Monday, November 22, 2004

Pacers Pistons Rumble

By now most people interested in sports have seen the footage of the end of the Indianapolis Pacers/Detroit Pistons game from Friday night. Most have seen Pacers player Ron Artest fly into the stands to start beating on several fans in reaction to a cup that was thrown at him. Most have seen the reaction of the fans who also got out of control. Most have seen later in the sequence of events when Artest and Jermaine O'Neal back on the court by now both cold cock a fan. And most saw the fans rain drinks, popcorn and other foods onto these same Pacers when they were leaving the arena returning to the locker room.

Some of the reaction by the media was to quickly blame Detroit. I have lived most of my life in the Detroit area and get quite annoyed by the reputation the city has across the country. The Detroit area is basically just like any other metropolis, violence is part of the lifestyle and Detroit is no different than New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, etc. What is sad is the statement I just made, "violence is part of the lifestyle." But what does Detroit have in common with the other cities I mentioned besides being big metro cities? They are in America. You see, violence is part of the lifestyle of America. The United States is one big angry country and we tend to act on that anger in violent ways.

We also are a driven country, driven by the greed for money and success. We are taught to be this way. We are taugh in school and TV advertising that we can be whatever we want to be, that if we work hard enough we will achieve individual success. We are NOT taught that we might not be what we dream about, that we might not be successful, that others will gain what they want but not everyone will. We are not taught that success is actually very elusive and being rich is even more rare. We are also taught that in competition (sports, business, any type of competition) "winning is everything" and "losing is for losers."

In that near riot of a basketball game, the media has been blaming various elements. The referees, the didn't get control of the situation after the hard foul by Artest and the bad reaction of Piston Ben Wallace who pushed Artest with two hands. The security, for not preventing the players from going into the stands or not stopping the fans from throwing things. Ron Artest and the other players for breaking NBA rules and entering into the stands to retaliate. The coaches, for not controlling their players. The sale of alcohol, for contributing to poor fan behavior.

I could place blame in a little of each of those things, but I blame America and our self serving attitudes. In pro sports it has become mostly about money, making lots of it. The players and owners are millionaires and act the part of egotistical, better than anyone, brats. The fans pay big fees these days just to attend a game, just for the "delight" of being in close proximity to the players. The media makes big bucks broadcasting the games of these pampered egomaniacs playing for business multi-millionaires who were athletic wannabees but couldn'tbees.

Pro sports has become just another money grubbing business, but even worse a business that allows another business of poor repute to thrive, gambling. Every game has millions and even billions of dollars riding on it. America has more gambling going on than ever in its history and sports gambling is one of the biggest contributers to the totals.

Ron Artest was suspended for the rest of the season (73 games) and lost $4,994,737 in salary. Jermaine O'Neal was suspended 25 games and lost $4,106,250 in salary. The Pacer suspensions will end up costing the franchise money as well. Without these star players participating in games they will end up losing more games and thus probably some paying fans. The season will more than likely not be as successful because they will have trouble placing themselves in a good spot for the playoffs, which is more dollars for the franchise. The more playoff series that a franchise participates in the more money they make.

Further we can blame the NBA for a money grubbing feature. They like to have those high priced courtside seats. The NBA has never cared whether those seats are so close to the court that players routinely go flying into them attempting to save the ball from going out of bounds. The NBA cares more about the dollars earned from those courtside seats than whether a player or fan gets seriously hurt when the game actually enters into the crowd. Dollar signs are just too important.

The basketbrawl was no surprise to me, it is bound to happen in America. Just the next day a big fight broke out at the South Carolina/Clemson football game that involved a mass of players from both teams. The sixth game of the Red Sox/Yankees baseball series this past October had New York fans throwing baseballs onto the field. I can remember the snowball football game in New York when Giants fans hurled snowballs at players throughout the game. The opposing teams (San Diego Chargers) equipment manager was knocked unconscious by an iceball. Earlier this year a baseball fan was bloodied by a chair thrown by Anaheim Angels relief picher Frank Francisco. Two years ago a father and his son leaped onto the field at a baseball game and assaulted the first base coach of the Kansas City Royals. This list could go on.

The best explaination I can come up with is simply, this is America. The country of greed and violence. The land of money and fierce competition. The selfish, covetous, bitter, hateful, savagery that Americans can exhibit from sea to shining sea. I don't watch sports much anymore and haven't attended a sporting event in years. I just don't care about millionaires that are paid by multi-millionaires playing in front of drunk worshippers of false idols while the gamblers play on. Sure there is some good in sports, but the bad stands out way too much these days.

And ps...Professional hockey can stay on strike forever. Millionaire players striking millionaire owners, who cares who wins.



Blogger Foston said...

A deeply cynical view. However one I am beginning to share. The money is the issue. The hatred is the issue.

However. The players who play professional sports are people. They have families, and they have have sought to excel at what they do. Athletes are people who work hard at being fit. Baseball player learn the complex game of Baseball.

The professional sports they participate in do not necessarily reflect who they are, what they believe in, who they care about, or how they use their wealth and status.

The brawl in Detroit (BTW, good comments on stereotyping of Detroit) just reflect those players who are in a system that allows violence to persist. It gets them press, and no press is bad press. Players who are enforcers are more closely followed than those who play a straight game. But, those who just love the game, while not garnering good press coverage, usually don't care. They just want to play the game that they love and are good at.

That being said, I agree that America is a F*cking blood thristy gang looking for the latest chopped head. We have an evil desire to watch *just* how out of hand it can get. We are to blame for Hockey's lack of discipline, because it is we who want to watch the fight. Basketball, which competes for coverage from the press (which is dedicated to negativity), has been steadily getting more volent to compete. Some people, I would imagine, go to see if Ben WAllace and Ron Artest are going to go at it. They should go to a cock fight instead. Their blood thirsty desire and the press's willingness to give America what it wan't makes me sad.

I love watching Baseball (despite the occasional fights, bean balls, Texas Rangers Francisco throwing the chair at a fan, etc) and think it can be quite inspiring when huge media Ego's are out of the way.

Money and Greed aside, you cant lump all players together. There are plenty of people that just want to play the game. And when they do, I don't mind watching them. It beats fraggin guys on Enemy Territory once in awhile.


3:57 PM  
Blogger jon said...

I would agree with much of what you say. There are certainly many professional athletes that play just for the fun of it and exhibit proper conduct. Tashawn Prince of the Pistons for instance was the only player from both teams who stayed on the bench in the initial pushing match.

But yes I am cynical.

Hmmm, I'm going to write a regular post to finish up my thought. See todays post.

1:10 PM  

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