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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

VIOLENCE IN AND OF SPORTS

VIOLENCE IN AND OF SPORTS

I will begin by admitting that, if held to our present day standards, I am not normal, nor do I want to be! I do not like to waste my time watching sports. I know this attitude is against the common wisdom, but is it wisdom? Or is it folly? I will explain what brought me to this point and how I progressed in my thinking as I grew older. With the Super Bowl coming up and all the hoopla which accompanies it, I am prompted to share my thoughts.

First, I carefully selected the title of this Blog to emphasize the facts that the violence IN and OF sports are both the violence caused or perpetrated by the participants (IN) and the violence which innately exists with the practice of a sport (OF). I will deal with each separately.

Second, I admit that I never did well in sports as a young child. This steered me away from sports because I have always had a big Ego even before I realized I had an Ego and I was not able to handle being second best. This may be a quirk in my personality but, what can I do? It is me, and I am what I am. I always excelled in scholastics so I pursued that aspect. It was more Ego nurturing most likely because I did well in this endeavor.

Third, the violence IN and OF sports always bothered me. As a young man I read reports, saw in newspapers, and later observed on television the violence which occurred at European soccer games where, at times, dozens of people died because fans would riot and sides of bleachers would collapse killing the spectators. It was hardly a result which happy people would want to expect to experience from a day at the games. Additionally, many of these European soccer games would result in riots where more people would be injured or killed. Being of Italian descent, watching these tragedies occur in Italy bothered me to see how “my own kind” could be so foolish and stupid.

Fourth, my observations while attending Boston College did little to enhance my view of sports. I was a scholarship student but there were very few of us during the years when I attended. There were many football and basketball scholarships. A Jesuit once told me that it was the belief of Boston college that they wanted to concentrate on sports hoping that what sports did to give Notre Dame a big name could be achieved for Boston College. It took years but, eventually, Boston College achieved their goal. Boston College Alumni would give tons of money for sports scholarships over the years, but very little for academic scholarships. I used to tutor some of the ball players. Eventually, I did a dastardly thing to get my Sicilian comeuppance which after 52 years I still cannot divulge what I did. I am sure the Statute of Limitations is over, but, in case it is not, I will have to keep my mouth shut! If the person against whom I committed this transgression ever finds me, I am dead meat.

I was well known at college as a person very much against the way the football players were afforded all the luxuries which did not extend to those who excelled at academics. After all that is said and done, a University is and should be known for the great minds produced therein and not by the hulks on the team. I was a boarding student as were most of the football players who were on full scholarship – they getting their full board and room paid by the College. Most of the time they ate separately from us. While they got steak at least once a week we were given steak only once during a holiday like Thanksgiving and Christmas when most of the regular boarding students were home and there were only a few foreign students still left on campus. When we complained that we were never given steak, the authorities would mention the fact that we were served steak on this or that particular day – days during the vacation holidays.

Every Sunday evening like clockwork we were served cold cuts and a single scoop of cold potato salad. This was fine during those Sunday evenings when the football players did not join us for supper. On the few occasions when they did they would start potato salad fights acting like animals who could not act normally when in public – the scoop of potato salad fits so snugly within the palms of one’s hand almost like a soft baseball. I disliked those Sunday evenings when one could not eat simple cold cuts and potato salad in peace.

I cannot resist telling a story about the late Frank Morze who was drafted to play for the San Francisco 49ers in 1955. The team drafted Morze in the second-round of the 1955 NFL Draft and he served as the team's starting center for five seasons. I recently Googled Frank and discovered that he died 7/1/2006 from long standing heart disease.

We were in the dining room one Sunday evening ready to enjoy our cold cuts a scoop of cold potato salad. The football players were eating with us that evening.
I was sitting with three other pre-med students when Frank who was sitting two tables away stood up and said something like “who can eat this sh**? I have a mind to have a potato salad fight.” Fearing the worst, I yelled to Frank: “Please sit down, Frank, and stop acting like an animal.” He turned around and told me he was going to come over a crush my head. This he could do without any trouble. He was 6'4" and weighed 245 pounds. As he walked over to my table, the three pre-med students who were sitting at my table got up and left. As they were leaving I pleaded not to leave me at the mercy of Frank Morze. My friends told my they did not want to deal with Frank and, perhaps, next time I would learn to keep my big mouth shut – something I have yet to learn. Frank stood behind me with his hands on both sides of my head. I knew he could crush my head with just a flick of the wrist. I was almost ready to go in my pants, if you know what I mean! I sat there and said out loud so the entire dining room would hear: “Frank, you can go ahead and crush my head, but, if you do, you will only prove to the entire dining room what I have said about you that you are the biggest animal on the team.” He moaned and groaned a couple of times and then returned to his table. I ate the rest of my dinner alone.

Several weeks later we were eating breakfast and Frank and I shared a table. I was a junior, Frank was a senior ready to leave the area in several months. Frank said to me that he respected me because I was smart and asked whether I would do him a favor. I responded that I would if I could. He said he just got a job digging trenches at The Liggett Dorms and he was making $5/hour for the summer waiting until he had to go to hook up with his pro team. He added that “You know, Nick, not even College Graduates make 5 bucks an hour” speaking about College Graduates in the “third person.” He told me that since I probably knew many people around the Cleveland Circle area, he wanted me to find a room which he could rent for several months before he left town. He also said all he wanted was that the lady renting the room would give him a good breakfast. He could go all day without eating and eat only in the evening thereby saving a lot of money. I asked what he was willing to pay for the room? He asked: “Do you thing 5 bucks a week would be too much?” I tried to hold myself back from laughing. Frank would eat almost a dozen eggs plus for breakfast! He would bankrupt any landlord in no time. I told him I would try. He thanked me saying what a good friend I was. That was the last time I ever saw Frank Morze.

I was sorry to hear of Frank’s death. Although he was a big rough and tumble guy when I knew him, he seemed to have a good soul. He liked me even though I gave him a lot of grief. He has got to have had some good in him to have tolerated me. I will give him that.

I should say that during college I finally went to a single game. It was the first game we played with Harvard. I remember the day very clearly. When I walked onto the bleachers, the entire side where the Boston College students were stood up to give me a standing ovation. It was my moment of glory. To this day I have not received such an acclimation! Another time I was in a restaurant and someone found out my name was “Tauraso.” Some came up to me asking whether I was or related to a star quarterback for Boston University whose name was “Taurasi?” I said no and proceeded to sink into anonymity again.

Fifth, as I grew older watching older grown adults observing sports in the US did not add anything to my love of sports. Friends of mine hovering around the television, drinking beer and eating chips, yelling at the television when there was a good or a bad play just was not my cup of tea. I was a reluctant partygoer because, if I were not there, I would have to spend the day alone. Later, the parties got better because the food served was going upscale and the beer turned into fine wine. I could have cared less for the game, but I did enjoy the food. Having owned a four-star Italian Restaurant allowed me to cater some of these parties. I will give it to my friends for very few of them watched the game during these parties opting to eat good food and wine.

Sixth, today we have too many players who are admired for their skills on the field but not much can be said for their personal life. Many successful players are involved in fights and killings of both other humans and also of dogs. But, still the public wants to cut these people a break from their bad actions – more so when they kill fellow citizens but less so if they kill dogs. As a society we will forgive individuals of almost anything if they are prominent and successful. This also extends to the Hollywood-types who almost never pay for their crimes like the rest of us poor slobs who must face the music when we are caught doing something wrong. We are asked to pay the price; they may get a slap on the wrist.

Seventh, in my opinion, there are good and bad sports. There is a much more peaceful attitude emanating from golf, baseball, tennis, and, perhaps, to a degree basketball. But football, hockey, boxing, wrestling, and soccer breed violence. Their players exude violence both on, but especially, off the field. It is this behavior off the playing field and in the private lives of the players which serve as a basis of their image. Young children observe this behavior which is not what we would like for them to emulate.

One of the major problems is that these players are making so much money which adds to the corruption of their private lives. Added to this is the fact that when players act badly, we do not ask for an accountability. They receive little punishment except for the few most egregious crimes. More accountability is needed. Perhaps then we might begin to turn this around.

Eighth, but, to get back to the violence OF mentioned earlier, sports are innately violent. It is one man pushing another around for dominance in the game. With behavior like this it is little wonder why violence erupts. In is almost innate in sports to nurture the violent qualities seen in so many players.

Ninth, a bit about the violence many parents teach their children who participate in Little League Baseball and Football where oftentimes we see parents fighting among themselves or punishing their own children when they perform poorly. It is like the proverbial “blind leading the blind” usually into nowhere. Such parents are teaching their children the violence IN sports. After all that is said and done, “an apple does not fall far from the tree.” Children learn their behavior from their parents, and, of course, television.

I will end on a positive note. There are some athletes who do good work and can truly be called professionals in the conduct of their games and in their private and public life off the field. But there are a few who always gum up the works. They should be weeded out quickly, punished, and barred from the games – how about forever?

nicola michael c. Tauraso, M.D.
Director, Tauraso Medical Clinic
www.drtauraso.com

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