It seems political debate and confrontation in this country have turned into a hockey brawl.

Gloves off. A bunch of folks hammering away.

Bricks thrown at windows. Awful words. Threats of violence. Folks firing away verbally from entrenched partisan camps. A lot of people trying to turn gray areas in to black-and-white issues.

It makes you wonder what folks in Afghanistan and Iraq are thinking about our "civilized and democratic society," something so many men and women in uniform are serving so faithfully and giving their utmost to protect.

Trash talking and violence in politics is mirroring what we see in the darkside of athletics. In both sectors, emotions are difficult to control. A friend recently noted a scene at a basketball game in which a friend of his, a peaceful, non-violent, turn-the-other-cheek Quaker of the highest regard, got up from his seat and yelled (stunning everyone), "Kill those referees!"

There’s a violent element that has been part of political culture and sports culture forever. Modern communication and technology have certainly exacerbated the angst and fueled the fire.

I’m reminded of a situation of a similar political/sports tangling of emotions that occurred while I was in college in 1969.

That was a year in which protests concerning involvement in the Vietnam War and the role of government concerning that became intense and violent. It was also the year the "Amazing Mets" made a remarkable run to the World Series championship.

I was at the student newspaper offices on the third floor of our building. In a courtyard area below, there was a protest going on about the war. There was also, naturally, a counter protest.

There was nothing major. By the protest models of the day, this was pretty mild.

But the language and the anger of fellow students — and some faculty — yelling at each other wasn’t.

I was alternately watching what was happening below and viewing the fifth game of the World Series between the Mets and the heavily favored Orioles. The Mets led, three games to one, and were battling to wrap things up.

About the middle of the game, the leader of the protest below came upstairs to give our reporters his side of the confrontation. A few minutes later, his rival from the opposite philosophical camp arrived to do the same thing.

After one had finished, he noted the television.

"Is that the Series?" he said. "I hope the Mets win."

He was invited to hang around and watch the finish of the game.

A few minutes later, his rival poked his head in the room with the television and asked, "Are the Mets winning? I sure hope so."

"You for the Mets?" asked his rival.

"This year, I am," he said.

So both of these political rivals, who had been at each other’s throats politically and philosphically for a month, sat within a few feet of each other and turned all their attention to a baseball game. And they cheered — and shouted at the umpires — with one voice.

When the Mets held on for a 5-3 victory to win the Series, both of them rose to their feet, shouted and jumped up and down, celebrating with a lot of us.

"Those Mets are amazing," one said.

"Yeah, just amazing," said his rival.

What was also amazing was how they exited, walking down the hall and the stairs with smiles and talking about an unbelievable achievement.

There was still a political and psychological gulf between them.

But they left on common ground.

And for both, the walk seemed to feel pretty good.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or