Every single Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, I listen to Barstool’s Pardon My Take podcast. It’s part of my daily ritual.
In several episodes over the years, Big Cat, one of the show’s hosts (and father of two), has proposed that each major sports league institute a new rule:
Many of you may immediately dismiss this idea, and I get it: it’s chaotic. But hear me - it’s 2022. We live in the era of postmodernism, and everything should be questioned. I’ve spent the last four years taking liberal arts classes to “expand my horizons” and develop the ability to “objectively and critically analyze ideas”. Today, I’m finally going to put those skills to good use. It’s time to analyze whether this rule is ethical and whether it would solve problems for fans and professional leagues.
Before We Dive into the Deep End, Let's Put on Our Floaties
The first question worth asking of the One Fight Rule is whether or not it is even ethical, or right. The word “ethical” has about as many meanings as Buccee’s has urinals. Depending on who you ask, an action may be described as ethical if it is considered fair, just, or adherent to a law or set of rules. For the sake of simplicity, let’s choose one lens to look through; I’m writing the article, so I get to choose (and yes, that’s ethical): I choose fairness.
For the One Punch Rule, the question of fairness is vitally important. And to accurately analyze whether the rule would promote fairness, we need to discuss the history of fans vs. players, and how the relationship between the two plays out at sporting events.
Fans vs. Players: like Oil and Water
Fandom is a great thing. It provides billions of people with joy, identity, and purpose, and it drives the performance of athletes, giving them an extra reason to perform their best. But every beautiful thing has a dark side, and sports fans are no different.
Fans can be straight-up awful to players - especially opponents. The past few weeks have served as a reminder of this fact, with Kyrie Irving’s ugly return to Boston and Myles Straw’s run-in with Yankee fans representing a growing tension between fans and players.
Maybe players shouldn’t really be bothered; they get paid millions of dollars to play a game, and they have to be used to insults playing sports their whole lives. But this argument ignores the human element of players; they have the same feelings, insecurities, and anxieties the rest of us fans have, and they are placed on a pedestal and expected to act perfect. Anytime they lash out at fans, players become villains and face consequences from their teams and leagues.
Players are powerless in this dynamic, and it creates a rift that can bubble over into truly embarrassing moments for tems.
What’s Fair, Anyways?
Fans are generally allowed to say and do anything to players with zero consequences. Sure, some fans face consequences - like the ones who spit on Trae Young and insulted Nurkic’s grandma - but it doesn’t happen often.
The ethical problem here is that the playing field between the two parties is clearly unfair. In Nurkic’s case, any reasonable person would consider it fair for Nurk to approach the fan post-game and express his frustrations, but this is not how it works in the NBA. He was fined $40K for the incident, and while we don’t know what happened to the fan, it almost certainly wasn’t $40K worth of damage.
Sports leagues are choosing to punish the response to the issue rather than the issue itself - which isn’t actually solving anything. Rather, the tension between fans and players festers, and we see players’ emotions continue to spill over.
The One Fight Rule - A Potential Fix
With that background in mind, let’s take a look at Big Cat’s “One Fight” rule.
Big Cat is attempting to eradicate the unfair aspects of the fan-player relationship, and the rule could provide several benefits to sports as a whole.
First, the rule could improve the quality of sports games, period. The players, knowing they have their one annual fight in their back pockets at all times, would play looser and be less sensitive to smaller, more trivial insults.
Second, fans would be forced to respect players in a new way. I think most people would argue that trash talk is a good thing; when done right, it motivates players, points out their flaws, and makes the experience of going to games way more fun. But fans would be less willing to cross the line from trash talk to disrespect, and some of the toxic elements of sports environments could be eliminated given fan’s newfound fear of the players. It’s hard for some idiot in the third row to yell a racist comment if he knows that Myles Garrett might overhear him and legally deck him in the parking lot.
Third, this rule would add a new level of suspense to every sports game. Imagine the Rays are up 9-0 on the Blue Jays in the bottom of the 8th. In today’s world, the only people still watching this game would be gamblers and the most dedicated of fans. But with the One Fight Rule, people have a new reason to watch. The prospect of a crazy player-fan fight is always on the table, and the entertainment is truly never over. What does this mean? Boosted ratings, more sports fans, and more viral moments for the sports. Everyone wins.. right?
It’s Not All Sunshine and Haymakers
Before we officially write up this rule and send it to Goodell, Silver, and Manfred, we have to acknowledge some of the obvious flaws in this plan. They aren’t death sentences, but there are definitely some finer points to work out.
First, the point of this rule is not to eliminate trash talk at games. However, if fans are too scared to say anything, that very well may happen. If a fan catches the wrong player on the wrong day, a simple “boo” might result in a serious punishment. Why should fans run the risk of angering a player with any sort of negative comment? Trash talk is one of the best parts of being a fan, and this rule could put the state of trash talk in jeopardy.
Second, a player could use this rule whenever they want, which may result in some serious abuses of their free fight pass. Without regulation, a player could fight a fan for no reason at all.
Imagine JJ Watt, on the last weekend of the season, realizes he still hasn’t used his one fight pass for the year. At this point, he can look up in the stands, select a completely innocent person (potentially even a child), and unleash fury on them.
Players confronting disrespectful fans is a bad look for sports leagues, but not nearly as bad as JJ Watt punching a baby.
Lastly, there is at least the potential for a fan to beat an athlete in a fight. While this aspect of the situation definitely promotes fairness, it would only worsen the animosity of athletes toward fans.
But, is this actually a downside? It would be objectively hilarious to watch a pro athlete get pieced up by some mid-40’s office worker from Pittsburgh. Again, this aspect of the relationship would increase entertainment value and keep people tuning into less meaningful games.
What do you think? Is the One Fight rule fair? Is it even possible to implement with all the potential consequences? Let us know in the comments below!
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