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'Basketbrawl' takes pro sports to a new low

| Friday, Nov. 26, 2004

I've attended numerous pro sports events over the years and have often felt that the fans around me were one bad call or one more beer away from chaos.

Chaos over what• A sport• Come on. The guys on the court, ice or field aren't locked in a life-and death struggle to cure cancer, end world hunger or bring peace to the Middle East. In a rational world, no one dies or gets hurt if the Pistons or Penguins or Pirates lose a game or a ref makes a bad call.

It's a game, folks. Plain and simple. Entertainment. Sure, there's a lot at stake for the players, the teams and their owners, but in the big picture, is spitting, punching or throwing things at a pro athlete worth going to jail over• Yeah, you're a big man talking smack on a linebacker's mom. Until he lunges into the stands and knocks you into next week. How tough are you now• And was it worth it•

Don't get me wrong. The players are just as bad as the fans. They strut around after every play in ways that embarrass even their biggest fans. How would it look in your office if the front desk receptionist pranced and spiked the phone every time she connected a call•

The law should throw the book at the fans in Detroit who joined the melee at the "basketbrawl" game last week. They should be banned for life from all sporting events, even Little League. If they have season tickets, yank them. Reasonable fans who fork over huge bucks to enjoy a good game shouldn't have to sit next to irrational jerks who scream themselves hoarse, and look like a certain part of a horse while doing it.

And the NBA should stand tough in its punishments against the players who were anything but sportsmanlike. These guys have taken pro sports to an all-time low. They're paid handsomely to rise above the trash talk and focus on the game.

But, you know, what led up to the fracas in Detroit happens at sporting events all the time. Drunk people -- usually fat, middle-aged guys -- flex their beer muscles and perhaps in a fit of envy or rage spit at the players and call them names that would make a sailor blush. Guys who get winded carrying a 20-ounce beer up the steps to their seats call the pros bums, and often, worse. The players jaw at each other, too. A remedial lip-reading lesson makes that perfectly clear.

So, who's to blame• Everyone involved. The players, of course, the guys who are paid to keep their cool. And the fans, the ones who ruin the experience for the rest of us.

OK, now that this column's done, I'm going to high-step around my desk, maybe taunt a co-worker or two, and spike my keyboard.

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