Some fans just can't get enough of them, while others complain they are destroying sports.
But pacifist or hawk, when bench-clearing brawls are replayed over and over on sports highlight shows, fans stay glued to the couch in sheer delight or abject horror.
Last weekend, like most weekends, the ugly side of sports was on full display.
In one of the more bizarre melees in recent memory, Harrison Waid, the punter for San Jose State's football team, was ejected from Saturday's game against the Minnesota Gophers. Hammered to the turf after a kick, Waid jumped up and tried to fight almost every player on the Gophers, who delivered a 43-24 butt-kicking.
Here's what an ESPN analyst said of the punter's pugilistic efforts: "He might be the first kicker to ever be ejected for a fight -- and it wasn't a good fight."
In a wild pre-season game Sunday between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres, even the goalies dropped their gloves in a donnybrook that resulted in 239 minutes in penalties.
Observed the Globe and Mail's Robert MacLeod: "It was a brawl that featured Toronto's Phil Kessel swinging his stick like a lumberjack in a tree-chopping competition."
The tragic truth is brawls have fought their way into sports infamy. Here are five worthy of the Hall of Shame:
1111The fight night: May 30, 1932
Let's get ready to rumble: The website Askmen.com says the most memorable basebrawl involved famously fiery umpire George Moriarty and the Chicago White Sox. Moriarty was behind the plate for a game in Cleveland when the Sox questioned his calls, prompting the grumpy ump to insist on settling things under the stands. Sox pitcher Milt Gaston was up first and got knocked out, so more Sox piled on, forcing another umpire, Bill Dinneen, to step in and break up the fracas. Which is when Moriarty reportedly roared: "You stay out of this, Bill! This is my fight. Now who else thinks I'm yellow?" No one did.
The decision: Moriarty got a public reprimand and the Chicago players were fined or suspended.
1111The fight night: Nov. 19, 2004
Let's get ready to rumble: What The Associated Press called "the most infamous brawl in NBA history" began with a minor skirmish at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Michigan. With only a minute left in the game, Indiana Pistons star Ron Artest -- yes, that would be the genius now known as Metta World Peace -- fouled Detroit Piston Ben Wallace, who retaliated with a shove. The flaky Artest was lying on the scorer's table to protest his ejection when a beer thrown by a fan landed on his chest, prompting him to jump into the stands and, reportedly, punch the wrong fan. Other fans and players joined in the frenzy. Nine fans were hurt, with two taken to hospital.
The decision: Commissioner David Stern, who was at the game, suspended Artest for the 2004-05 season, 86 games, the longest suspension in league history.
1111The fight night: Dec. 9, 1977
Let's get ready to rumble: The horror began when Houston Rockets star forward Rudy Tomjanovich raced to the aid of a teammate during an on-court brawl with the L.A. Lakers. Spotting Tomjanovich out of the corner of his eye, Kermit Washington spun and delivered a vicious roundhouse to his face, knocking him to the floor in a pool of blood. Recalled Laker legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: "I didn't see it but I heard it. It sounded like a melon that had been dropped on the floor."
The decision: Spinal fluid leaking from his brain, Tomjanovich almost died. Washington was fined $10,000 and suspended. Tomjanovich publicly forgave him.
1111The fight night(s): March 13 and 17, 1955
Let's get ready to rumble: According to the historical website of the Montreal Canadiens, on March 13 the Bruins' Hal Laycoe hit the legendary Maurice "Rocket" Richard in the head with his stick. In the ensuing melee, Richard bloodied the face of a linesman and was suspended for the rest of the season and playoffs by NHL president Clarence Campbell. Four days later, Campbell unwisely showed up at Montreal's home game against Detroit, where he was pelted with eggs. The Forum was evacuated when a tear-gas bomb exploded. Outside, a full-scale riot erupted, injuring dozens and causing damaged pegged at about $850,000 in 2013 dollars.
The decision: The Canadiens forfeited the game after one period and Richard appealed for calm on the radio.
1111The fight night: Jan. 4, 1987
Let's get ready to rumble: Hockey fans are still arguing whether this was our darkest day or finest hour. A bench-clearing brawl erupted during the final game of the World Junior Hockey Championships in Piestany, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia) between Canada and the Soviets. With minutes left in the second period, and Canada in the medal hunt, a Soviet player slashed Theo Fleury, sparking a fight. Another Soviet left the bench to help a teammate being pummelled by Mike Keane, later captain of our Manitoba Moose. Twenty minutes of sheer mayhem ensued and, unable to halt the violence, the officials walked off the ice and the arena lights were shut off, leaving players to duke it out in the dark.
The final decision: Both teams were kicked out of the tournament -- but at least Don Cherry was happy.