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Maybe the Second Worst
December 16, 2011 - Al Stephenson
A buddy of mine brought up the brawl that took place last week between college basketball teams from Xavier and Cincinnati. His comment was that it was the worst basketball fight he had ever seen. Another friend of mine, as well as myself, quickly suggested that it didn't top the 1972 Ohio State-Minnesota brawl. The guy was too young to remember.
For some of you older folks out there the memory is one that will not soon go away. Ohio State center Luke Witte went up for a layup in Minneapolis, was fouled hard and sent to the floor. No problem there, but when Minnesota's Corky Taylor extended his hand to help Witte up all heck was about to break loose. As Witte got to his feet, Taylor kneed him in the groin sending him back to the floor. Bedlam ensued as fights broke out all over the court. Another Minnesota player stomped on Witte's head as he was lying on the floor already in pain. Most people believe this was the worst basketball brawl of all time and despite the ugliness of last week, it wasn't worse than that 1972 incident.
These kind of things don't happen often, but the fact that we are comparing them suggests that they happen too often. As a former player I can understand how things can escalate quickly. I myself raised my fists twice while playing the game, once in high school and again in college. I was elbowed in the face in the former incident and balled my fists instinctively before the referee stepped in between me and my opponent.
In the latter case I, along with an opponent, were chasing a loose ball that was going out of bounds. We both were trying to grab it with the intent to throw it back into play. I got the ball, my opponent grabbed my head and it was on. I fisted up against a 6'8" center from Heidelberg and fortunately (for my sake) no punches were thrown. I would probably have not fared well in a fight with this guy, but competitive instincts kicked in and I was not thinking clearly.
If you read the comments from players on both sides of last week's brawl you can tell that they are sorry it happened. There really is no place for this kind of behavior in athletics and they know it. They wish it had not happened and none of them are likely to be involved in another situation like it. Basketball brawls will likely happen again though as players in the heat of battle lose their cool. Can anything be done to try to prevent this type of activity from taking place.
My suggestion would be to outlaw trash talking. Make it a technical foul. Words can easily spark physical retaliation. It won't completely stop all fighting, but it couldn't hurt.
The view from my seat suggests that the Xavier-Cincinnati basketball brawl may not make the list as the worst fight in basketball history, but here's hoping the worst is not yet still to come.
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