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November 21, 2004 / gus3

Players Bad, Spectators Worse

I don’t usually comment on sports matters, because I put very little stock in the sports world. But now that the dust is settling after the NBA brawl, I’m putting on my contrarian gloves.

Four players suspended for fighting, four more for "deserting their posts." Of all the major professional sports, I had the least respect for basketball. After this incident, I know why. The players, the spectators, and the administration have all behaved badly. But I think Ron Artest behaved least badly of all. I’m not really sure who behaved worse, the Commissioner or the fans.

Artest was a victim of assault and battery. He was lying on a table, posing no threat to anyone in the arena. The video shows plainly that a spectator threw a cup at him. Apparently, nobody has considered that it could have cost Artest an eye. A harder projectile could have resulted in a broken nose or a fractured skull. Yet, no security moved to restrain the assailant. In any other sport, the players would have been sequestered while the crowd was brought under control. But in the "bad attitude" sport of basketball, keeping the players on exhibit was practically required. It was a recipe for disaster.

Artest stepped out-of-bounds when he punched the spectator. I don’t think it was worthy of suspension for the rest of the season. And I hope the assailant steps forward to press charges. Nothing would satisfy me more in this case than for Artest to press countercharges.

When the Commissioner made his ruling, "unanimous, one to nothing," I have to wonder if he’s on a power trip, or just has an axe to grind. He says that "players cannot lose control and move into the stands," but I have yet to hear anything saying that spectators have to let the players do their jobs.

Good luck, Ron. I hope you win your appeal.

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