Tomorrow, at long last, Russ and I get to do that voodoo that we do, and record another EconTalk. The subject is a little different from what we have done in the past: Sports rules and equipment.
The claim is that there are three moving parts: Equipment, formal rules, and informal rules.
If you try to change one thing, such as allowing an equipment change, you get a bunch of unintended and possibly bad consequences.
So, should fighting be allowed? Well, in some sports ( chess, golf--unless you are Sergio Garcia--, tennis) fights are almost unknown. In some sports (basketball, soccer, football), a fight means you are ejected. But in some sports, particularly baseball and hockey, fighting is an important check on other kinds of violence. In particular, I found this quote from Gordie Howe, one of the best hockey players ever: "If you get rid of fighting, you are going to get more of the dirty play. Let them fight, and get rid of all of the stickwork." The point is, the threat of retaliation in the form of humiliation, rather than eye-for-an-eye physical damage, makes the game safer.
Of course, the "fighting" can be stylized. Here is a baseball brawl from a game in South Korea.
This kind of fighting is of course well known in the animal world, in dominance displays:
On the other hand, it is possible for a baseball fight to be an actual fight. Most famously, Ray Knight v. Eric Davis. (Full disclosure: I really, really hated Ray Knight, and thought Eric Davis was not treated fairly here. The whole thing was that jerk Knight's fault. Go Reds, Dutch Boy).
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