November 23, 2004

Role Model Suspension

Print More

$11,548,832.00. That’ll buy you 11 McLaren F1s. That’s about 210 times the median annual income per household in the United States, the richest country in the world. $11,548,832 will buy you 433,352 shares of Microsoft, and will raise some serious eyebrows at the SEC. The point is that $11,548,832 is a lot of money.

Four days ago, nine oversized idiots who have never sat in a Honda Civic decided to take 1% of the Gross Domestic Product of Tajikistan and exchange it to engage in a glorified bar fight. These idiots, including historical hothead Ron Artest, were suspended for not only hitting each other but also for taking it upon themselves to go into the stands to hit members of the crowd, who had either yelled, thrown something, or done nothing at all in one case.

David Stern, commissioner of the NBA, denounced the actions of Jermaine O’Neal ($4.111 million dollars exchanged for not having to show up to the playoffs this year), Ron Artest ($4.995 million to chill in his crib for the next 73 games), and the rest of the crew of jackasses, and every sports fan should applaud him. Yet, this is not what we’ve seen. So far I’ve heard everyone from tables of guys at bars to Steven A. Smith saying that Stern should not have pushed as far as he did, and should have protected his players more.

Let’s be honest. Sports are aggressive events, unless the sport you’re talking about is golf or chess, and I’ve even seen Tiger Woods and Gary Kasparov get pissed. And no one wants to screw with Bobby Fischer. The point is that it is one thing to get frustrated during a game — and maybe even get into a fight with irritating players like Claude Lemieux or, heck, Ron Artest — but it is an entirely other thing to go into the crowd and start hitting the fans that pay your salary.

The counterpoint here is obvious. Fans were throwing objects, and brought this upon themselves. But, the fact is the fans that got hit were never a serious physical threat to the players. In addition, it seemed like these players were just lashing out at anyone in close range. I keep envisioning Artest climbing up into the bleachers to hit that little guy with glasses, who I’m pretty sure actually didn’t do anything except maybe shout an expletive or ten. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words should NEVER hurt you, Ron. Maybe if these guys had had an actual education at some point in their lives, a kindergarten teacher might have taught them that.

What is most frustrating here is the behavior of the Pistons and their fans. These are the world champions, and Ben Wallace, practically everyone’s hero from last year (Fear the fro), goes ahead and instigates the biggest and most embarrassing fight in NBA history. Show some class, guys.

The problem here was stated perfectly by Commissioner Stern. It just seems like certain players in this league have mean streaks, and that is unacceptable when you are supposed to be a role model and an example for kids, and hell, adults as well. That is why Stern chose to end Artest’s season and rob him of 220 Hummer H2s.

A quick example: A day after the altercation, Clemson and South Carolina had a correspondingly gigantic brawl in the world of college football. One reporter at Commissioner Stern’s press conference on Sunday mentioned that perhaps this was because the players had seen the Detroit disaster the night before, but Stern dismissed this idea.

Normally I would dismiss this as well, but after the “oohs” and “aahs” that I witnessed among my peers who watched Sportscenter with me two nights before — and the ensuing play fighting (seriously, college students are 3rd graders who got beat up 15 years ago and still need to prove themselves) — I think that reporter might have had a point. We as fans and semi-adults view these guys as role models, especially the guys on teams like the Pistons who overcame adversity and are so respected for being a great, cohesive group last year.

So, good job, Commissioner Stern. I applaud your response. Because honestly, the only way anyone listens in this world is with a hit to the pocketbook. God bless America.

Archived article by Mike Pandolfini