Shameful Displays

This weekend was a disgrace to the world of sports. Now, I’m not a huge NBA fan (as can be evidenced by my record in my fantasy Basketball league), but I’ll keep up with it during my daily perusal of the sports page. I’ve known of Ron Artest for a while – ever since Dennis Rodman left, Artest has taken it upon himself to be the next Bad Boy of the NBA (Kobe notwithstanding). His latest lunacy – wanting a month off to rest (5 days into the season) and promote his album was almost unbelievable. But his latest actions are beyond even that – and inexcusable.

To go after a fan in the stands – and the wrong fan, at that – is just asking for trouble. He’s a loose cannon who is making those around him behave in similar out-of-control ways. Not that Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal are choir boys, but I can’t think that they would have gone to that extreme without the bad influence of Artest on that team.

Was the NBA’s punishment harsh enough? In my opinion, yes and no. I think that Artest’s fits the crime, although I also would have understood him being thrown out of the league for good until he made an effort to reform (psychiatric help, anger management, church intervention, whatever). But I think that losing his whole salary will send a message to him and the rest of the league. Sure, he’ll have more time to promote his album and spend time with his kids (can you imagine the conversation with them about why Daddy was home all year?), but the impact to his bottom line is going to sting. Even worse is the sting that multiple lawsuits are going to do to his bank account.For Jackson and O’Neal, I think that the punishment is close although I wonder if perhaps season-long suspensions might have been justified for them as well. After all, BOTH of them participated in unprovoked attacks on fans. Sure, if Artest hadn’t over-reacted they would have never been in the stands ‘getting his back’. But they went into the stands and like Artest, hit the wrong people. In fact, O’Neal’s flying fisticuffs against someone trying to break up the fight are going to end up getting him in legal and criminal trouble. And those lawsuits are going to hurt them, too.

Man, those wallet-crushing settlements are going to leave a mark. So, too, will any criminal charges against at least 4 of those players. Whether any of them ever go to trial remains to be seen, but if the police and league are serious, they’ll make the charges and at least start the process. That isn’t to say that the fans are innocent here. In fact, several of them should be sitting in the jail WITH the NBA players – and face the same charges for their actions. Whomever threw that chair into the walkway deserves aggravated assault charges added to the list. The list will be long but far from complete, to be sure.

And the encore performance came from Lou Holtz’s last game at the University of South Carolina in a hotly-tested rivalry vs. Clemson. The pre-game antics should have been warning enough to get more security personnel ready for something after the game. That’s the security’s fault for not being prepared. But the way that both teams acted was ridiculous. Now, I’ve never been a Lou Holtz fan – but at least I think the guy knows how to play the game fairly. To see his team act that way was more akin to a Bowden team than a Holtz team. As for the players, I would hope that the university will stay out of the way of the police as they search out and charge ALL of the players involved – particularly those who ignored or threatened police and other peacemakers. How to punish the players? My suggestion – which will no doubt fall upon deaf ears – would be for the AD’s of both teams to pull their teams from any bowl contention this year. Take away that award for their efforts for the year – they obviously can’t behave themselves and should pay for it.

“But what about the players who worked so hard and didn’t get involved…”. Well, I don’t remember too many players sitting on the sidelines – it appeared that most – if not all – were out in the melee, thus making them all culpable. So, they should all pay for it by losing a chance to party at a bowl game. I mean, once the suspensions to the starters are handed out, who’s going to be left to play (that is, if the schools have the balls to actually suspend the main aggravators). But we all know the way that it will turn out – because of the paydays involved, a token set of players (most likely back-ups) will be suspended and the teams will go to the bowls. It’s a sick system, and no one will stand up against it.It makes me sad that you can punch a coach or a fan, or throw a cop aside and get suspended for a year (less once the union gets involved, probably) but bet on your sport and you’re gone for life or get caught with drugs SEVEN times and still get to play. Sad, sad, sad.

UPDATE I guess I was wrong – and right. Both Clemson and South Carolina have said that they will turn down any bowl bids because of Saturday’s brawl. I, like writer Pat Forde, think that they made the right decision.



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