The NBA has become hip-hop culture on parade, It is gang culture minus the guns. What happened here [in Detroit] is part and parcel of the gang culture, this hip-hop culture which is: “I’m not going to tolerate being dissed.”
Detroit is the New Fallujah.
I apologize to the Roman thespian Pylades for putting his quote on the same page with a true bigot; but, I do think that Limbaugh’s comments on basketball deserve a response.
First, let do a bit of time traveling:
The Roman Coliseum seated 385,000 people. Here is what happened in a series of games that went on for two weeks: Three hundred pairs of gladiators would battle to the death, twelve hundred condemned prisoners would be eaten by lions and let’s not forget the animals-- lions against rhinos, buffaloes against tigers, and leopards against wild boars would be part of the show. The emperor Trajan once commissioned a series of games that lasted 122 days. 11,000 people and 10,000 animals of varying species were killed.
The games were national events and a lot of people had interest in making sure the games kept going. Think about this: How do you obtain 10,000 animals? How do you capture them and keep them until showtime? Who feeds these animals and cleans up after them? How many people are employed as attendants at a stadium that seats 385,000 people? Who cleans the place? Who removes the dead animal carcasses and burns them? Who buries the bodies? Who is running the betting operation and setting odds? Who is responsible for chariot maintenance? Who oversees security at the stadium? Who manages concessions? Who is responsible for the steady, uninterrupted flow of people to be eaten? Who makes swords and armor for the gladiators? Who provides personal one-on-one training for the gladiators? Who recurits guys to become gladiators?
Historians postulate that so many people were employed by the games and in peripheral industries surrounding the games that their elimination would have thrown the Roman economy into collapse.
Rome needed the games to keep the citizens distracted from the reality that the country was descending into chaos. The citizens needed the games as a diversion from their monotonous, insignificant lives. And, of course, the wealthy Patricians and Noblemen needed the games to keep the minds of the working class people far away from any notion of revolt. Status quo, at all costs, please.
The NBA, like each of the major professional sports in America, is first, and foremost, a business; a mammoth moneymaking operation that exists, above all else, to continue making money.
I empathize with baseball purists who say that the game began to denigrate with the onset of nighttime baseball. Baseball has already mortgaged its soul and on final approach to Hades. Basketball, though, can still be saved if we act now.
I am a basketball purist. The game must matter; its integrity, its beauty and its self-sustaining nature must be what’s held in highest regard. The first principles, regarding any decision about the game, must be: What is best for the game?
At the NBA level, the beauty of the game takes a back seat to commerce, expansion, and revenue. I think that’s wrong.
When my oldest son was in college, he worked as cashier at the Dallas Maverick fan shop-- the one at the American Airlines Center. He would often tell me they’d receive thousands of jerseys and other logo apparel each week. (The Nowitzky jersey was the most popular purchase with the Shawn Bradley jersey spending more time on the shelf.) Tens of thousands of jerseys. And that’s just one NBA team. If you multiply what happens in Dallas times thirty other franchises, the logo apparel industry has to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
And then there is the NBA on TNT/ESPN. It seems that every other commercial is about beer or cars.
Who are we kidding? This thing...this golden goose called the NBA is lining the pockets of many people.
Some of these business people may love the game, most I would guess, do not. They see it as a business opportunity. The same people would put logos on caskets and burkas if there was a market for it.
We must find a balance between the integrity of the game, and the need for commercial exploitation. Business people and corporate types don’t give a damn about Dr. Naismith’s most precious creation; they neither understand or appreciate its simple beauty and its unspeakable elegance--therefore, it is the direct and full responsibility of the basketball people to protect the game...and, if this means seizing it back from those who view it as a marketing free-for-all, then I say, ‘we need a coup de-etat.’
But let’s move on to what happened in Detroit.
There was a guy at my high school named Billy LeGrass. We’d just finished a heated pick-up game and were still arguing as we left the court. The thing continued into the locker room. I said, “You are such an asshole, all you do is whine when you get beat. I hate playing with you.” LeGrass, who now had a cup of ice water, threw it in my face. I, then, hit Billy in the jaw.
I remember it because I’m right-handed and I hurt my shooting hand. I regretting hitting him because I couldn’t play for a week. But, the reaction was instinctual.
Having beer or some liquid thrown in your face is disrespect. It’s humiliating and it deserves a response. My grandmother, one generation removed from slavery, recounted stories to me of how her mistress, with reckless impunity, would become angry because the sheets weren’t starched enough and respond by flinging the contents of the chamber pot into her face. My grandmother, forever gracious, never hit her mistress; but I’m sure that if lynchings and beatings were not a common practice, she would have considered such a response, well, appropriate.
For Blacks, the notion of getting liquids thrown in your face or poured on your person just doesn’t sit well. You’re going to get a response. Yes, Rush, Blacks don’t like getting dissed. And, it’s got nothing to do with hip-hop culture. It has more to do with chattel slavery. We were always getting our body parts chopped off, our backs flagellated, and our bodies humiliated. After all, how does one expect to be treated when your government considers you only partially a person (three-fifths, to be exact.)
Would the guy who poured the beer on Artest, or the person who threw the chair have done so have they met at a Bennigans or were chillin’ at some trendy coffee bar. Clearly, not.
Under the cover of the game, the fan somehow believed it was OK. After all, Artest was just a big, black guy in a Pacer jersey-- a nameless, faceless gladiator, if you will, who wasn’t a person but was there to provide entertainment. Throwing liquids and tossing chairs is what you do to those for whom you have no respect. “You’re not human, you’re a big, dumb beast and I’ll throw the acrid contents of my chamber pot at you and dare you to do something about it.”
Personally, the guy who threw the chair and the guy who poured beer on Artest deserved to get hit.
None of this mitigates the fact that Artest needs professional help. The way that he plays the game-- his history of flagrant fouls and questionable actions against other players and coaches are indicative of a guy living in some surreal basketball universe. I don’t think Ron Artest is all there. I hope that his time away from basketball will be a time of learning.
Suspending him for the rest of the season...well, I think it’s the right call for the wrong reason. Commissioner David Stern has one mission: to protect the goose laying golden eggs; and, therfore, the NBA can’t be labeled a ‘non fan-friendly, non-marketing friendly-envirornment.’ That is hardly consistent with the NBAs plans for global expansion.
Black players cold-cocking white fans does not, as they say in Hollywood, ‘play well in Peoria...nor Paris.’
The Pacers should have suspended him for the rest of the season when he asked for time off to promote and produce his record. That, to me, is a travesty. What real basketball player wants to do anything else during basketball season but play? If you want to produce albums , do it in the off-season.
Pundits and commentators talk about what a powerful message the fighting sent. What message -- we live in a violent world. As of today, 1,132 members of the Armed Forces have lost their lives in in Iraq-- according to the most recent DoD numbers, there have been more than 8,458 soldiers wounded in combat. Kids see more violence on Sony Play Station games than they saw at the Palace at Auburn Hill that night.
The most tragic message that Ron Artest delivered is when he asked for time away from the game to pursue other business interests. That message-- ‘the game is not important to me, but making money in the record business is ’-- will resonate with young people a lot longer.
The game ultimately purifies itself. That’s why basketball is so beautiful. The style that Artest brought isn’t new-- for years, every team had a ‘thug’ whose only purpose was to beat-up the opposing teams star.
Maybe the game has decided there is no longer a place for that style--and, what happened to Artest is just the game’s way of cleansing itself.
There is, however, a broader, and I think, more foreboding message for the NBA. The game, ultimately, will purify itself--and, as those in leadership positions within the game worship profits above all else, the more that events like this will occur. Am I suggesting more fights will happen? Most likely, it won’t be fights, but other kinds of peculiar events that will push average fans farther away and make the NBA less profitable.
We must find a balance between the integrity of the game and commercial exploitation. If we don’t, then the game, itself, will.