Contact vs non-Contact Sports

An interesting juxtapostion of contact and non-contact sports this week. For the contact sports, Steve Shannon was suspended for offering a bounty on an opposing player. And on the non-contact sports side of the ledger, John Chaney was suspended for inserting a goon to “send a message” against St. Joseph’s.

It may be the relative unimportance of the United Hockey League compared to Division 1 NCAA basketball, but I don’t detect the same sense of outrage about Shannon as about Chaney. And for my part, I think Shannon’s punishment was too harsh and that Chaney got off easy.

As I examined my thoughts on the subject, they seemed related to my understanding of the difference between contact sports vs. non-contact sports. In my eyes, any attempt to cause injury in a non-contact sport is beyond the pale. That’s not so clear when it comes to contact sports.

I think that all hockey fans admire the calculated violence of a hard check. But let’s be honest, we want the opposing players to be hurt. We don’t want a career threatening injury, but a trip back to the dressing room and a few missed shifts would suit us just fine. We accept injury as long as it is the result of clean play.

But watch the dirty player accusations fly when Christian Laettner partially steps on an opposing player. Or when a player gets undercut on a drive to the basket.

In a non-contact sport, every injury is a tragedy. And deliberately causing an injury cannot be punished hard enough. John Bryant’s arm was broken and his career is likely over. At the very least, John Chaney should be suspended until next season. As it stands, he’ll be back on the sidelines for the Atlantic 10 tournament.