Back in 1997, champion boxer ‘Iron” Mike Tyson bit more than he could chew.
In the now famous incident which shocked the boxing world, Tyson bit a big chunk of the ear of his opponent Evander Holyfield. His claim the Holyfield had head-butted him during the bout which led to the incident was totally rejected.
Tyson was fined $3 million and escaped a ban. He lived to fight another day but the incident marred his career.
Then there was the great tennis player John McEnroe. The US tennis star was full of tantrums and abuse during his playing career. He threw his racquet, made faces, shouted at his opponents and umpires alike.
Some called it immature. Others said it was passion.
History has always judged McEnroe as among the greats. So is aggression a manifestation of passion in sport? In some cases yes but not all. The bad boys of tennis like Superbrat McEnroe and Jimmy Connors converted their aggression into results and won many titles.
They did not cause physical harm to anybody intentionally and hence it was probably their passion which led to such behaviour.
In the case of Tyson, there was actual physical harm which could not be condoned. This was hostile aggression and was dealt firmly by the authorities.
Soccer supremo Zinedine Zidane’s head-butt of Italian defender Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final of 2006 was certainly hostile and he was sent off with a red card. It was Zidane’s last match for France and a great career was blemished with this incident. Italy went on to win the World Cup, with Zidane’s absence affecting his team’s chances.
Zidane later said that it was a good thing that he was sent off as he would not have been able to live with it if he had not been punished and France had won.
In cricket, the act of bowling bouncers repeatedly to harm a batsman can also be termed as hostile aggression. The umpires have been directed to control the number of bouncers per over. But the bowlers skirt with danger and this was highlighted by the death of young Australian opener Philip Hughes
However, bad mouthing a player or sledging is harmless aggression probably with the aim of distracting a player’s concentration.
When Indian captain Virat Kohli walks on to the field in Ranchi today for the third Test against Australia, his behaviour will also be in sharp focus. The Australians have been after Kohli for what they term as bad behaviour. They should shut up.
The Australians have the biggest mouths in the business and they have turned sledging into a fine art. So when they get it back from India, they should accept it like the other teams do.
Kohli is passionate about cricket. He wants to do well in all aspects of the game. And if aggression is part of his makeup so be it. As far he does not overdo it, it is acceptable.
When it comes to overdoing, nothing can beat Russian tennis player Mikhail Youzhny.
The Russia was not making much headway in his match against Nicolas Almagro at the Miami Masters tournament in 2008. Frustrated by repeated setbacks, the aggressive Youzhny literally bashed his head with his racquet so badly a few times that blood began to trickle.
In Youzhny’s case, it did some good as he went on to win the match.