by Arnie Burke, North Texas USSSA State Director

North Texas USSSA is instituting a ZERO TOLERANCE policy regarding fighting in any USSSA-sanctioned event.

Basically, the policy will be that anyone involved in a fight (either on or off the field in a USSSA-sanctioned event) will be suspended IMMEDIATELY FROM ANY FURTHER PLAY for a period of time to be determined by the State Director. That period of time will be determined after, and only after, the State Director receives in his possession, any and all information regarding the incident from the tournament director, umpires, coaches, etc. I'll be honest ... it's taken me close to two weeks to get all the information from the Carrollton and Mesquite incidents ... so for any type of violation, a player is probably looking at a minimum of pretty close to month of softball activity ... now that we're into May, and the NIT season is upon us, an extended period of inactivity from a team's 'star' players could seriously jeopardize a team's chances of national or world tournament play ... in addition, any player has the right to appeal the State Director's ruling, as set out in the USSSA Constitution. So think about what you're doing. Do you want to play softball or fight???? If you're caught fighting in a game, you're suspended
immediately and indefinitely ... no questions asked!

There is NO ROOM for fighting in the game of softball ... PERIOD! If someone attacks a player without provocation, that's one thing ... however, if a player responds to trash talking with some of his own, well, the result is what happened in Carrollton and Mesquite. I've already been asked the question of a player defending himself ... I find it rare to think that one player
would attack another player without provocation ... if you think back, it usually starts with one player making a comment to a player on the other team, he responds, someone gets mad, it builds up over an inning or two, the next time that player has a chance, another comment is made, there's a response, and sooner or later ... boom! It's on!

I know how one team trash talks and the other team thinks it's their 'duty' to respond, usually to protect their image or manhood. However, stop and think ... if a team trash talks and the other team doesn't respond, then the trash talking usually stops! But if one team trash talks and the other team responds in kind, as I said before, the situation becomes volatile! And guess what? "He started it" isn't a defense ... it takes more of a man to be able to ignore what is said and play the game that it does to respond in kind to the trash talk! If you trash talk back, you're just as 'guilty' as the other player. As far as egos, well, that's another thing ... everyone's got an ego ... some bigger than others, true!

Softball is a game ... a competitive one, for sure ... but still a game! When it becomes the 'launching pad' for physical violence, then it's gone to far! And unless I'm asked to step down as the North Texas State Director by the 'powers that be,' I'll do everything I can do to keep it a game.

Just remember ... if you fight, you're going to be sitting out for a period of time to be determined, depending upon the facts of the incident. And your entire team is going to be placed on probation, since, according to the USSSA Code of Conduct, it is up to the coach and all the players on a team to be responsible for the actions of their teammates. If a coach says he can't
control a player, then he has a choice ... either get rid of that player or figure out a way to control him. If a team on probation
is involved in another incident, that team will, in all likelihood, be suspended from playing for the remainder of the year, or longer, depending upon the circumstances.

I'm also going to be asking each Area/Park Director to have his umpires become more conscious of the amount of trash talking that goes on and do everything in their power to put a stop to it! If an umpire takes control of a game early, then both teams should do what they do best ... play the game! If an umpire fails to do so, then they, too, could be in line for some type of
disciplinary action.

Why this step? Two reasons ... the first I've already stated, there's no room for fighting in this game. And two, because of liability reasons, if a player gets in a fight at a complex one weekend, and no disciplary action is taken, and then later in the year, he gets in a fight again and some one is seriously hurt, the complex, the tournament director, the umpires, the state
directors, the players, the City (I could go on and on ...) will be in line for a lawsuit. That wouldn't happen, you say? It already is happening, today, here in Texas and across the country.

I'll expect each director to forward any and all information, as detailed as possible, about any incident that occurs at your complex. I'd prefer, in that situation, to receive a phone call. I really don't want to be told by someone else on Monday that there was a fight at your complex on Saturday. Your information should include statements from both umpires, with player
information (Example: #3 Blue and #17 Red were involved in a fight ... #22 Blue came out of the dugout with a bat ... #15 Red ran in from right field all the way to third base and joined the fracas) ... who was ejected? why were they ejected? fighting? profanity? were police called? was there a police report? I hate that it has to be like that, but what else can we do ... in addition, this information needs to be forwarded to me in a timely manner ... let your teams know that this policy is in effect! Tell them what's going to happen if they fight! And then stick to your guns! If a guy gets ejected by an umpire for 'trash talking' after being warned by the umpires, back your guys up! The guy's ejected ... no ifs, ands or buts! Tell him he had fair warning ... in fact, stress to your umpires to give both teams their ONLY warning in a prename! Stress that each coach takes it back to their team and explains it. Will they? Probably not ... but if we do our job, and stick together, then there's only one person to
blame ... the player!

Let's get back to where the game is just that ... a game! We're not the WWF or NWO ... if people want to fight, let 'em go to another association.

Again, I welcome your input.

Arnie Burke
North Texas USSSA
State Director
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