HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all. Count your blessings today; the older Iím getting, the more Iím doing just that. Sinatraís "It Was A Very Good Year" is now ever-present on my mind. And you turkeys out there------donít waste another moment reading this article. Hide, baby, hide!
Story of the Week
RELATIONSHIP OF FANS AND PLAYERS
On Friday, November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. I was in Cleveland, Ohio on business and stayed over that weekend, the most surreal three days of my life. AFL Commissioner Joe Foss cancelled that leagueís scheduled games on Sunday, November 24. However, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle stated that the President would have wanted the schedule to be honored, and those games were played.
So on that Sunday, I along with as few as 20,000 others (NFL games in Cleveland typically drew 75,000+, but people were glued to their television sets) found our way to mammoth Municipal Stadium on frozen Lake Erie to see the great Jim Brown and his Browns host the then-lowly Dallas Cowboys. I recall having had enough of the assassination on television for the past 48 hours, and it was a chance to freeze my butt off at a NFL game in that old and storied stadium. And I certainly didnít need an excuse to see the incomparable Jim Brown play.
When the Cowboys came onto the field, soda and beer bottles flew through the air at their players. Why? Because the President had been killed in Dallas, and some brain-surgeon fans blamed the Dallas Cowboys by association. And in those days, beer and soft drinks were literally sold and taken in their original glass bottles; weíre talking hard glass here. Even then, unthinking and unruly sports fans existed.
If that spectacle wasnít weird enough, fans carrying transistor radios let it be known that Lee Harvey Oswald had just been killed by one Jack Ruby in Dallas. Iíll never forget the stupidity of the fans and the sight of them throwing bottles at those players. It was like Quo Vadis; I felt as if Nero had given the order with thumbs down. That was 41 years ago.
Nothingís changed in 41 years. Letís look at the events of Friday night in Auburn Hills, Michigan, home of the Detroit Pistons, and their game against the Indiana Pacers. Chapters have been written about it already, so Iíll try to be succinct with my evaluation of same.
First, fans for years have been throwing objects at players as noted above, and these "fanatics" will continue to do so until the courts make these a-holes understand that a ticket to a sports event does not entitle fans to assault players, and those projectiles should be treated as assaults and felonies, and the guilty fans should be punished to the limit of the law, no matter what the projectile. And if those fans cross the line and come onto the field of play, in addition to the limit of the law, they do so at their own risk and they deserve what they get from the players. (All of this should be printed directly on the event tickets.) In these matters with these idiot fans, I would absolutely be the "fan-hanging judge." And the guilty fans in Auburn Hills should be treated accordingly.
Unfortunately, they will not be treated accordingly, namely my way; no doubt about it.
Also, any player who goes into the stands, no matter what the reason or circumstances, will simply win the battle and lose the war. No player can win doing that. Players have to understand that if they attempt to dish out retribution in the stands, they will be duly punished by their respective league. The victimized players should point out to security those fans who are guilty of assault, if they can, and let security do their job. This of course makes the assumption that there is enough trained and competent security at these events that can do the job; I certainly didnít see much evidence of that Friday night in Auburn Hills.
Finally, David Stern sent a clear message, but it was not totally valid. First, he has a you-know-what on for Ron Artest anyway, and he let that be known by suspending him for a full season. That punishment is too severe. And Sternís comments made it clear that the NBA will not tolerate players taking the law into their own hands. But he certainly should have added that the NBA has the responsibility of making sure its players are not subjected to physical abuse by fans, and both the guilty players and the guilty fans should pay the price. That was not done, so I ultimately have little-to-no respect for Sternís public relations speech, and in this case, I hope the NBA Players Association makes this point and pushes that envelope with the NBA Commissioner and/or the courts.
Bottom line: There are fans and players who donít exactly have both oars in the water. So if youíre crazy enough to attend sports events in person and pay those ludicrous printed ticket prices, you might as well pay a little extra and bring with you to the game your own attorney and doctor------just in case.
Last Weekís Trivia
In 1982, Joel Youngblood got a hit for the Mets in a day game in Chicago. He was traded after the game. He then flew to Philadelphia to join the Expos, his new team. In the night game, he got a pinch-hit for Montreal off no less than the great Steve Carlton. What an incredible day for Joel Youngblood. No wonder he never unpacked his suitcase after that.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who was Walker Smith, Jr? See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.