There’s nothing like intentionally pelting an opponent with a 93-mile per hour fastball to heat up an already sticky sports rivalry. And that’s exactly what happened on Sunday, when Phillies’ pitcher Cole Hamels plunked Nationals’ outfielder Bryce Harper in the back with a pitch in the first inning. Hamels later admitted, with no apology, that he threw to hit, and his actions were simply “old school” protocol. He was slapped with a five game suspension and fined by MLB. The punishment seems arbitrary, at best, and left many wondering, “Is it enough?”
I’ve often asked myself why violence on a baseball field, basketball court or any other playing ground is treated any differently than the violence that occurs on the streets, amongst “regular” civilians. Why is Cole Hamels any different from the average Joe who picks up a hard object and throws it in the direct path of another human being? Why do we abhor the common assailant, yet feel a sense of allegiance to a member of our favored team who, essentially, is guilty of the same offense?
All I have deduced from contemplation of such questions is because we, as fans, allow it. We somehow interpret such behavior as the honorable defense of our team, our fan base and our hometown. We justify such acts by trying to reason that sports is a perpetual effort towards retaliation, and that people deserve to be mistreated simply because they support a team other than ours. It’s a vicious cycle when treated with such gravity and we, as fans, have it in our power to put an end to it.
Whether you’re a Nationals’ fan, a Phillies’ fan, a fan of a different team, or not a baseball fan at all, please do not condone Sunday’s events. Do not allow Hamels’ poor judgment to escalate the problem of uncivil, unfriendly rivalry. Keep in mind that his conduct not only could have resulted in the serious injury of an up-and-coming 19-year old who was just trying to do his job, but will likely create more hostility amongst the two organizations and their supporters. And this is something we at FAV desperately want to prevent.
While ultimately the Phillies defeated the Nationals 9-3, Bryce Harper managed to steal home after he was hit by Hamels’ pitch, a feat in its own right. When asked to comment about the incident, Harper simply said, “Hamels threw a great game tonight.” Perhaps these “old school” players can learn a thing or two about good sportsmanship and class from these young rookies.