Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Legacy of Manny Castillo

Call me a wimp, wuss, whatever, but I have never been a fan of outside-of-the-rules hits, fights, violence in any sport. Sports are inherently dangerous, with players being injured, maimed and scarred for life with terrible frequency, even playing within the rules. In baseball, the ball regularly travels in excess of 100 mph and pitchers, batters, base runners, coaches and fans can all be struck and injured, or even killed. Bats have broken and gone flying and catchers or umpires have been hit on the follow-through of a swing. In football, players are frequently on the receiving end of tackles or blocks they didn't see coming. Checking is an integral part of hockey and some clean checks injure. But when we participate in sports, there is an implicit contract that we know that these risks exist, and we accept them, within and along with the rules of the game.

What I am not willing to accept is what will happen outside of the rules. When things happen outside the rules, that's when the the contract has been violated. Insofar as there are no injuries, then the penalties prescribed within the rules should be sufficient to deal with the situation. When there are injuries, or worse, death, then the rules are not sufficient; the perpetrator has violated the contract to the extent that the law and the courts must step in.

Although I cannot ever recall it happening, if a baseball player were to use his bat to hit someone, how is that any different than a common assault outside the ballpark? Fights happen in hockey games, just like they will happen in parks, on the street, etc. But often the combatants end up setting their differences or others step in to end the fight the way referees do in hockey, without the need to waste the time of our constabulary or courts. In hockey, they're sent to the penalty box, or dressing room, depending on the penalties meted out.

There was a baseball player Manny Castillo, but that is not who this post refers to. Manny was a high school rugby player who was involved in an altercation with an opposing player who, according to reports, picked him up and drove him head-first into the ground in what one witness called a "pile-driver" maneuver. (Yes, professional wrestlers do that move, but remember, they're acting and have been trained how to execute and respond to this move.) Manny died.

Today, the perpetrator was found guilty of manslaughter.

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