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“I have never seen a fight like that in a game since I was in high school…Man, there are going to be some lawsuits. You don’t think some of those fans aren’t going to want some NBA money?”
— Quentin Richardson of the Phoenix Suns
With regard to last night’s Pacers vs. Pistons fisticuffs, while we’re waiting for the great Dave Zirin to weigh in…I’d like to put my two cents in on two points.
First of all, a lot of people don’t know that bastketball originated out of concern for creating a milder sport (relative to bruising football) which could be played indoors. During its early stages, full courts were ringed by cages of a sort, designed to keep fans –used to throwing things other than the mere phonetic slings– from creating a fray…and then entering into it physically. At the very beginning, players could use the fences during play…and stay within the rules.
The rules. Wow.
It’s not just the money alluded to in my opening quote from the Phoenix Suns star that’s bending parameters for players and fans alike. Greed, manifested in many ways, paves the way for crumbling contests on the court, but our national violent streak has much more to do with the tears we’re crying this morning.
Spilled blood is so much spilled milk to us. Not really worth crying over. Our public lament is much more of…the obligatory kind. We must go through the paces of pointing fingers at the Pacers’ Artest, arrest this one and that one. Charge up the media pistons with a Scott Peterson level of drama for Gretta Van Sustern to tsk-tsk about legally.
C’mon, sports fans, this is the Land of Hockey Fights Forever. Let’s at least acknowledge that a helluva lot of paying customers want to spill out onto the court…are relishing the breakdown of barriers. Those hockey see-throughs don’t quite do it anymore. do they?
I mean, video games on your fingertips and a distant bloodletting in Mesopotamia via the media…don’t really cut the mustard for our Coloseum crowd.
If I were wrong about the above, there are two rules which the NBA could institute to set things straight vis-a-vis Friday’s outbreak.
One, if a player felt that excessive force were used against him on the court…x number of times a game refs could resort to a video playback for confirmation. Guilty parties could be ejected post haste, stiff fines imposed, and all sorts of financial ripples might follow. The consequences could be such that calling the death penalty a deterrent would be employing very loose language.
Two, entering the stands or going onto the court could easily be made verboten. Let’s use our imaginations, yes?
Attitudinally, nothing of the sort was adopted/nothing of the sort was in place when a Texas Ranger player threw a chair into the stands at Oakland this past season. There, when the dust settled, a misdemeanor was the charge…and something like 14 games was the penalty. On these occasions, no big money ever exchanges hands in a way that’ll make a difference…for the next time.
And you can count on things getting worse both on and off the court…on this count.
Our culture. Our wars. What came first, the chicken or the egg? That’ll be driven into the ground this week along with if you’re viewing and listening.
Personally, I can’t see past the flag they’re waving, and I’m deaf to the verbal masturbation.
RICHARD OXMAN, a former sports fan, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.