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Rusch To Judgment

In Cub news, the ballclub signed Glendon Rusch to a two-year deal yesterday, with Rusch being able to opt out after 2005, presumably, as the link above indicates, if he is not a rotation starter by then and wants to try his hand at that elsewhere.

This is a good move -- as I have said, Rusch was a savior of the pitching staff many times in 2004, and I'd like to see him fulfill the same role in 2005, spot starter and long reliever, something few teams have now. Terry Mulholland did this job for the Cubs and others for several years, and I think Rusch, whose style and handedness is similar to Mulholland's, could do the same thing. A good signing, and not too expensive.

With Thanksgiving coming and the deadline for arbitration offers not till December 7, it's not likely there will be much Cub news this week, which gives me a chance to pontificate about the brawl in suburban Detroit on Friday at the end of the Pistons/Pacers game.

People have joked "we were at an NBA game and an NHL game broke out", but this is a far, far more serious matter than the almost-staged hockey brawls these days -- oh, but wait a minute, there aren't any of those going on right now because the NHL is still locking its players out, now in the 66th day, with no end in sight, and the possibility that the entire season will be wiped out.

Why is this important in the context of Friday's brawl? Because the NBA is considering such a lockout, and they already had one that wiped out half of the 1998-99 season, and next time they're probably going down the NHL road, and having a brawl like this isn't going to help the league's image.

Let's face it. There are no non-culpable parties here. Ben Wallace was an idiot for starting an on-floor fight with less than a minute left in a blowout game. He was even stupider for starting it with Ron Artest, who has proven in his NBA career that he's not playing with even HALF a deck (c'mon -- you're under contract with a professional sports team and you ask publicly to be given two weeks off to promote a rap CD?).

Artest was then "lying on the scorer's table" during the fracas -- and who does that in a sane world -- when beer landed on him from the stands, which prompted him and other players to go after fans.

The fans were wrong to throw beer and food and whatever else they threw. This puts culpability on ownership, which sees beer sales as a huge profit center. I have seen this sort of drunkenness all too often at Wrigley Field, with the inevitable fights, and one ugly brawl in 2000 that started over, of all stupid things, a fan grabbing the cap of the Dodgers' Chad Kreuter.

But I think the players have an obligation, when this stuff is done, to simply walk away. The players could have all gone to center court in Detroit, far away from the fans, and security could have cleared the few offenders out. By running into the stands, they made it worse, and got even more people involved. Local authorities have said they may file criminal charges, and I hope they do, and if players are charged and convicted, let them not allow celebrity status to get them out of actually serving prison time.

There has been at least one suggestion by a national NBA writer that an appropriate punishment for Pistons management might be to make them play their next home game against Indiana next March in front of an empty house, forcing them to forego several million dollars in revenue, and I'd agree with this. It's not only the ticket revenue, but as noted, the beer sales -- and that's another thing that must be done, the curtailing of beer sales drastically, perhaps restricting patrons to one per trip, eliminating walking vendors (yes, I know this costs people jobs who really need them, but these people could be reassigned elsewhere), and cutting off beer sales much earlier in all games.

NBA commissioner David Stern has already begun to do the right thing by handing down "indefinite suspensions" to the players involved, and I believe that Stern ought to make these mandatory suspensions for the entire season. Further, for Ron Artest, I think the NBA ought to throw him out forever. Let us also hope that no agents or lawyers or players' union reps fight any such suspensions or expulsions.

Someday, sometime, a pro sports league has to stand up against the thuggery and arrogance that today's professional athletes are showing, or all the sports that we love to watch will collapse. Right now is the time to send that message.