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Of anger and chocolate milk


Some sports fans are disgusted when players fight, but they really ought to appreciate its significance.

When Montreal's Nevio Pizzolitto punched Rochester's Lenin Steenkamp in the face as they headed to the locker room during the Rhinos' 2-0 win on August 27, it indicated passion. I don't care whether Pizzolitto cheap-shotted Steenkamp, or Steenkamp provoked and deserved it. The game meant so much to both players, they felt it was necessary to get involved in a physical fracas. We should at least respect that passion, even if it was channeled in a manner utterly lacking sportsmanship.

Fighting is passion in its crudest form. Until now, you might have struggled explaining to little Johnny exactly why two men playing a sport other than boxing are beating each other up. Today, you can tell him they're just proving how great their desire is to be victorious.

Yankees right-handed pitcher Kevin Brown is no exception: he fought a wall and lost following a cruddy outing vs. the Orioles Friday. The wall broke Brown's left hand; he punched it in abject frustration. He'll possibly miss the remaining season.

Stupid? Certainly. But, my goodness, you absolutely have to admire the passion that would make someone do that.

When I was a teenager, I had a John McEnroe-like temper, and I wanted to beat everyone in everything I played. I was not a superior athlete, but a competitor.

I'd get really upset if I lost to my friends in one-on-one basketball, neighborhood hockey, or video games. I'd throw things, swear, pout, hack away at their hands and feet, or fight. I was a total spaz.

One time, I flipped my friend's coffee table over because I was losing at Atari Super Challenge Football. One time, I blessed his house with chocolate milk --- which has nothing to do with anything --- and man, were his parents ever angry. The priesthood never called after that.

Once, my older brother beat me in basketball and I threw the ball at him. It accidentally hit his girlfriend instead, which still felt satisfying, because she kind of got on my nerves anyway. My parents grounded me and I missed going with my friends to Glens Falls for the McQuaid basketball state championship that Greg Woodard's team won in 1988. That was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and when I remind my dad of that now, he admits the punishment didn't fit the crime.

In retrospect, he didn't care for my brother's girlfriend either, I guess.

These days, you'll be happy to know I'm more mature, and that I know the importance of maintaining composure to think clearly in all situations. It's rare when people can explode and still effectively contribute to whatever they're doing.

Often, people say fights are started by "bad blood," a condition that has existed for a while between Rochester and Montreal's soccer teams.

Someone needs to call the American Red Cross to get it cleaned up right away --- it's a potential international catastrophe. Tom Ridge, if you're reading, and I know you are, we've got to stop this bad blood. We just don't know where it's going to lead.

By the way, does anyone know where the Rhinos' Paetec Park developments are leading? Team owner Frank DuRoss told me in the summer that work would start in August. Now it's September and little has been done.

One concern is that if they begin building so they can play in the stadium next season, workers will have to pour concrete almost immediately after the first shovels hit the dirt. Concrete won't set when the temperature is below 40 degrees, and sadly, from November through March, Rochester's average temperature is below 40 degrees.

When Monroe County rushed to finish Frontier Field in 1995-1996, workers poured concrete in the winter, and it ended up needing repairs before the Red Wings opened their first season there in '97. The concrete in the upper parts of the stadium had started cracking.

The Rhinos almost have to pray for a mild winter, or else they'll be playing at Frontier Field again.

If they like, I could bless their stadium site with chocolate milk.