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A Step In The Right Direction

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NBA Commissioner David Stern suspended Ron Artest for the rest of the 2004-2005 season for his actions in the ugly Friday night brawl in Detroit.

The other players involved got lesser suspensions.

The head of the NBA players' association immediately appealed the suspensions, but since the appeal hearings are headed by Stern, it's unlikely that any of them will be reduced.

Just once I'd like to hear a player apologist step up and say, "You know, you're right. My guys did wrong, and we're going to take the punishment like men, and not appeal."

Too much to ask in this case, I suppose.

Here are some excerpts from columns from national sports columnists on the issue, and I quote from the one from the Detroit Free Press' Mitch Albom in particular:

Fact is, respect is what started this in the first place. Oh, not real respect. Real respect has traces of kindness. Real respect is deferential, like a young apprentice and his patient mentor. Real respect knows, at its core, humility. I'm talking about the bastardized "respect" in today's sports world -- where the word means nobody does anything to you that you don't like, want, accept or appreciate."

This is the bottom line.

I don't excuse the fan behavior here, either. Patrons who were overserved beer were probably the instigators, and the NBA, along with other pro sports leagues, have to stop bowing to the almighty dollar and start monitoring how much fans are drinking, which in too many cases is way too much.

As I have written here before, I see this sort of thing all the time at Wrigley Field, and the only reason such a brawl happened first in the NBA is the fact that fans in NBA arenas are closer to the action than in any other sport.

We saw one such instance in baseball last September 13 when Texas reliever Frank Francisco hurled a chair into the stands next to the bullpen in Oakland, at a fan who had been throwing insults, and who admitted later that she and her husband specifically bought season tickets in that location for that precise purpose. It's not farfetched that it could get worse, and that serious injury or death could happen if this isn't stopped.

Mitch Albom (and if you haven't read his "Tuesdays With Morrie", you ought to) is right. There is a lack of civility in our society, and it's got to change.

The fans were wrong to start it, and those involved, if they can be identified, ought to be arrested and face trial. But the players were even wronger to not just walk away.

Yesterday I wrote that Artest ought to be banned for life, and I hope that David Stern will at least consider this before reinstating him. Harsh lessons must be taught so this never again happens in the NBA, or in any other sport.