Sunday, November 21, 2004

A "Stern" Message

Over the past five or six seasons, I have watched very little NBA basketball for various reasons, MJ's retirement among them. To me, there are far too few Grant Hill's and Tim Duncan's in the NBA. Over the past couple of seasons, the only time I watched any part of any game was during the playoffs. During the regular season, my NBA knowledge comes almost exclusively from SportsCenter. That is where I saw the surreal fracas that broke out Friday night near the end of the Pacers/Pistons game in Detroit. It was an ugly scene. Perhaps the saddest part was seeing small children scared to death, with tears in their eyes, seeing some of their heroes doing the unthinkable. Well today, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced suspensions for several players involved. Most notably, Stern suspended Ron Artest for the remainder of the season. Indiana's Stephen Jackson got a 30-game suspension and Jermaine O'Neal got 25. My initial reaction upon hearing this was a resounding Marv Albert-like "YESSS!!"

Stern has suspended two All-Star caliber players for a lengthy period of time, choosing the long-term good of the game over popularity or short-term television ratings. There will be an appeal, and perhaps the suspensions will be reduced, but I hope whoever rules on the appeals realizes what the commissioner realized. A stern message has to be sent, and four or five game suspensions have little effect and basically only serve to give players a break. For example, Artest has been suspended by the NBA seven times over the past two seasons. It obviously has had no effect on his behavior. Stern's decision will not be popular among many, players, media, and fans alike. There are other things to be considered and the league will no doubt have to look at ways to try and prevent this from happening again. But he should be absolutely commended for sending the message that players going into the stands to go after fans will not be tolerated, just as fans cannot be allowed to go onto the court after players.

"Breakin' rocks in the hot sun, I fought the law and the law won. I fought the law and the law won..."

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