Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bench-Clearing Brawl

A bench-clearing brawl, sometimes known as a basebrawl or a rhubarb, is a form of ritualistic fighting that occurs in sports, most notably baseball and ice hockey, in which both teams leave their dugouts, bullpens, or benches and charge the playing area in order to fight one another.

In baseball, brawls are usually the result of escalating infractions, often stemming from a player being hit by a pitch, or an altercation between a baserunner and infielder stemming from excessive contact in an attempted tag out (such as a runner crashing into the catcher at home plate in an attempt to dislodge the ball). They are also known to occur when a batter charges the mound. However, few bench-clearing brawls result in serious injury, as in most cases, no punches are thrown, and the action is limited to pushing and shoving.

Since a bench-clearing brawl by definition involves everyone on both teams, it is exceedingly unlikely that all participants will be ejected, but the player or players responsible for the precipitating event are almost universally ejected.

Fighting in ice hockey by enforcers is an established, if unofficial, part of the sport (especially in North America, where the penalty rules are more permissive); the general procedure in a one-on-one fight is to let it pan out and then send both players to the penalty box with five-minute major penalties. Bench-clearing brawls are more serious, and prohibited.

As in baseball, hockey brawls usually result from escalating infractions; in this case, dangerous hits, excessive post-whistle roughness, taking shots after the whistle, attacking the goaltender, and accumulated hatred from fierce competition in a game with a significant amount of condoned inter-player violence, all contribute to bench-clearing brawls.

In the National Hockey League the penalties include, in addition to in-game penalties, an automatic 10-game suspension and a fine of $10,000 for the first player to leave his bench or the penalty box to participate in a brawl; for the second player to leave his bench or the penalty box, the penalties include, in addition to in-game penalties, an automatic five-game suspension and a fine of $5,000.

Bench-clearing brawls have also been known to occur in other sports, and officials in those sports have been cracking down on such brawls; in 1995, the National Basketball Association changed the penalty for leaving the bench to participate in a brawl from a $500 fine to an automatic one-game suspension.

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