Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols

By Stanley H. Teitelbaum | Go to book overview

9. Violence between Athletes

It will do no good to search for villains or heroes or saints
or devils because there were none; there were only victims.

Dalton Trumbo

Athletes are trained to be aggressive on the playing field, and, indeed, an optimal level of aggression frequently fuels success. Our sports heroes are generally able to compartmentalize this trait—to turn it off after the game and reignite it for the next game. For some athletes there may be a fine line between aggression within the appropriate boundaries of their sport and violent behavior. Sometimes intense competition sparks intentional or unintentional eruptions toward opposing players or teammates and even between players and their coaches. These eruptions may cause life-threatening injuries to others and may destroy an athlete’s own career.

Some athletes are quickly dethroned from their pedestals for attacking another player. For example, professional football star Jack Tatum’s image was badly tarnished when he never apologized for the hit that paralyzed Darryl Stingley. Basketball star Kermit Washington was vilified for decades after “the punch” that severely damaged Rudy Tomjanovich. And Latrell Sprewell’s violent response toward his critical coach, P. J. Carlesimo, created a cadre of taunting fans, clouded his future offensive heroics, and blighted his stardom.


Baseball

Bench-clearing brawls are commonplace in baseball when a batter is hit by an errant pitch and charges the mound. Generally there is a lot of pushing and shoving, but only occasionally are there serious injuries. Carl Furillo of the Brooklyn Dodgers backed into a batting title in 1953 when his little finger was broken during a melee between the Dodgers and their archrivals the New York Giants. The incident occurred in early September, and Furillo, who was leading the league in hitting, was able

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Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Sports Heroes, Fallen Idols iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction xi
  • 1. the Need for Heroes 1
  • 2. the Psyche of the Athlete 17
  • 3. Baseball Gambling Scandals 33
  • 4. Football Gambling Scandals 58
  • 5. Basketball Gambling Scandals 69
  • 6. Self-Destructive Athletes 101
  • 7. Athletes and Violence toward Women 138
  • 8. Athletes and Murder 178
  • 9. Violence between Athletes 197
  • 10. Athletes’ Mental Health Problems 220
  • Epilogue 240
  • Notes 249
  • Index 265
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