This archived article was written by: Jay Ambrose
Scripps Howard News Service
The boom has been lowered on a number of professional basketball players, and rightly so, just as it ought to be lowered on a flock of fans, whose ice-throwing, beer-drenching, name-calling tirade was an instigating factor in a Friday night brawl.
Not that these fans provide an excuse for the rampage in the stands conducted by the Indiana Pacers’ Ron Artest and some buddies who took deadly weapons with them, namely their outsized, well-muscled bodies. Let your nose catch a fist from one of these athletic giants and you had better hope that somewhere in the world there is a plastic surgeon who knows how to reconstruct bone and cartilage from sawdust.
It all started with a foul by Artest and a mighty rejoinder of a shove by Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons, and it ended with David Stern, commissioner of the National Basketball Association, suspending Artest for the rest of the season _ 72 games without pay _ and lesser suspensions for others.
The action is necessary, to begin with, to save NBA basketball. Most fans aren’t going to want to attend games if there is bodily risk involved, an unlikely proposition made more likely if this anti-fan outburst had been officially greeted by a wink of the eye. The dignity of the game is also diminished by this ugliness; it becomes less an enjoyable, diverting aspect of our society than a signal of something socially amiss.
That’s the bigger issue here, namely that some self-imposed wall of restraint failed to make itself felt among the fans or players, the sort of wall that is essential in our daily lives if we are to avoid constant collision. And this brings us to another reason that swift punitive action was important: to send a message that standards exist and will be enforced if inner discipline fails. Fans are among those needing to get this message. Break the rules, they should be told, and you will be ushered out and never allowed in again.
One incident at a basketball game, and even a second incident – the fight between South Carolina and Clemson football players Saturday – are hardly evidence of something cataclysmically wrong with Americans. But the incidents do point to something wrong that could approach dangerous proportions in the presence of an anything-goes mentality that happily was not the mentality of David Stern.
Jay Ambrose is director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard Newspapers and can be reached at [email protected].