably had so far is that there’s never been a fantasy baseball league designed with a lady ball fan in mind.  A league that finally reshapes the game into concepts that women can understand!  

Well, does CBS Sports have good news for you!  The geniuses that brought you CSI and NCIS introduce Baseball Boyfriend!  In this fantasy mini-game ladies have to choose or trade for the hunkiest baseball boyfriend (or BBBF--natch).  The whole preposterous thing is appropriately torn to pieces by Andra Reiher. Check out her article here.  

In a non-lets-make-baseball-even-more-unappealing-to-women news, former Boston Celtics star, Larry Bird, weighed in on the Kobe or Bron Bron debate in an interview with Bill Simmons.  The Hoosier great explains that “it would have probably been more fun to play with LeBron, but if you want to win and win and win, it’s Kobe.”  And he does it all from the comfort of a charming Merlot turtle neck!  (Check out the interview here.)

For those sneaky moms out there, Jimmy Kimmel is up to his old tricks.  This time instead of inflicting potentially permanent psychological damage on unsuspecting children, he’s challenged his viewers to unplug the television while the football lover in their family is watching the Superbowl!  And, the results are...well here are the results.  

And finally, out of Sports Illustrated’s vault, a very lovely picture of a 1957 game between the Red Wings and Rangers.  If you’re not following @si_vault on twitter, you should be.  


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Last Week in Petulant Sports Writing

Though it may be old news at this point I just wanted to say a few words on Josh Hamilton Gate from last week.  More specifically, I’d like to discuss the reaction of one, Jeff Passan, and the inflammatory consequences of a journalist allowing personal disappointment colour his portrayal of a story. 

As many of you probably know by now Texas Rangers' outfielder and recovering addict, Josh Hamilton, fell off the wagon last Monday reportedly having drinks in a Dallas area bar.  Writing for Yahoo Sports, Passan's article often takes on the tone of a let down fan rather than a journalist attempting to objectively cover a somewhat tragic story.  Throughout the piece Passan's petulance takes the form of a bizarre impulse to place blame on an admittedly sick individual and nowhere is this more evident than in the article's introduction:

The worst part about Josh Hamilton’s relapse is that he didn’t care.  The most famous addict in sports does not go to a bar in the town where he is best known without full knowledge that his exploits will becomes public in a matter of hours.  

What is, of course, troubling about Passan’s opening is that, instead of viewing Hamilton’s awareness of being caught--and almost certainly publicly humiliated--as a sign of the severity of the outfielder’s addiction, he chooses to portray the relapse as a careless lapse in judgement.

Further confusing Passan’s take on last week’s events, the article quickly shifts, taking on a much more sympathetic tone.  “Hamilton does care, of course” Passan explains in his fourth paragraph.  Wait, hold on...what?  Contradicting the accusatory tone of the article’s introduction, Passan admits that Hamilton’s relapse does not “represent weakness” but is rather “a symptom of addiction’s vagaries.”  There are several points in the article where Passan makes similar concessions and during these moments of lucidity the writer seems to acknowledge the fact that addicts will not always be able to overcome the challenges that their illnesses present them with.  These moments, however, do not overshadow the overall accusatory and downright petulant tone that characterizes the article.  

If you were worried that Hamilton’s relapse was a complicated situation possibly influenced by the pressure of being in the public eye; the loss of Hamilton’s long time “accountability partner,” Johnny Norran or his tragic involvement in the death of a spectator last season, don’t worry, Passan assures us its not.  “The particulars...don’t matter as much as the act.  With addicts they never do.  Sobriety is black and white.  Black won Monday.”  Though, the physical state of sobriety is obviously black and white, for an addict the act of maintaining sobriety is far more complicated.  Never explaining the basis of his psychiatric expertise, Passan reduces a complicated psychological illness into an overly simplified black and white concept and in doing so he, not only, makes it easier to speak disparagingly about Hamilton’s relapse he carelessly diminishes the challenges faced everyday by recovering addicts.

What Passan comes close to but ultimately fails to convey is that even when one is not dealing with the pressures of being both a public figure and inspiration to millions of recovering addicts, battling addiction is an ongoing process often marred by moments of weakness.  Just because many look up to Hamilton as a role model does not mean we can expect him to be perfect.  What we can hope for is that Hamilton continues to be open and honest about the challenges he faces as a recovering addict.  We can hope that Hamilton’s battle will continue to inspire fellow addicts to fight their illness even after they experience similar setbacks.  We can hope that in witnessing how easy it is for an addict to fall off the wagon that those who have loved ones struggling with addiction continue to provide them with the support that they need.  And finally, if/when Hamilton suffers another relapse we can hope that the journalists put in charge of covering the story have a little more patience--and perhaps, write a couple more drafts--before they further stigmatise addiction by publicly attacking people who are merely showing the symptoms of their illness.  

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Snitches Get Stitches: The Secret Life of Baseball's Silent Assassin

There was an afternoon a couple of weeks ago where having neglected twitter all day--a very uncharacteristic thing for me to do since my embarrassingly recent discovery of this bit of social media--I tuned in to find several writers discrediting reports from earlier in the day that the Blue Jays had made a deal to acquire San Francisco’s starting pitcher, Matt Cain.  What was strange about discovering this story only after it had been already been dis-proven was that instead of being pleased that I had avoided the heartbreak of once again having erroneous rumours get my hopes up, I was kind of saddened that I had been robbed of a morning spent fantasizing about having Toronto’s starting rotation bolstered by the talented right-handed pitcher.  

By now, fans of the Blue Jays will be very familiar with the feeling of false hope they are given each time Toronto is inevitably linked to a coveted free agent.  Sadly, they will be just as familiar with the subsequent feeling of disappointment that takes hold when said free agent goes to another ball club.  Those who have been following the team over the last two seasons will know that because of the tight-lipped nature of Toronto’s general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, they are doomed to re-live this process each time a notable free agent becomes available.  For those of you unfamiliar with the way Toronto’s GM does business, don’t beat yourself up.  His M.O. is characterized by complete media silence and though this is likely a policy that every general manager has in place, under Anthopoulos the Blue Jays have become a veritable Fort Knox when it comes to keeping their potential transactions under wraps.  

In defending the secretive way Anthopoulos’ and his fellow executives have gone about their work, the most frequently cited piece of evidence is the deal that sent Vernon Wells to the Anaheim Angels.  Many argue (myself included) that had the media caught wind of the deal before it had happened their venomous reaction would have helped Angels’ GM, Tony Reagins, realize what a catastrophic mistake he was about to make and Toronto would still be toiling under V-Dub’s albatross of a contract.  (Side note: when this deal went down Vernon’s contract was called an albatross a LOT.  I like to think of Coleridge writing in the 18th century thinking, ‘one day people will understand the despair and the psychological burden I write of.  One day, the Blue Jays will owe 86 million dollars to a 32-year-old Vernon Wells.’)  

The disadvantage of Anthopoulos’ shroud of secrecy is that because he will never publicly confirm or deny whether or not the team is attempting to acquire a player, opportunistic agents are able to use Toronto’s hypothetical interest in their clients as leverage when negotiating with the teams that are interested.  The result has been that during the past two seasons, regardless of their actual interest, the Blue Jays have been reported as possible suitors in every rumored trade and a potential destination for every available free agent.  The frequent disappointment inherent to this way of doing things has had its toll on a growing number of the Blue Jays faithful.  This digitally vocal group believe that its time for the organization to take the ideological next step, sign a couple of big name players and take a run at the playoffs.  For this sort, every free agent that the Jays don’t sign is a slap in the face and when the Fielders and Darvishes and even Beltres (!) end up signing with other teams these people huffily litter comment sections with threats about how they’ve finally given up on the team and how the Anthopoulos honeymoon is over.  (Sidenote: I also like to think of Austin3:16* writing in his basement thinking, ‘by the looks of things Anthopoulos must think that the honeymoon isn’t over.  I’ll show him!’)  And though you wouldn’t expect the Blue Jays front office to put much stock in these threats, Paul Beeston acknowledged the team’s PR troubles in an interview earlier this month, going as far as to admit that they could have done a better job of “managing expectations.”  To me, this is nothing more than Beeston providing something of an opiate for the hysterical masses.  What’s more is given the circumstances, I believe Anthopoulos has made several moves that demonstrate a strong ability to manipulate Toronto’s public image in order to generate buzz around the team.  

If we believe Anthopoulos is telling the truth when he says that the Rogers corporation is willing to beef up Toronto’s salary when the time is right, then what is there for a GM to do to create excitement around the team while his young prospects develop into a suitable supporting cast?  One possibility would be to bring up a Canadian player bravely attempting to convert himself into an outfielder after his pitching career was cut short by injuries, as he did last September with Adam Loewen.  Another possibility would be to bring up an unlucky former star pitching prospect who’s career was all but destroyed by injuries and who’s unwillingness to give up has made him a fan favourite, as he did with Dustin McGowen.  Both moves were celebrated by fans and sports writers alike.  And considering that Loewen was unceremoniously released this off season and McGowen is currently fighting for the fifth spot on the rotation, I believe its safe to argue that the decision to bring them up to the big club had more to do with the impact they would have on the team’s public image than the impact they would have on the actual team.  
For me, there are several reasons I support not only the moves--or lack thereof--that Anthopoulos has made, but the policies he has in place that allows the Blue Jays to be mentioned as suitors for every available free agent.  The most obvious of which would be a complete lack of concern for the outrage expressed by the Austin3:16’s of the world who announce that they’ve given up on the team every time a star player signs elsewhere.  I mean, what exactly is Mr. 3:16 going to do?  Not show up to the games?  (Cue picture of empty Roger’s Centre.)  Furthermore, would he have preferred that his expectations be better managed as Mr. Beeston suggests they should?  Because, I can remember a time not so long ago when the Toronto Blue Jays were the furthest thing from anyone’s mind when a big name free agent became available and that wasn’t very much fun either.  

Even if you can’t derive as much pleasure as I do from simply fantasizing about Prince Fielder following in the footsteps that his father left in Ontario rather than the ones he left in Michigan, you have to admit that it can’t hurt the Blue Jay brand to have American sports writers confirming Toronto as a possible (and even likely) destination for star free agents.  Just ask the Toronto Raptors: its not always easy selling American athletes on pursuing their dreams in Canada.  Part of getting them North of the border is re-branding the team and city as a realistic alternative to the more established baseball markets.  

Eventually, the free agents will come.  And, there’s no secret to how or why they will get here.  Just like they did in the Riccardi era, the Rogers corporation will loosen the purse strings and splash out on some marquee players.  What I am hoping is that unlike in the Ricciardi era, Anthopoulos will wait until the team has a sufficient core group of players surrounding those stars.  In the mean time, Austin3:16, try to relax and let the Blue Jays’ silent assassin do his thing.  Before you know it, both the team and it’s public image will be as strong as a Steve Austin sleeper hold.

*If you’re reading this Austin3:16, 19-fucking-98 called and it wants its interest in professional wrestling back, you fucking virgin.  

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Closing Thoughts and FUN LINKS!!!

Chuck Knoblauch: My wife's three inches taller than me.  How do we make it so I don't look like a jackass?
Photographer: Don't worry.  I've got an idea.

Because the topic of fighting has already been thoroughly beleaguered on this blog, I’m just going to leave you with a few points and after we can get to some fun links so that we can all be friends again.  

First, I wanted to point out that further research did turn up a few articles stating that the Belak family has said that his hanging was accidental.  A fact that would lend significant evidence to Nick Healey’s assertion that Belak’s death was the tragic result of auto-erotic asphyxiation.  I would also point out, however, that these same articles note that Wade Belak’s mother did come forward and say that her son was suffering from depression.  This isn’t evidence of CTE of course, but it does strike me as worthy of note that Wade’s mother would point out his depression after explaining that he didn’t commit suicide intentionally.  Almost as if she wanted people to be cognizant of the psychological problems Wade was silently suffering from even if he didn’t mean to take his own life.  

I’ll just leave you with a question and then promise to take an indefinite break from the topic: how often have you watched a NHL game and honestly thought to yourself, ‘that game would have been better if someone had fought during it?’  If your answer ‘all the time!!!’ then I’d argue that there is a lot about the game that you’re missing out on.  If your answer is, ‘never,’ then I think its at least worth looking into whether fighting is such a crucial part of our game.

* * *

So, links!  That’s what people do on blogs right?  

I’m on twitter now y’all.  (Follow me @jwjarvis05...please.)  My embarrassingly recent discovery reminds me of when, in the 90s, we bought my grandfather a microwave.  Suddenly, if was all he talk about it.  It was like he invented it.  I am my grandfather and twitter is my microwave.  And, my goodness, what a marvelous device this microwave is!  For instance, did you know that Evan Longoria is on a juice diet?!  BELIEVE IT!  


Also, Richard Justice of has placed the Toronto Blue Jays ahead of the Mariners and Cubs as the team he thinks most likely to land generously proportioned free agent, Prince Fielder!  Most baseball nerds out there are going to temper their hopes of the Blue Jays landing Fielder because Toronto’s General manager and resident baby faced hustla, Alex Anthopoulos, has stated that he isn’t interested in signing player’s to long contracts.  And though I would tend to agree with this reasoning, sources (you shut up!  I do too have sources) have told me that teams are shying away from Fielder due to a worry that, like close friend, Ryan Braun, his beastmode abilities are merely a symptom of steroids.  If that is at all true, I think it increases the chances that Anthopolis might be interested in him as he has shown a proclivity to pick up players with high talent ceilings when their stock is at its lowest.  (See: Yunel Escobar and Colby Rasmus.)

Jed Lowrie’s time with the Red Sox has apparently ended before it ever had a real chance to begin with the young shortstop going to Houston for Mark Melancon.  Houston get a shortstop with a lot of upside if he can stay healthy.  Boston gets a reliever with closer potential.  Ryan Madson gets to know what its like to come very very close to owning tens of millions of dollars.

And finally, Sports Illustrated has provided us with a reminder of how glamorous the 1990s were with a slide show of pro athletes and their wags taken from that magical and stylistically timeless decade.  My advice for enjoying this slide show is to keep reminding yourself of the fact that most these people are multi-millionaires.  


Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Sorry to Keep Hitting You Over the Head With This

During the off season the NHL announced the addition of several new rules implemented in the hopes of both reducing the number of concussions endured by players and eliminating the type of play that led to them.  The addition of these rules represents--at the very least--an acknowledgement that the NHL needed to change the way the game was played in order to protect its players.  As I have said, the implementation of such protocol was long overdue and by finally putting it in place the league is indeed taking a small step forward.  It would seem to me, however, that as long as we’re trying to eliminate the type of play that causes concussions, why don’t we get rid of the part where 250lb men punch each other in the head as hard as they can with bare fists?  

Happily, Commissioner Gary Bettman provides an explanation for the seemingly paradoxical existence of fist fighting in a league determined to cut out concussions.  In an interview he did for John Branch’s amazing New York Times article chronicling the life of Derek Boogaard, Bettman explains that “there isn’t a lot of data, and the experts who [they’ve] talked to, who consult with us, think that it’s way premature to be drawing any conclusions at this point.”  Now, I don’t want to question the professionalism of your “experts,” Gar.  But, a group of people who think its “way premature” to connect concussions to getting punched in the head by--what is essentially--a professional fighter, sound like a conveniently tentative group of motherfuckers to me.

If the league is truly serious about protecting the grey matter of all (read: even the ones that aren’t Sidney Crosby) of its employees they really have no choice but to take steps that would eliminate hockey fighting from the game.  Obviously, five minutes in the penalty box has proven to be an unsatisfactory deterrence.  I would further argue that even a one or two game suspension would not go far enough as enforcers are frequently healthy scratches for that amount of time anyway.  If the NHL wanted to remove fighting from the game the punishment would have to be much more severe.  As I see it,  the most productive way of devising this punishment would be to take into account the amount of time a person requires to recover from a concussion and base it around that.

The article regarding CTE that I sited previously stated that new studies have shown that “85% of concussions require about three weeks of recovery.”  Given that teams play roughly three games a week I figure a ten game suspension would not only provide a fighter with the necessary recovery time, it would force the hand of NHL general managers and coaches.  Even if an enforcer was being paid the league minimum it wouldn’t be worth it for a team to sacrifice salary cap space to employ him if he had to sit out for three weeks every time he did the thing he was being paid to do.  Of course, the only way this new arrangement would work is if it was--like most rule changes--also implemented in the AHL.  Otherwise, teams could simply keep a stockpile of fighters ready to take on the role of enforcer any time theirs was lost to suspension.

Unfortunately, given Gary Bettman’s above statement it would seem that the NHL has yet to even properly identify the league’s biggest problem and so it is unlikely that they will be making steps to rectify it any time in the near future.  What one hopes is that once the NHL find sufficient evidence that a possible symptom of being punched repeatedly in the head is a concussion, they will also figure out that the decision to remove fighting is completely up to them.  Ultimately, the temptation to play in the NHL is too great for the average person.  And, this is made clear by the fact that despite seeing the life of an enforcer effectively kill his brother, Aaron Boogard is currently toiling in the CHL in the hopes of becoming one himself.  In the conclusion of Branch’s article it is revealed that though Aaron’s mother has pleaded with him to quit, the young man feels trapped by his lack of options.  “Honestly,” he explains, “what else am I going to do?”

Monday, 5 December 2011

Must Read: Punched Out: The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer By John Branch

In my post we looked at what I hope was fairly convincing evidence that the NHL needs to reconsider the existence of bare knuckle boxing within the game of hockey.  What I particularly wanted to emphasize--other than the fact that the NHL has not done one thing to protect their enforcers--was the idea that the choice of being an enforcer in the professional leagues is fairly complicated when one takes into account the time/money invested by parents and family, not to mention, the money and fame that a player stands to earn etc.

A better way of doing this would have been to write a six part series on the life and evolution of late NHL enforcer, Derek Boogaard.  Which, conveniently, is exactly what John Branch of the New York Times has done:

Notable and heartbreaking quotes include (but are definitely not limited to):

“Last winter, a friend said, a neurologist asked Boogaard to estimate how many times his mind went dark and he needed a moment to regain his bearings after being hit on the head, probable sings of a concussion.  Four?  Five?  Boogaard laughed.  Try hundreds, he said.”

“If you’re playing pond hockey, 6 or 7 years old, and somebody said, ‘Hey Brantt, the only way you’re going to make it to the NHL is fighting your way there,’ you think I would have done it?”  No way.  I would have done something else.”

As well as a statement made by former enforcer Brantt Myhres that attempts to put the daily stresses placed on enforcers into perspective:

“Imagine you go pick a guy that’s 6-4, 220 pounds, and say, ‘Why don’t we meet here on the street in two days, and we’ll slug it out and see how it goes?’  I guarantee [that during those three days] you’ll be a mess.”

Anyone, clinging to the idea that this is a necessary part of our game needs to read this series. Go do it now, please. 

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Alls Well That Ends Well

Last week Sidney Crosby played hockey for the Pittsburgh Penguins, mercifully ending an “are we there yet” line of questioning that began roughly eleven months ago and ended happily ever after last Monday with a four point performance by the Wizard of Cros against perennial powerhouse, the New York Islanders.  What a relief!  As an article posted Tuesday morning on entitled “The Next Chapter” will tell you, anyone still worried about the fact that nothing has really changed in the game of hockey since Crosby’s injury need only to look at the numbers: Crosby has eleven points in five games!  Case closed you bunch of pussies.  Hockey’s back!  

Of course, Sidney’s concussion was not the only non-Vancouver-riot story to come out of the NHL in the past year.  The other thing that happened was four NHL enforcers died.  

Now, if lumping the deaths of four young men into one issue strikes you as an almost criminally callous treatment of four separate tragedies, I wouldn’t argue with you.  I would argue, however, that the changes made by the NHL during the off season reveal that the league has not even gone as far as to consider the deaths of these four enforcers as an issue unto itself. 

Instead, Brendan Shanahan took over as the NHL’s chief disciplinarian and promptly passed rule 48 which made blindside shots to the head a punishable offense.  And though I agree that this was a necessary and long overdue adjustment, I can’t help but feel like the NHL looked at the concussion of its biggest star and the deaths of four peripheral players and made changes that would ensure Sidney Crosby never suffers another concussion again.  

With the untimely death of four players, questions surrounding whether or not the NHL was going to lose yet another young star to concussion, and an unspeakable tragedy in the KHL, it was undoubtedly an unprecedentedly terrible off season for professional hockey.  So, it’s not surprising that the NHL would feel pressure to do some serious wagging of the dog in the hopes of preserving some semblance of a public image.  And, this is exactly what the league did.  A huge show has been made of the NHL’s crackdown on blindside body checks that target another player’s head.  The problem is, they have done nothing to prevent the hits to the head--that is, hits delivered by a fist--that medical researchers are linking to the destructive and suicidal behaviour we are seeing in NHL enforcers.  

In an ominously edifying article written for CBC news, Daniel Schwartz interviewed Boston University neurosurgeon, Robert Cantu.  Cantu’s study of the brains of deceased athletes has led to a better understanding of a disease formerly thought to only afflict boxers known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE.  Cantu’s research--which has already found CTE in the brains of former NHL enforcers, Bob Probert and Reggie Fleming--has lead him to believe that CTE could be at the root of the suicidal behaviour that claimed the lives of, Ryan Rypien and Wade Belak.  Cantu explains that those suffering from CTE are more likely to suffer from depression due to the fact that the illness impairs both their impulse and emotional control.  

Sports MD has a helpful breakdown of the disease, explaining that CTE is characterized by the build up of an abnormal protein called Tau in sections of the brain where it is not usually found.  These Tau buildups, primarily caused by “repetitive brain injury,” disrupt the parts of the brain where they are found.  Dr. Cantu states that with people suffering from CTE the highest concentration of Tau is found in the medial temporal lobe which “has function of: memory, impulse control, addiction, emotions, depression and anxiety.”  Derek Boogaard died of a lethal combination of painkillers and alcohol and the mothers of Rick Rypien and Wade Belak have come forward confirming that both men suffered from depression.  Of course, this is far from proof that any of these men suffered from CTE but as the popular Maple Leafs blog, The Leafs Nation has said of Rypien’s death, “if anybody wants to place a cash bet that it wasn’t suicide and he didn’t have CTE I’m willing to give you good odds.”

Now, many of you will be quick to point out that by preventing body-checks to the head the NHL is indeed preventing the sort of injury that may lead to CTE.  I would argue that given the frequency with which this illness is found in boxers and NFL linemen that what Shanahan is attempting to do is a good first step but ultimately this initiative is completely misdirected.  What the league really needs to worry about aren’t the players who suffer concussions from the occasional body-check to the head but rather, the players who livelihood consists of little more than being hit in the head.  

Which brings us to the awkward part.  I recently had a discussion (read: screaming match) with several friends and upon bringing up the aforementioned points I was asked what exactly it was I was suggesting.  Did I want to forever neuter the game of hockey by removing the fighting aspect from it?  Did I want to remove the players’ ability to police themselves?  If this was the kind of sissy game I wanted, why didn’t I just watch soccer?  Admitting that I was suggesting that fighting be removed from the game was difficult.  Truth be told, I was a hockey fight apologist as recently as this year.  (Which is to say, I didn’t see the harm in it until four NHL enforcers died or committed suicide seemingly within half an hour of each other.)  Before this, I was concerned that by removing the players’ option to police themselves the NHL would have to protect their athletes by having referees call hockey games in a fashion similar to the way English Premiership referees call soccer matches.  And though the prospect of reducing hockey to the halty, awkward pace of soccer--or worse still, basketball--was not something I was terribly comfortable with, what I have become more uncomfortable with is having young men put themselves in line for what Sports MD describes as, “the only preventable form of dementia”  in the name of my entertainment.  

Which leads us to another point frequently brought up in the defence of hockey fighting: free will.  After all, no one is forcing these guys to take on the enforcer roll.  And even if CTE has only recently been discovered in hockey players, surely the risks of fist fighting for a living are pretty self evident.  To this I would point to the fact when a teenager realizes that the only way he can fulfill the dream that he and his parents have committed countless pre-dawn practices, hours of driving, and years of 365 day hockey seasons to is to become an enforcer, I ask you, how much freedom is there in that choice?  These very young men are not making this decision in a vacuum and no one would pretend that the reward is insignificant.  (If you would like to read a hugely informative article on both the psychological and phsyical consequences of the pressures placed on young athletes please read Malcolm Gladwell’s, Offensive Play.)  What’s more is having committed such an enormous section of their formative years preparing to be professional hockey players, how can we possibly expect their other options to measure up to the allure of joining a fraternity of the only celebrated heroes that Canadian culture has ever been able to produce?

What defenders of hockey fighting and the NHL have to remember is that our legal system contains countless laws that solely exist as a means of protecting people from themselves.  Given the obvious reasons not to drive drunk there shouldn’t need to be a law forcing us not to do it.  But the fact remains that despite our better judgement and the possibly fatal consequences, people are going to be tempted to risk their lives for the sake of convenience or laziness or whatever else.  What’s more, drunk drivers are willing to take on these risks without the added temptation of the fame and the millions of dollars that NHL enforcers stand to earn.  Ultimately, young hockey players are being offered a deal they cannot refuse and it is because of this that the NHL needs to take responsibility and protect the league’s fourth line players with the same enthusiasm as they protect their stars.