By day, Richard B. Horrow is a law clerk to U.S. District Senior Judge George L. Hart Jr.
At night and on weekends, though, Rick Horrow is a self-admitted "sports nut" and "frustrated jock." He spends hours each week playing softball, racquetball, golf, tennis, squash and basketball.
He is also a man with a mission -- a cause that combines both his law school training and his sports hobby. He is one of a growing number of lawyers who are specializing in sports law.While other more traditional lawyers of his experience level are heading for firms that specialize in tax and antitrust work, he is going to a Miami firm mainly because he will be able to represent the Miami Dolphins football team and the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers soccer team.
Horrow's aim in life at this point is to get a federal law introduced and passed dealing with the growing problem of sports violence.
Before all you sports fans begin to groan and argue that the courts have no business dealing with sports issues, rest assured that Horrow has already heard all of those arguments. He's written a book called "Sports Violence: The Interaction between Private Lawmaking and the Criminal Law," has lectured on the topic and has discussed the issue with players and management officials for years.
First of all, the courts are already involved in sports issues. Various civil and criminal cases have arisen over sports problems -- and that is one of the difficulties Horrow sees, since those courts have been trying to apply traditional legal solutions in a haphazard way to issues as they arise.
Horrow is not against sports violence in the sense of any legitimate contact in highly physical athletic events. He would not haul a Redskins linebacker into court every time he tackles a Cowboys running back. He is against "cheap shot" artists who give the opposing players a forearm to the nose when the play is dead, however.
He has carefully crafted legislation that he is peddling on Capitol Hill to try to control the unnecessary sports violence problem, and has written reams of supporting material that makes a lot of sense after you surpress the initial reaction that sports should be left on the playing field and law left in the courtroom.
Horrow would make a player liable only if the alleged illegal act fits six criteria: It was inflicted in circumstances that showed a definite resolve to harm another, or negligent, reckless, deliberate or willful disregard for the safety of another; it is in violation of a safety rule of the game designed to protect players from injury; it occurs either after play is stopped or occurs without any reasonable relationship to the competitive goals of the sport; it is unreasonably and excessively violent, and beyond the generally accepted nuances and customs of the particular sport; it could not have been reasonably foreseen by the victim as a part of the normal risk in playing the sport, and results in contact that causes a significant risk of serious injury to the victim.
Some of the most publicized sports violence acts might not fit all those criteria, Horrow noted, and prosecution might only occur once or twice a year if at all. However, he is looking for the "symbolic effect" that would follow if the federal government took a strong stand on the issue.
"It will make the game safer for everyone," he said. "This defines (unnecessary violence), while the present law is confusing."
He said athletes, former athletes, player representatives and player associations would benefit from a statute that would symbolically criminalize the most repugnant conduct. He also points out the society as a whole would benefit because young athletes and sports fans who look to professionals for example "must be taught that repugnant violence is intolerable and illegal."
"Researchers have found that if violence is condones in one, albeit specialized, segment of society, it becomes more likely that violence will increase in other parts of society," Horrow added.
He continued, "No segment of society can be licensed to break the law with impunity. The operation of law does not stop at the ticket gates of any sporting event."
Horrow, who went through Harvard Law School reading sports box scores along with his constitutional law books, knows that many segments of the sports community view him as some sort of zealot. But he has surveyed more than 1,400 sports figures and talked to scores of them in person and believes he has won many converts.
He hopes to win many more. As he looks at it, the sports violence problem is not going to go away by itself because the leagues do little more than pay lip service to complaints about violence in sports.
If nothing is done, Horrow adds, the result will be clear to him and thousands of other "sports nuts -- we risk further deterioration of the sports we cherish."