To David Stern: time to be stern |

To David Stern: time to be stern

Michael Zucker

After the professional basket-brawl in a Detroit suburb last month, Indiana Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh issued a statement saying, “responsibility … can be shared by many.”

We are now watching as the folks in charge deal with each of the many. The Oakland County District Attorney has thrown misdemeanor assault charges at five weird people in the stands who got their jollies by tossing beer and ice and other objects at players. This is as it should be: no excuses, no hedging!

It is noted that Tom Wilson, president of Palace Sports and Entertainment in Auburn Hills where the fracas took place, told the media after the game that the incident was “unfortunate for our team, our city, our league and sports in general.” But he added curiously that security could not come onto the floor without being called there by the game’s officials. Anyone want a definition of standing on ceremony? If you’re in Detroit, better not take your kids to a Pistons game.

Hopefully the D.A. will be similarly uncompromising in prosecuting players Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson and others for their spectacle of charging into the crowd indiscriminately beating up on spectators. But don’t bet 93 days in jail or $500 on it! People who had just been standing or sitting uneventfully were mauled simply because they were there. The last time I saw a scene like that it was “running with the bulls” from Pamplona, Spain, that annual spectacle where the wild animals run through the town’s streets amidst a crowd of onlookers, none bored, some gored. Both events, to use National Geographic’s Jennifer Vernon’s words, “can be dangerous both to runners and bystanders. The size of the crowd, the bulls’ unpredictability, and the inexperience of many participants (read spectators) add to the risk.” Both these displays show animals tearing into the crowd, knocking over anyone at random.

Immediately after the basket-brawl, NBA Commissioner David Stern sounded like he meant business.

“The events of the game were shocking, repulsive and inexcusable, a humiliation for everyone associated with the NBA,” he said. “This demonstrates why our players must not enter the stands, whatever the provocation or poisonous behavior of the people attending the game.” Really? Shortly thereafter, he handed out punishment that assured that the professional athletes who stormed the depleted crowd and attacked people would be back playing basketball after temporary suspensions ranging from 1 to 73 games.

Stern should be more stern. The athlete-warriors are lucky that he is NBA commissioner. A more definitive message to these cowards would be: you’re done, finis, it’s over, you’re history.

Either you have civility or you don’t. The only firm way to deal forcefully with these too-often-seen shenanigans is permanent disbarment from the sport and forfeiture of all pay. After all, Pete Rose got permanently banned from his sport and he didn’t hit anyone. Shoeless Joe and his teammates were out for life for throwing a world series; they didn’t hit anyone either (it took decades for a guy like Kevin Costner to come along and make an Oscar-winning film about them). They shoot horses that lose races simply because the poor animals stumble and break limbs without hurting spectators.

Artest is a great salesman. For a three strikes law. I mean, this thug’s history shows so many code violations that if he were a local, the TRPA could meet its entire budget from his fines alone.

Frankly, it’s sickening that this type of bullying behavior in sports is too often condoned and even excused. Let’s recognize who these types are: hoodlums, overpaid spoiled crazies whose grand contributions to society are some physical acrobatic antics and the ability to dribble and pass and shoot a round ball about a foot in diameter.

What’s 73 games to Artest whose boorish antics and criminal behavior keep going and going like the Eveready bunny? Give him and Jackson and others like them who feel they are at liberty to beat up spectators what they deserve: the exit door – permanently.

If they don’t like it, well then let’s not force them to play professional sports and undergo the rigorous burden of bringing home their million-dollar paychecks.

– Michael Zucker is a South Lake Tahoe resident.

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