Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Brawl, Redux

Well, I thought I was done with the Indiana/Detroit nonsense, but just when I thought I was out, ESPN's Skip Bayless pulls me back in.

This is just half-witted on so many levels. We'll take it in order:

1. He thinks we're overreacting. "It's not the end of sports as we know it," is his attitude. Well, that's the whole point: what if this is the beginning, the tip of an ugly iceberg? "Nobody died," he says. Should we wait until someone does, sir? Oh - TOO LATE. (Maybe Skip should read his own employer's website?)

2. "Artest's restraint." Oh, puh-leeze. "It clearly wasn't worth it" to trade blows with the much larger Ben Wallace. No kidding. I don't care much to know that Ron Artest's dad was a Golden Gloves champ who taught him to box. If anything, that means that Ron can accurately size up a potential foe and decide that, uh-uh, this isn't a good idea. Foul the guy from behind with a 15-point lead? Sure! Actually fight him? Ooops, better chase down some paunchy insurance salesman instead!

2-A. "Though Artest pushed the innocent fan, HE DID NOT STRIKE HIM." The emphasis is Skip's, as is the idiocy. In other words, the result of Artest's famed restraint is to charge the stands and manhandle the wrong guy. Then, Stephen Jackson has to come to his aid, all justified in Skip's mind because "What if a fan had pulled a knife or gun? Don't tell me some Artest-hater at the Palace wasn't armed."

First of all, assuming some hypothetical armed person is a bogus line of reasoning. If there were armed fans, they stayed uninvolved. Second, that slim possibility is one of the prime reasons that Artest should NOT charge the stands! The surest way to get a shooting or stabbing is to provoke the mysterious Armed Fan by physical assault. But no, "you couldn't condemn [Jackson] for rushing to his rescue." Again, Skip - he never should have needed it - he NEVER SHOULD HAVE LEFT THE COURT. But if all of that had come to pass and either Artest or Jackson were in a hospital (or worse) then what would you be saying?

3. Finally we reach an actual punch by Artest, which Skip assured us was "a tentative, downward jab. ... Artest's body language said, 'I know I shouldn't be up here and that I definitely shouldn't be throwing a punch at a fan.'" But golly, that thought didn't stop him, did it?

I guess that this divination of Artest's inner landscape jibes with Skip's advice at the top of the column: "Just this once, try watching the riot video with your brain instead of just your wide eyes." I'm sorry, but I can't help it, Skip - I see what's actually there. I can't emanate a penumbra from this sort of behavior.

4. Now we return to the court - and fans are there, following the players. "Fair game," Skip says, deadpan.

Let me wrap my brain around this, Skip: athletes in the stands are just protecting themselves from the armed hordes, but fans on the field of play are fair game? Have they paid for the privilege of being good little targets? You just can't have this both ways - that's why all the other major sports have walls between the talent and the paying customers.

4-a. Which reminds me - in Skip's words, "the most amazing part" of the brawl is when Artest slugs the fan and the fan doesn't go down. Everything else he apparently passed over as unremarkable, but wow, Artest couldn't cold-cock the guy with one shot! Disgusting attitude.

5. About the only thing Skip gets right is: "The Pistons should be ashamed." Darn tooting. And as I said below, there ought to be a stiff sanction to the Detroit franchise - I stick by my suggestion of barring them from national TV for the rest of the regular season. But instead of offering something substantive, Skip stops with his tsk-tsk. Maybe he should charge the owner's box or something.

6. At the end, Skip gets snooty, recalling sepearate incidents in Chicago.

First, Wrigley Field - a fan steals a Los Angeles Dodger's cap. Said Dodger goes after the fan to retrieve it, leading to a brawl in the stands. Second, Comiskey Park, where two thugs charged one of the Kansas City Royals' coaches. One was actually armed, but never gets the chance to use his weapon before being overwhelmed by players and security.

Those were worse, he says. "Please don't let any of these facts ruin your riot video," he sniffs.

Stuff it, Skippy. It's all of a piece. Fans don't belong on the field of play. Players don't belong in the stands. But there are two notable differences from the NBA incident, and those baseball fights: first, the baseball stadia had security on the scene quickly to break things up. Second, Major League Baseball does not embrace or incorporate gangsta thug image into its marketing strategies.

Besides, who said we ENJOYED any of those scenes?

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