Defining Basketball DownNovember 21, 2004
As nearly everyone knows, a brawl took place in the closing seconds of the NBA game between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers on Friday night. Shoving and typical posturing on the court spread into the stands, leading to the sight of NBA players pummeling arrogant and likely drunk fans. Shameful, embarrassing, criminal and, in my opinion, completely expected.
At what point will we stop celebrating the "in your face" and "top this" bravado of so many athletes? I actually looked up bravado to make sure I'm using it correctly. I'm not only using it correctly, I think it qualifies as the official slogan of the NBA and NFL:
A disposition toward showy defiance or false expressions of courage; defiant or swaggering behavior.
It has reached the point where I no longer feel comfortable watching either sport with my 9-year old son. Nearly every play of any significance, especially one that has the chance to "change the momentum" of the game, is followed by strutting, gloating, and taunting, fully intending to incite the other team and its fans (see Terrell Owens last week on MNF). The announcers actually defend the behavior by saying that it's fine as long as you can "back it up". Celebrations that used to be saved for defining plays in deciding playoff games are now showcased during sleepy regular season games in half-empty stadiums.
The players are only part of the story. Click on the screen shot from ESPN at the beginning of this post. What stands out? To the right of the "BasketBrawl" headline and article on the NBA's embarrassment is an ad for ESPN Magazine, celebrating Ben Wallace, himself a significant player in Friday night's melee, which includes the line, Have you dunked on anyone today?
I visited the NBA site to see the league's perspective. Less than 48-hours after what is being called the worst moment in basketball history and 24-hours after the indefinite suspensions of four players, the incident is not mentioned a single time on the homepage.
Update: I watched David Stern's press conference this evening as was impressed by his reaction to this. He described his feelings of shock, repulsion, and fear while watching the brawl. The suspensions he handed down were dramatic and matched the seriousness of the actions. And he also took personal responsibility, seemingly understanding that this symbolizes the greater sense that we as society have allowed things to go to far.
It's similar the sense parents have when our eyes are suddenly open to our children's behavior and we think, "How did we let this happen?"
And yes, the press conference and suspensions are now on NBA.com.