Saturday, March 10, 2007

Hit Me!

Sports can be physical, especially hockey and basketball, but usually when it comes to violence or questionable hits the topic is reserved for the football field. But this week brutality struck, not once, but twice.

Maybe calling the Gerald Henderson elbow/smack to the face of Tyler Hansbrough brutal is a bit of an overstatement, and it’s clearly not comparable to the violent act we’ll get to in a minute. Really, in this case, the big question is, was it violent or is it just part of the game. I guess I fall on both sides of the fence: violent-no, part of the game-yes, intentional-No Doubt!

With UNC handing it to a less than stellar Duke team for the second time this season, there was clearly some pent up frustration in the Duke players. That is human nature, if they were not angry with their performance up to that point then they should give up the game. Throw in the fact that some of the stars that ran the score up were still on the court and it’s the recipe for a cheap foul. You know what, its not the first time and won’t be the last time there is a hard, unnecessary foul at the end of a game between bitter rivals.

While Henderson definitely meant to go after Hansbrough and send a message, I don’t think he intended to bust up his nose and cause a bloody mess. There should be no suspension. I can live with an ejection, intentional foul, etc., but no suspension. This was not Kermit Washington.

And one other thing, enough of this nonsense that Duke players are above this type of behavior and that its not Coach K’s style. Every human being lets their emotions get the best of them. It would be above Duke and UNC to let the Nuggets and Knicks fiasco break out, but not one flash of the moment hard foul.

Now onto the abominable act by Chris Simon on Thursday night. After a clean check into the boards by Ryan Hollweg, Simon turned around went after him and swung the stick like a baseball bat at Hollweg in Juan Marichal style. Luckily it caught Hollweg mostly in the chin and not cleanly in the throat and it he was not seriously hurt, but by no means should that minimize the penalty.

Unlike the Duke elbow incident, the debate hear is not whether it was intentional or violent, we already know it was, but rather what the penalty should be. There is precedent with the Marty McSorley and Todd Bertuzzi hits of the past few years. Conversation runs the gamut anywhere from suspending him for the rest of this season to criminal charges in the court of law.

Bottom line, if the hit is a couple of inches down Hollweg may still be unconscious. That’s a horrifying thought. On the ice, I say Simon is done for this season, regular season and playoffs, and then we make a decision on next season in the summer. No pay, no benefits, not allowed near the team, just leave. On the criminal side, it’s a bit more touchy. Was there intent, yes. Could he have seriously injured or possibly killed Hollweg, yep. But it was done in the course of competition, and I don’t think any player shows up at a game thinking they may wind up in jail for an on the court incident. If they were in an alley way its highly unlikely that Simon would have done the same thing.

I can’t justify pressing charges, but the suspension and fine should be severe. Oh, without going on a rant about professional sports fines, they should nail him for like 10-20% of his annual salary for that. I don’t care if it’s a $100,000 or a million dollars. Make it hurt, just like Hollweg was hurt.


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