The drama between the Sox and Orioles over the last two weeks has once again called into question the place that the so called ‘unwritten rules’ have in professional sports. The two biggest culprits when it comes to adhering to these codes of conduct are Baseball and Hockey. Baseball gets accused of being to stuffy and outdated and Hockey is seen as being barbaric and tonedeaf for allowing fighting, in a concussion aware world. Now there’re are a lot of arenas where these two sports can upgrade to become on par with the NFL and NBA, things like accessibility through social media, and TV exposure and presentation. But the Unwritten rules are NOT one of them.
This past week with the Celtics in the NBA Playoffs, The NFL Draft came and went and the Stanley Cup chase in full swing, yet the Red Sox dominated the news cycle but igniting a rivalry with a team lead by a man with the most obnoxious punchable face in sports, Manny Machado and the Orioles. Rivalries are essential to sports! Celtics vs Lakers, Red Sox vs Yankees, Brady vs Manning, whole leagues are built around great teams clashing in big games that spawn controversial moments that serve to deepen the rivalries. Controversy like, did Machado mean to spike Pedroia or was Barnes target Machado’s head in retaliation. A sox fan might see it as Machado has a track record for being a punk and Barnes was justified but an O’s fan would be justified in thinking Machado was just trying to break up a double play and Barnes crossed a line. Having these unclear and often times hypocritical stances in order to back up our teams and justify are fanhood. Without these unwritten rules of conduct and retaliation the on field product loses some of its intensity.
So that’s baseball’s rules taken care of now onto hockey. If you want the best example of why fighting is necessary in Hockey take a look at what happened to Sidney Crosby against the Caps when Ovechkin and Niskanen slashed and Cross checked Crosby’s Concussion rattled head in Game 3. You can argue intent and if it was premeditated till the cows come home but one thing is for sure, Crosby has suffered from a lack of protection his whole Career. The man has had a tone of concussions in his career and missed a lot of time because in a physical fast paced and it’s easy to take someone out. You think the Gretzky would have been able to play 16 seasons without McSorley watching his back and guaranteeing a world class beating to anyone who touched the Great One. Fighting in hockey is necessary because a suspension lasts a few games but if the Caps steal this series from the Pens their names might be on the cup forever.
Removing unwritten rules neuters the on field product, reduces rivalries and makes the games less safe because it removes the threat of retaliation from the game. These rules exist for a reason and they should always be a part of the game.
Written By: Jason MacKinnon (@ohhkillemjason)