In the case of NBA vs. Idiots In Sunday’s Knicks-Nuggets Brawl, Stern also happens to be the guy with the gavel and the black robe.
And this unfathomable display of misplaced machismo is worse than the “Malice at the Palace.”
The fracas by which all sports ugliness is now measured occurred on Nov. 19, 2004, in the Palace at Auburn Hills, the arena where the Detroit Pistons play. Tensions developed at first because Ron Artest, then of the Indiana Pacers, administered a hard foul on Ben Wallace, then of the Pistons, in the final minute of a game the Pacers were winning handily. Wallace took exception, shoved Artest, and a minor scuffle broke out.
But the brawl as we now know it occurred because a few slobbering morons in the stands decided to throw beer at the participants. When a cup of the frothy liquid landed on Artest, who was reclining on the scorer’s table at the time, it caused Artest to go haywire. Fans and players then began to wail away at each other. The entire incident became a sad reminder of the growing disconnect and simmering resentment between the public and high-salaried star athletes.
At the time I felt that, while the players should be punished because there is no excuse for their overheated response to the actions of some drunken dolts, I also defended the players’ right to defend themselves. In that case, the proximity of the fans to the court, the availability of liquor late in the event, and the lack of security in keeping the fans separate from the players all contributed to a lasting stain on the game and the league.
Saturday’s fight between the Knicks and Nuggets was confined to the players. It was touched off by the actions of players, and it escalated because of them also. There were no booze-soaked antagonists involved; not that they weren’t present in the building, mind you, just that they weren’t instigators and active participants.
The players started this battle not because they were trying to protect themselves or to fight back against a perceived outside threat — as the Pacers did against beer-guzzling cretins — but because their honor had been challenged.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
That might be admirable in another context. But whether they like it or not, the Knicks and Nuggets involved in this clash are high-profile representatives of a corporate entity from which they all reap impressive dividends. When they signed their respective contracts, they agreed to follow a code of conduct, which does not include beating each other’s brains in whenever they feel dissed. They have a responsibility to their franchise and to their league to exercise restraint in such a situation.
PBT: The Kings will stay in Sacramento under new ownership, which likely means a new front office and coach, too.
Dec. 18: The NBA is dealing with another PR problem in the wake of the Nuggets-Knicks brawl Saturday night. NBC's Mike Taibbi reports.
Video: KNICKS-NUGGETS BRAWL
'I gotta live with it'
Dec. 19: The Denver Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith talk about moving on after the big brawl Saturday.
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