Sunday, November 21, 2004

Ron Artest: What I Would Have Done Differently

If you haven't heard about this by now, please get a satellite dish for the cave you're living in. The NBA suspended the players involved "indefinitely", which is fancy way of coming down hard until public opinion can be gauged, then determining the actual length of the suspensions. The NBA is right to suspend the players, they cannot condone this type of violence. But if some jerk marched into my workplace, called me every pejorative term in the book and threw water in my face, the only thing that I would do differently that Ron Artest - is hit the sonofabitch harder! Note: my employer would discipline me (probably fire me) and they'd also be right to do so. In both cases, the proper action is walking away and letting the proper authorities deal with the perpetrator. But that does not absolve the heckler of responsibility for his actions and certainly does not absolve them from blame when a fight breaks out that they instigated.

Let's be clear, the fight between the players was effectively over. Who then is responsible for the second, separate fight between the players and the fans? The hooligans in the stands who involved themselves by throwing objects and later coming on to the floor. No question (unless you're a hypocritical talking head on TV).

The heckler has always been protected by an invisible barrier: "the stands". Every player knows that no matter what happens, they must turn the other cheek and walk away, lest something like Friday night happen. This sense of safety (and a healthy dose of the hooch) enables uncivilized behavior by these insecure cowards. Also acting as an enabler: the deteriorating levels of fan self-policing and lack of scrutiny from security personal. Today, these chicken-shits rarely get ejected and almost never have their season tickets revoked. Only in the most extreme circumstances do unruly fans even get punished.

Perhaps this melee (already being cited as the worse domestic incident of fan-player violence) will bring attention to how unsportsmanlike American fans have become, and steps will be taken to curtail this behavior. Hooliganism had been a problem in the UK for decades, but it took the Heysel tragedy until serious measures were undertaken to prevent future incidents. Today known Hooligans must surrender their passports and report to police stations when the Three Lions play. Not a bad idea. At minimum, these punks should be arrested, punished to the full extent of the law, and never allowed in another stadium ever again. As a real fan, I'd say good riddance.
UPDATE(Kodos): ESPN (through Volokh) suggests fans lose their season tickets, and another good idea.

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