Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

No More Excuses From Brawling Players, Fans

Imagine you and I are sitting at a sporting event. Basketball, football – right now it doesn’t seem to matter. Suddenly, just as the game starts to get good, I reach into my wallet, pull out the lone, wrinkled one-dollar bill residing there, and fork it over to you.

Now, I’m not a betting man, so there must be some other explanation. Right?

There is. And in the wake of a couple of games this weekend, it has become a recurring theme. It seems everybody’s doing it.

Passing the buck.

It started Friday night with what the AP has dubbed “one of the ugliest brawls in U.S. sports history.” Unless you were dead to the world all weekend, you’ve seen several dozen replays of the fight that broke out in the waning seconds of the Pacers-Pistons game Friday night.

And while the exact order of events remains hotly debated, nobody can deny that what happened went way beyond any semblance of reason. With less than a minute left on the clock, Detroit’s Ben Wallace drove the lane and took a hard foul from Pacers guard Ron Artest. Wallace shoved back and Artest uncharacteristically backed off, taking up a prone position atop the scorer’s table.

Strangely enough, that’s when things escalated.

Artest claims he was hit in the face by a cup thrown by a fan. He scrambled into the stands, teammate Stephen Jackson joining him in delivering haphazard punches to unwitting fans. Fans stormed the court. Players stormed the stands.

Instantly, the question became “who’s to blame?” Instantly, the buck began exchanging hands.

Players involved spurned any responsibility at all. After the game, Wallace said, “I didn’t start it. I just played the game.”

NBA commissioner David Stern clearly saw things differently, however. The league suspended Artest for the remainder of the young season – the harshest punishment in league history. It banned Jackson 30 games, and Pacer Jermaine O’Neal received a 25-game suspension. Wallace was not totally exonerated – the league suspended him six games.

Others, however, feel the league’s punishments were too stern.

“People are putting all the burden on Artest, and I don’t think that’s fair,” Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said.

The Pacers, who lost three players to suspensions, issued a diplomatic – and impotent – statement the day after the game, recognizing “that responsibility for Friday night’s actions can be shared by many.” Pacers’ head coach Rick Carlisle would only say that “we steadfastly support our players.”

And then, of course, there are the fans.

One of them threw the cup that hit Artest. Several of them stormed the court – and subsequently received a round of punches courtesy of the Pacers. At some point, the increasingly popular folding chair entered the fray.

Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh was right when he said “responsibility for Friday night’s actions can be shared by many.”

Yet so far, nobody seems to be taking responsibility. Instead, they’re passing old George Washington around like a hot potato. It takes, as they say, two to tango. But nobody’s admitting to dancing.

A fan needs to step up and say, yes, I threw the cup. Wallace needs to apologize for shoving Artest and admit his part – however minor – in the maelstrom.

We need to start hearing apologies, not excuses; admissions, not accusations. From fans, players, the league.

Nearly the same thing happened again just a day later in a different arena, too. In coaching legend Lou Holtz’s last game before retiring, a fourth quarter bench-clearing fight delayed the Clemson-South Carolina game 10 minutes.

It took the coaches, stadium security officers and police that long to stop the fight, the beginnings of which are still unclear.

One thing is certain, however. Despite what many have said, this football fight did not begin with the “basketbrawl” a night earlier. That hasn’t stopped some from trying to pin the blame there, though.

“You saw it at the basketball game last night,” Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst said.

“It’s no worse than the Pacers and Pistons last night. They actually got the fans involved. At least we kept it to the football teams,” Clemson running back Yusef Kelly said.

Oh, yeah, that makes it all better.

It’s not our fault. We blame the Pacers and Pistons for starting this fight.

Or the television in general:

“For 24 hours, they’ve watched that basketball fiasco on TV. That’s all they’ve watched for 24 hours a day, every major news program,” Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden said.

But no, of course it’s not the fault of our players. It’s TV, it’s the other fight, it’s a butterfly flapping its wings on the other side of the world.

These two fights – some of the biggest and worst in sports history – say something about the state of sportsmanship today.

And it’s not something good.

Fights like these should not happen in college sports, much less professional sports. But this weekend, they did. Somebody needs to take responsibility – and in both cases, there’s plenty to go around.

Now, can I have my dollar back?

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