I know what happens when you don’t wait around for actual convictions and the whole “innocent until proven guilty” premise that our country is kind of built on. But last night touched a very raw nerve that I have when it comes to domestic abuse and violence against women perpetrated by athletes. So I’m going to jump all that.
I would love nothing more than Gary Bettman to suspend Semyon Varlamov for 40 games, or 80, or more, and for the players’ union to do absolutely nothing about it.
But of course, we don’t live in that fantasy world where scumbags like Varlamov get what they assuredly deserve.
The way sports handles those who beat wives, girlfriends, or just women, is an absolute joke. Or it would be a joke if it weren’t so sickening. Then again, it’s only a microcosm of how we as a society undervalue these things (and if you’re going to argue that we are still far ahead of many societies and how they treat women, yes you’re right. But just because you’re slightly above the mud doesn’t mean you’re standing tall). How many athletes barely get a slap on the wrist after a domestic case? It’s not just hockey, of course. But Joe Corvo shouldn’t have a job. Brett Myers is still pitching in the majors. Brandon Marshall is a star receiver. Fuck me, people still buy Chris Brown records. What kind of message are we sending?
If the biggest argument against the use of PEDs is that we want to send the message to kids that it’s not ok, then why aren’t we doing the same about a much worse crime? When will sports fully admit that they do act as role models or examples for children, and try to influence an aspect of society that far too many grow up thinking is ok for them?
We don’t even know how many of these cases get shuffled under the rug. Michael Vick was suspended while he was in jail for dog-fighting. Ben Roethlisberger missed a quarter of a season for basically being a rapist. Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, how many other colleges have we heard disturbing victim-intimidation stories from when it comes to rape victims? It’s nothing short of disgusting.
I know the problems. These kinds of cases are really hard to prove, just like rape cases tend to be. The pressure on the victim becomes so high that most just can’t go through with it. It can be a he-said she-said mess. They get settled, they get thrown out, sometimes the victim gets blamed.
But sports can help lift that stigma. They can make it just a little easier for women to carry on a fight that can be so painful. Just maybe they can start to change things as a whole.
One day, there’s going to be a commissioner of one of the major sports who is going to make it plain. Commit any sort of violence against women, and you’re going to have a severe penalty. Just as the rest of us would. I know athletes live in a different world with different standards, but some things carry through no matter what. And we’ll all be better off.
But of course, Semyon Varlamov will be starting for the Avs maybe as soon as this weekend. His coach Patrick Roy will face no questions about his past. Same as it ever was.
-If you haven’t seen it, one of my favorite targets Brian Burke penned an article today in the USA Today defending fighting. There isn’t really a new argument here, just more of the same “the rats will take over” and “we police ourselves.”
But to me it’s all a straw-man argument. Those who say that without fighting dirty players will run riot are basically basing that on nothing. It’s a kind of fear-mongering, I guess. There’s no fighting in college, and that hasn’t become a Saturday night on a payday weekend in Muskogee (thank you for all that you are, Jim Ross). Is it because of the full face-shields? Or is it just because fighting doesn’t really police anything?
We have no idea what would happen if fighting wasn’t around. We can guess. We can speculate. But we have no idea. And no one ever seems to mention that it is possible that one day fighting will be banned, and if the game does turn into basically a riot, the ban could be lifted.
Burke only briefly addresses the safety issue, and correctly points out that boarding hits or headshots are more dangerous than fighting. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to eliminate or tamp down the less dangerous aspects of the game. Just because it’s not doing the most amount of damage to players doesn’t mean it isn’t doing any.
Burke also talks about players inside and outside “the code,” which is a term I’m really starting to get sick of. But the code won’t exactly disappear if fighting does. There will still be, or there should be, a respect for your fellow athlete. You don’t need fighting for that. Most players now are not out to hurt anyone. That won’t change if fighting goes. And there will still be those who want to. Just as there is now.
It’s all a guess, and without sufficient data or proof, it’s an argument we really shouldn’t accept any more.
-I mentioned this on Twitter, but just wanted to state it here as well. Though we’ve taken some shots (all in fun) and WSCR 670 host Dan McNeill and his hockey thoughts, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been my friend and supporter for 20 years now. A lot of the paths I’ve gone down in life were set up by Dan, and I can’t thank him enough for it. While I have no idea what’s going on with him now and it really could be anything, I want to say that he has my full support and sympathy.