Parking space dispute, perhaps?
“This is unprecedented in the history of sports,” Player’s Association Executive Director Billy Hunter told the New York Post. “I've never heard of players pulling guns on each other in a locker room.”
The truth is the snow in Washington provided the impetus to a lot of gun play. A few days before the Wizards turned their practice facility into the NBA version of Tombstone, a D.C. police officer brandished his sidearm during an organized snowball fight at 14th and U because, according to the story, his Hummer was pelted with snowballs.
For the life of me I can’t figure out why anyone would want to throw a snowball at a Hummer. I understand if maybe someone wanted to drill a few at the jackass driving the obnoxious ride, but not the vehicle itself—after all, a Hummer is an inanimate object...
Just like its owner.
Nevertheless, the apparent showdown between teammates isn’t the surprising part. The truth is stuff like that happens all the time only before Arenas and Crittenton decided to act like cowboys, athletes used to settle their differences with hand-to-hand combat. The strange part is that something like this happened with Washington players when the murder of Redskins’ star Sean Taylor is still fresh in everyone’s memory.
Taylor’s murder came just 11 months after Broncos’ cornerback Darrent Williams was shot and killed by gang members after an altercation broke out at a party thrown by Nuggets’ star, Kenyon Martin.
So gun play, violence and supercharged testosterone-laden atmosphere that pervades the pro sports locker rooms is nothing to make fun of. If the events of Dec. 21 went down as described by the New York Post and Washington Post, then Arenas and Crittenton can expect a long suspension.
However, if it’s the confrontation between two grown men playing pro sports for a living, well, yes, that’s funny. Take the threat of gun play out of the alleged incident in Washington and it’s hilarious.
Better yet, that type of stuff happens all the time.
Remember the time Charles Oakley threw a basketball at ex-Sixer Tyrone Hill before a game because, as the story goes, Hill wouldn’t repay a gambling debt in the proper and timely, “gentlemanly” manner? Or what about when ex-Phillies’ closer Jose Mesa attempted to drill Omar Vizquel with a pitch every time he faced him for disparaging remarks in the shortstops’ autobiography?
Then again, those Phillies teams in an atmosphere fostered by manager Larry Bowa, were always a couple of six-shooters away from turning the clubhouse into the OK Corral. Fights, threats, verbal assaults and a general nasty atmosphere were the norm. Tyler Houston was waived (essentially) for being friends with Pat Burrell; Robert Person was exiled by injury and clashes with the manager; and Tim Worrell, as the story goes, punched out pitching coach Joe Kerrigan.
And those were just a few of the run-ins with those old Phillies that did not involve Brett Myers, who nearly had his own fisticuffs with Kerrigan, the Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi, and a few teammates—not counting Cole Hamels during last November’s World Series.
Incidentally, the infamous run-in with the scribe reached a head when Myers hurled the insult, “[Bleeping] retard!” In the wake of that, Myers apologized to “retards,” but not Carchidi.
Then there was the time in 1997 or 1998 on a team charter flight where Ricky Bottalico leapt over a few rows of seats with fists flying at Curt Schilling’s head. Apparently Bottalico had grown tired of warning Schilling not to throw empty beer cans at his head and decided a few punches would solve the problem quicker.
[Note: Schilling says it was Bottalico who threw the beer cans and the legend is true, only in the reverse]
According to the legend, the famous line from the incident was when Bottalico lunged at Schilling muttering, “…I’ve waited three years to do this…” as the players and coaches rushed to the center of the plane to break up the fight.
Apparently the seat belt rule doesn’t apply to big-league charters.
Baseball, though, is known for team discord. The Red Sox of the 1970s and ‘80s were famously known not because they challenged for the pennant every year, but because of the “25 cabs for 25 guys” label. Recently, the Brewers and Giants have mixed it up in the clubhouse or dugout over on thing or another. Chalk it up to a long, 162-game season, six months of travel, and close quarters. Unlike other sports, baseball players spend way too much time together.
Still, the Bowa era Phillies weren’t at each others throats so much. They were more unified in a battle against the coaching staff, going so far as to commandeer a bus that was to take the team’s traveling party from Olympic Stadium to the Montreal airport so they could hold a players-only meeting late in the 2003 season. More of an airing of the grievances than a constructive, point-by-point search for a solution, the players reportedly decided their goals should be to win just to spite the coaching staff.
As history shows, it didn’t work out that way.
Of course a team doesn’t have to be unified in order to win. The Oakland A’s of the early 1970s won it three years in a row and they couldn’t stand each other. The 2006 Cardinals not only won the World Series, but featured a sideshow in which manager Tony La Russa and third baseman Scott Rolen reportedly didn’t speak to each other in some sort of junior high-styled spat. The 2002 Giants almost won the World Series even though David Bell, Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds allegedly nearly came to blows in the dugout during a game.
Of course any team with Schilling has to have some sort of acrimony amongst the uniformed ranks. Just look at that 1993 Phillies team and what happened shortly after Mitch Williams gave up the home run to Joe Carter. All those guys did was snap at each other in the press.
So whatever it is—money, egos, fame, jealousy, too much machismo—pro sports is no different than little league.
Just keep the guns out of it and there’s nothing a handshake and a cold beer won’t cure.