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Putting an ugly incident to rest - hopefully

| Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010

I waited a while to sound off on the ugly fan incident that took place at the Monessen High gymnasium Jan. 29 in order to let the amazing publicity of the episode run its course.

While I feel that what I witnessed at the gym at halftime of the game between the Greyhounds and Prexies was the worst incident I ever witnessed at a sporting event, I still don't think it warranted national attention.

I mean, no officials were attacked. No shots were fired and it certainly wasn't a riot. I've heard of much worse things happening at sporting events.

That said, it was a shame that a few individuals ruined what was shaping up as a special night of athletic competition between two storied programs in front of a sellout crowd.

The Monessen gym hadn't seen that type of exciting atmosphere since the Lady Greyhounds and Charel Allen battled Clairton and Kamela Gissendanner in the early 2000s.

I think the district did everything it could to prepare for a huge throng in terms of security. As district Superintendent Dr. Cindy Chelen said, how could the district ever predict what would happen that night?

A lot of people were cheated out of enjoying watching two tremendous basketball teams battle and the players from each team were certainly wronged because they didn't get to finish playing the game in front of the kind of crowd any child with a love of sports dreams about when shooting hoops in his or her driveway.

Why did the event draw such swelling media coverage• Undoubtedly, it was because of the video of the game that was sold to every news outlet available.

I'm sure that when Monessen opted to hire a professional video person to tape the game, it never thought that hiring a person with ties to a Pittsburgh news station would end up biting it in the butt.

It's easy to second guess that decision now, but it probably was an understandable move prior to the contest.

How vital was the video of the incident to how quickly and large it grew?

Well, consider this: The night the incident was first aired on television, newscasters also spoke about a huge brawl that took place at Mt. Lebanon during a Mt. Lebanon-Baldwin boys' basketball game that night.

The newscaster on a Pittsburgh news channel said that the brawl was so big that police departments "from several boroughs" had to be called in for assistance and that there were arrests. The newscaster added that there was no word yet on any possible injuries.

And we never heard if there were any injuries from the brawl at Mt. Lebanon.

Why?

Because try as I could, I never heard the event mentioned again on any news show the next day or any of the days to follow.

I was asked, via e-mail on Tuesday, to appear on HLN (formerly Headline News) during its evening Prime News show to discuss the incident.

I declined. Not only do I not need the 15 minutes of fame, but I also said I felt other issues were more deserving of prime time news coverage.

How about this nation's healthcare, for example• What about the perils of our military serving overseas• How about the plight of the jobless and how they survive?

Plus, if I have any ideas on how to better the city and/or school district in Monessen, I think I would choose to tell the people who could best make that change and not a national audience.

And, of course, the aftermath of the incident that caused Monessen officials to move Wednesday's game with Belle Vernon Area up to 4 p.m. also bothered me.

Again, some working fans were cheated out of watching their favorite teams play.

High school basketball just wasn't made for late afternoon - unless of course it is a weekend playoff game.

Despite the early start, probably the second-largest crowd of the season was at the gym.

So were the TV news cameras.

The ironic thing was a fan was ejected from the contest. An over-zealous Lep fan was asked to be removed from the gym.

It's a good thing it happened after the news cameras were outside readying for their 5 p.m. telecasts.

Or we might have been watching Part II on TV the rest of the week.

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