Friday, November 19, 2004

Refuge No More 

Indiana Pacer Ron Artest fighting in the stands with Detroit Pistons fans (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)Posted by Hello

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Fists were flying. So were cups, plastic bottles and even a chair in one of the ugliest NBA brawls ever -- and Indiana's Ron Artest was right in the middle of it.

Artest and Stephen Jackson charged into the stands and fought with fans in the final minute of their game against the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, and the brawl forced an early end to the Pacers' 97-82 win.

I didn't have the intention of making sports violence one of my blog's ongoing themes, but it's sure turned out that way.

Fighting has always been part of organized sports. Indeed, a willingness to fight is an integral part of earning respect in ice hockey. However, the past couple of years have seen an escalation in an ugly dimension to this hostility: fan involvement, like tonight's incident in Detroit.

Is this another example of the coarsening of society? (No, I'm not being sarcastic for once.) Can it be solely blamed on alcohol at sporting venues? Is it, as some have suggested, a byproduct of the growing gulf between players and fans? Not being clairvoyant (or a sociology major), I don't have the answers. It just seems to be these kind of melees are breaking out at US sporting events more often than in the past. Am I mistaken on this point?

The end result of all this madness is likely less access to athletes at events, more security, and an earlier end time to alcohol sales during the games. We often get bombarded with so much negative crap in the world, and sports was supposed to be one of the last escapes from everyday worries. I would like to attend a sporting event without worrying if a riot will break out in from of me, as it did last September.

This past weekend, my buddy Sandro and I participated in a discussion on how to improve Major League Soccer. In his opening statement, Sandro said that a soccer game in Argentina banned opposing fans from the stadium for security concerns, and that he hoped never to see that in the US. Tonight, it looks like such measures are closer to becoming reality here. Sports is a refuge no more.

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