"The player who retaliates is the one who gets caught."
This is a mantra repeated by youth sports coaches as they attempt to dissuade players from allowing themselves to be baited into fighting. It doesn't speak to fair play or sportsmanship, rather it's a cynical warning that the player who stands up for him- or herself is far likelier to be noticed by the referee than the one instigating the conflict.
Anyone looking to justify this theory need only look as far as the "Monday Night Football" meeting between the Ravens and Jaguars. Early in the third quarter of the Jaguars' surprising 12-7 win over the Ravens, Baltimore linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo was ejected from the game after retaliating against Jacksonville tackle Guy Whimper.
After the Ravens stuffed a Jags running play for no gain, the much larger Whimper seemed to have a meaty arm paw locked up around the face of Ayanbadejo, who did not take this lightly. The smaller linebacker tried to detach himself from Whimper but ended up getting a bit carried away, turning his self-defense into an ejection-worthy offense.
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The ensuing penalty set the Jags up inside the five-yard line, but they would ultimately settle for another field goal by Josh Scobee.
Although he made clear to the Baltimore Sun that he intends to fight the coming fine, Ayanbadejo seems to think that the manner he handled Whimper's provocations are indicative of the way that he has always approached the game.
"But I wish I had the wherewithal to not be such a scrappy guy, but that's what I am," Ayanbadejo told the Baltimore Sun. "I've always been the underdog, I've always been a fighter, I’ve always had to fight for everything that I've ever had. That's just the way that I'm built. I wish I did have the wherewithal to do it differently."