A fine example of what the game meant and how passionate those old time warriors were so many years ago, played out on a stage in Vancouver Saturday. By now, you have all seen the video of Joe Kapp and Angelo Mosca brawling on stage, at of all things a fund raiser for concussion research.
With sympathies to the organizers who actually were worried that the hatred still ran deep, they simply could not have seen to what extent was coming.
True, I laughed my butt off every time I watched it. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon were tame compared to this rendition of Grumpy Old Men. I could reserve my opinion on the incident and perhaps I should, except to say the following - I understand how it could happen.
Going back to the era and that is really where this all begins. Eye for an eye was the norm. Players played for less than flattering salaries and staying in the game was paramount, it was not only a job, it fed your families and it defined in many cases who you were.
When Hamilton’s Mosca drilled BC’s Willie Fleming a little late in the 1963 Grey Cup, the hit was considered dirty and was. In fact ten years later in a game some considered a show up and win game for Edmonton, Ottawa’s Wayne Smith clubbed Eskimo’s QB Tom Wilkinson with a late hit and Wilkinson was out for pretty much the remainder of the game, the Rough Riders won.
The anatomy of these hits comes from the mentality, that if their star player is knocked out of the game early, then he can’t hurt you, thus you increase your chances of winning. Joe Kapp can yell sportsmanship all he wants after the brawl, but that era didn’t know sportsmanship the way it is played today. This happened all the time back then. Yell, "Kill the Quarterback"
Today and you may get a visit from the police. In the 1960's, it was okay to spear an opponent head first and take early roughing penalties because winning was the bottom line. Need a refresher, look back to September 24 1972, Bobby Clark confirmed the win at all cost mentality when he broke Valerie Kharlamov’s ankle during game six of the Summit Series.
I think it was John Ferguson who whispered in Clark’s ear, "He is killing us, we need to take him out." The rest is history and we have come a long way since then, but to this day, there have to be Russian’s out there that may feel the same way about that deliberate hit.
Joe Kapp and Willie Fleming and Angelo Mosca obviously feel it today. Many who know me and who know about my father’s 17-year CFL career will know where I get the feeling for this column. I was in those dressing rooms during the early seventies and saw the hatred for the opposing teams, hit to hurt was a common shout. I saw the bruises, the scars and most of all the passion. I watched my dad play a handball (similar to racquet ball with no racquet) game shortly after he retired.
He not only won the game, he beat up his opponent mentally and at times with a bump or two. He had to win, they had to win. These old timers couldn’t sit out a game with a bump on the head, someone would take their job. Many wonder out loud, let it go, it was so long ago, yet the Mosca/Kapp incident proves that while the body may age and slow down, the warriors passion runs through the heart with every pumping beat of those very big hearts.
Make no mistake, the incident was embarrassing to both of these Hall of Famers, but it will get a lot of play, be criticized up and down and hopefully become one of those legendary moments that make the game so very special.
Don’t read this the wrong way, condoning violence is not the point, but maybe, just maybe that passion, might show kids today what it means to care about something so deeply, and that some things, you just never can let it go.