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weighing in on the sports issue

And the hits keep coming. Google hits, that is. Since the horror show that was the Pacer/Pistons game on Friday night, I've gotten about 500 hits from people looking for this post, about Terry O'Reilly and Stan Jonathan's foray into the stands during a Bruins game. Well, the post isn't entirely about that; it's mostly me going on about how much I miss the fighting in hockey. That's not say I condone players going into the stands. Because that's just idiotic. Fighting in hockey is done in the context of the game. It's when a wall is breached between players and fans that things get crazy. I grew tired of the NBA several years ago, when it occurred to me that my formerly beloved Knicks were nothing more than a goon squad with massive egos and very little dignity. The rest of the NBA soon followed suit. This, sports fans, is what happens when you feed into the demanding nature of the average professional athlete. This is what happens when people are spoiled by fame and fortune, when they - from high school through college and right into the pros - are handed every single thing they want on a silver platter. The spoils of too much money and adoring fans can do amazing things to one's personality. This is also what happens when fans are too stupid to handle the responsibility that comes with purchasing a ticket to a sporting event. But that's a whole other story, isn't it? I'm sitting here laughing at so many reporters wringing their hands over the state of our society, in regards to the basketbrawl. It's the society we live in, they say. What can you expect when we are bombarded by images of war and terrorism every day, they say. It's the cult of reality television that causes people to live in an one-upmanship society, they say.
bq. Blame our violent times -- the streaming images of war and terrorism on TV, the edginess of daily life -- and the continuing decline of civility. bq. [W]ere going to hell in a handbasket sponsored by Coors Light. bq. After all, it is we as a society who applauds the moves as the kind that Detroit Pistons' center Ben Wallace made Friday night to defend his honor after being fouled by Indiana Pacers' guard Ron Artest. Wait. Maybe they are onto something here. Perhaps I shouldn't be laughing at all. The thing is, this has been going on for years and years. It is nothing new, it's just that media is so ubiquitous now - you've got the internet plus cable news pouring this stuff down the pipes 24/7 - that the fights and brawls and general misbehavior of fans gets talked to up to more of a degree than it did back in the days of Terry O'Reilly. I wonder if anyone blamed society then? Or did they just chalk it up to the general attitude of sports fans/stars? I know, the attitude sucks. You have the fans who think they own the right to heckle, goad and deride the players for the entire game and you have the athletes who think they're above being booed. As one who has attended hundreds upon hundreds of sporting events - both as a fan and an employee of one team or another - I can attest to the fact that the society that exists within an arena or stadium is quite different than the one that fans leave in the parking lot. It's a no holds barred sort of civilization where anyone - coaches, refs, opposing fans - are fair game for ridicule and sometimes physical violence. It's often ugly and it's often unreported. From the comfort of your chair or your newspaper article, you have no idea what goes on in the stands on a nightly basis. That culture, to me, has existed in sports since I was old enough to attend my first game (a ABA era Nets game at Nassau Coliseum). I think what's changed since then is the culture that exists on the playing field. Have we given athletes too much value? Maybe it is the fault of fans, specifically the ones who hero worship athletes who are undeserving of such adoration. By giving tribute to pros gone wild (see Latrell Sprewell, Bob Probert, Mike Tyson, etc.) what message do we send? Simple - as long as you put out, the masses will worship you, no matter what you do when the game is over. And the NBA, a pitiful shadow if its former glory, markets the thug attitude of its players as if this is something good. So is it any wonder these athletes walk around as if the world owes them something? Is it any wonder they develop big heads and bad attitudes? What kind of culture exists within pro sports when a multi million dollar player like Artest can ask for time off to promote his new album? I once worked in the sports administration office of a college whose Division I basketball team, at the time I worked there, was a top ranked team. I watched in amazement as the players were coddled and treated like gods. Excuses were made for bad behavior and terrible grades; infractions to the school code were overlooked. The players walked around on campus like they were kings of the world and why not? In essence, they were. Young men who are handed the world and not subjected to its rules are bound to end up thinking that they exist in a sphere above the rest of us. And then it's only a matter of time until the two spheres crash, as in the game Friday night. Of course blame lies with the fans, who overstepped an unmarked but known barrier between players and spectators. That a few fans decided to show their distaste with the Pacers through physical actions is deplorable and highlights what has been a growing problem in sports fandom - that somewhere along the line, fans have come to expect nothing less than perfection from players. One error at third base will get you mercilessly booed even if you're an All Star and the backbone of the team. You hear many fans say "I pay their salary by buying tickets and jerseys, they owe me!" I'd like to know if the bosses of these fans stand over them at work all day, heckling, cajoling and goading. I wonder how any one of these fans would react if their boss threw a beer at them. I've had beer thrown at me in Philly and rocks thrown at me in Boston. I've been jeered in Montreal and cursed at in Toronto. But this all existed within the confines of a sporting event. Once outside, away from the play of the game, the people in all the respective cities were wonderful. What is it about sports that brings out the animal in otherwise normal human beings? And what is it about being a star athlete that makes some players think they are above the rules of the land? Well, the answer to the second question is easy. The fans, the coaches, the colleges, the management, the ridiculous salaries, the star treatment by the press - they all contribute to the growing arrogance of star athletes. It doesn't help when a player is caught doing something illegal, maybe even thrown in jail, and his jerseys still sell out at the team stores. Every time I see a little kid wearing a Latrell Sprewell jersey, I want to smack the parents. So the fans and the players feed into each other's bad habits and you end up with physical confrontation. The fact that Artest - no stranger to controversy - pulled his act in the opposing arena certainly made matters worse. But is all this really a reflection on our society as a whole or is just a reflection on the culture of sports? The talking heads and writers are going crazy today reflecting on the societal norms, the breakdown of civilization, the lack of morals and manners that exist in today's reality-tv/violent video game/war-torn society. So what was going on when fans threw batteries at Reggie Jackson? What was going on when Stan Jonathon climbed into the stands? Was society to blame when Cleveland Browns fans pelted players with bottles and cups? What about when Ty Cobb beat the crap out of a fan? If violence in sports mirrors the times, as one writer put it, then the attitude of today is nothing new because this has been going on for ages. If it's just more prevalent now than before than maybe it's the leaders of professional sports that need to step back and look at where they are going wrong rather than trying to blame society as a whole. It's a whole different world inside a sports arena or stadium. It's a society of its own and people like David Stern would do well to figure out how to clean up their own houses before they ask the rest of the world to clean up theirs.

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Comments

Part of it is some of the general coarseness of our modern culture the changes in what we'll tolerate and what we won't.

We ban smoking in the stands but won't do a thing about profanity.

And yes, sports figures are now permanently in the Celebrity Class and subject to all the surrealness that happens to the Hollywood types who actually come to buy into their own little fiefdom of "power." Fans contribute to it in the dance of fame, becoming as demanding as they are supplicants (look at how some people pray and curse God. Any wonder He takes a vacation now and then?)

However, you're right. If a cleanup is to start it is to start within the sporting world itself. This is no more a "American culture" at whole issue then when John Kerry blamed the "John Wayne" mentality for turning American boys into "war criminals."

I just can't get behind banning profanity. Too many free speech issues. We just don't go to games anymore.

I don't see how you can dare blame the players for their behavior. Sure it is despicable, but can you really be so sure that you wouldn't act exactly the same way, if ever since you were a teenager everyone in your life treated you like a god and gave you all the money and sex and fame and praise you could ever want? You would behave the exact same way, unless you are truly a remarkably exceptional person. The real problem is the cult of fame that is heaped on the athletes. They are just responding (quite naturally) to the conditions that have been placed in front of them. If we want to change their behavior/attitude, we can't just chide them to be better people -- we have to instead stop worshipping them.

personally, any idiot that throws something at a 6+foot tall 200lb+ dude should expect to get knocked the fuck out. Don't act all surprised and victimized when the big bastard reaches over and throttles your ass. that's what big motherfuckers do to people who throw shit at them. sorry, thanks for playing.

granted, it's not polite, but hell. If I was in a bar and threw a cup of beer on some big dude, I wouldn't expect him to wipe it off and walk away. people get their panties in a twist because they think they can keep celebrities in a cage. Like celebrities aren't real people anymore, they're role models and should live up to everyone's expectations and be moral rulers. fuck that shit. personally, it would make sports a lot more interesting to watch if guys could beat the shit out of rude fans. I might actually start watching hockey then.

Spectators watch.
Fans are fanatics.

As much as I like a beer and a hot dog at a ball game, I'd gladly go thirsty if it would end the nightmare of slobbering drunks cursing and beating each other in the stands. Pigs is too kind a description for these louts. They ruin the game for everyone. Take you kids to a pro football game sometime and learn how the rotten half lives. (I have never understood why some people find it necessary to spend 80 bucks on a ticket just to get stupid drunk on 6 dollar beers).
Jerks.

The guys on the floor/field/ice are PAID to perform. Anybody making over $1 Million a year should be required to have the grace to accept the water bottle occasionally, especially when they are acting like an ass.

Should fans throw bottle? NO. They should be escorted out by security and banned. However, the players need to have some grace and let the security guys take care of it.

It's long past time for the NBA to get rid of it's "thug culture". In hockey, when players fight on the ice they'll go out and share a beer after the game. Same with football (though that's getting worse). Why not basketball?

Probably didn't get much play up in the Northeast, but the Clemson-SC had a pretty out of control brawl this weekend (although at least fans weren't involved)... If Lou Holtz can't control a team I do fear we've crossed the line in sports.

That said, if you want to see how a rivalry should be played out, watch the Army- Navy game next Saturday (Dec 4). Sure, the play ain't gonna be top 10 standards, but watch how the two sides treat each other after the game.

Then again our first (and almost probably last) NBA player was David Robinson.

Living in San Antonio, I'm pretty proud of our NBA team. They're all pretty good guys, but sometimes I wonder if their deep international roots give them a little more patience than those who come from American high schools and colleges.

Two points:

I recently attended a UConn vs. Georgia Tech football game with my young sons and was appalled at the lack of class shown by fans. They stood through most of the game and yelled obsenities at us when we dared asked them to please sit down.
Second - I used to referee basketball from the pee-wees, high school varsity, and men's rec leagues. I did this for about 8 years and got tired of being followed out to my car, threatened, yelled at, and generally treated as everyone's cathartic pin cushion (yes-it occured at all levels of play).

What do either of these experiences have to do with anything? Not much, I guess, except to further kill any enthusiasm I have for sports of any kind. It's getting so I don't want my kids involved in sports at all, despite the beneficial aspects sports could have.

I think you're right about Army and Navy.

In 19-- (OK, a long time ago), I was in the Rutgers Marching Band. We went up to West Point for a Rutgers-Army game. We ended up winning, and the poor cadets had to stand until the 3rd quarter because Army couldn't score in the first half.

Anyway, back to respect. At the end of each game, we used to line up on the field and play a piece that sounded like an Alma Mater ("Loyal Sons of Rutgers"), but wasn't. We played while the fans walked out.

The West Point fans stopped dead in their tracks when we started playing, even as the Rutgers fans kept walking.

I was very impressed.

artest is a dick and he SHOULDN"T have gone in the stands, period. Just what the fuck was he doing laying on the table anyway? This is the same ass who doesn't know what "integrity" means. Oh, and the one who wanted time off because he was exhausted from making a rap album. He's a paid professional, he should act like one, going into the stands is not permitted and now we know why. There were children and elderly people there. What the fuck didgoing in the stands accomplish (besides a riot)? Did he even KNOW who threw the beer? Did he slug the right person? Did he injure innocent people in the process? Fuck that, I don't care if he got beer in his face, if he wasn't laying on the fucking table acting like a spoiled asshole, he wouldn't have been a target for a beer in the face. Had those players acted like the paid professionals they are supposed to be? This wouldn't have happened.

I wonder how many millions will be paid in lawsuits?

There is a very simple solution to this problem. Don't encourage your children to idolise some moron who can run or jump! Why not encourage them to have heroes that do something useful in life? Cutting down the worship of atheletes will do a lot to cut down bullying in school and rapes on college campuses as well.

Maybe this is a wake-up call that an unhealthy obsession with sports that prevades.

Besides exercise what exactly are the benefits of organised anyway?

Unless the NHL comes back online we are going to see a whole lot more of this type of behavior. This is an obvious case of some hockey fans attending an NBA game and getting out of hand.
Did you think the glass is there to protect the fans from the puck?
Think again.

Whoops...Michele, maybe the early time for me to post left a lot out in clarity.

Apologies.

I don't want to BAN profanity... I was just pointing out that as a society we ARE banning smoking but no one seems to care about something no one would have thought twice about..using language in family settings. Stuff like that was just something that wasn't done and there was no NEED to "ban" it because people had a sense of public responsibility and obligations ... things that are not legislated.

There was a scene in the movie "Field of Dreams" where I believe it was the character played by Ray Liotta swears and one the other other players shushes him because there is a little girl present and he apologies.

Today, if someone asked another person to watch their mouth around a kid, the asker might get clocked IN the mouth for his/her trouble.

Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide the lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as "empty," "meaningless," or "dishonest," and scorn to use them. No matter how "pure" their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best. -- Robert A. Heinlein

Driving home I heard some taped quotes from Charles Barkley saying "if someone touches you, you have a right to beat the hell out of them."

If that's the attitude of the rest of the players in the NBA, well, then..there you go.

I've heard the NFL referred to as the National Felons League. Looks like the NBA is right there next to 'em.

All I can say is this: it's going to get worse.

For the athletes we now have then entire Little League WS televised live on ESPN and - while LeBron James has been the real thing and a class act so far - more and more high school KIDS go straight into the pros.

For the fans we have, well.... TV - reality shows that have absolutely nothing to do with reality. BCS - the biggest farce that means an undefeated Utah still has no crack at being #1. When I was in high school in the 1970s, the best my high school class of 700 could hope was to cheer our teams on to a state championship. today they are disappointed if they aren't nationally ranked.

For the record, I'm no prude. Ever watch the Tampa Bay Devilrays play a home game? Now THAT is a guy who knows the proper way to heckle. Compare that to that Chicago father-son tag team that accosted a Kansas City coach. They both have rights - but the problem is drawing proper lines.

BTW you got to love this. In an interview for UK TV that moron plugged his rap CD.