Thursday, July 24, 2008

The House That Rage Built

So several years later, during a pro basketball game in Detroit, another big-time brawl erupted. This time ten players were suspended for a varied number of games, plus a former NBA player, now an assistant coach, also got suspended for his part in the brawl.

So what's the catch? The brawl happened at the tail end of a WNBA game -- a womens' pro basketball game.

Lots of opinions will spew forth over the Internet, radio talk show airwaves and across shiny, polished desks in the ESPN and ESPN2 Studios. Most of those opinions will focus on the fact that the female players that were suspended acted as badly as their male counterparts who lose their cool. Many pundits, observers and mouthpieces will trumpet or mock "Girl Power!" depending on his or her perspective, but for the most part, a brawl during a pro basketball game, whether involving men or women -- or both -- is an ugly, unfortunate spectacle.

One of the reasons why I stopped watching basketball, for the most part, is it became more thuggery than sport. By the time Tim Donaghy, the referee who admitted fixing NBA games, was outed, I was disinterested in the sport for at least five years. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact the Knicks are about as qualified to play basketball as most WNBA teams (and that's probably an insult to the WNBA, not the Knicks). But neither here nor there. The fact is that this brawl, like the one several years ago in Detroit (between the NBA's Pacers and Pistons) is an ugly, unfortunate side of pro sports. Let's face it, since Danica Patrick began showing up on Maxim covers, people watching racing (Nascar, Indy, and Drunken Pickup Races) have already seen three flare-ups involving her. And any publicity, even if it's shitty publicity that exemplifies Danica's diva-esque immaturity, is a good thing for racing sports that barely even qualify for TV ratings.

Thing is, however, we can talk about the upbringing and the culture of the players of the teams involved in both this week's Detroit brawl and the one in November, 2004. We can review all the cultural moires, issues and problems inherent in the sport. Or we can come to the logical conclusion:

It's all Detroit's fault.

Clearly, we should be blaming the arena and the City where all the bad shit happened: the Palace at Auburn Hills. It's not like all these brawls are happening at Madison Square Garden or the Staples Center in LA or the Bell Centre in Montreal (well, there are brawls but they happen between toothless white dudes on ice). So it's got to fall squarely on Detroit's shoulders for creating this animosity-riddled tempest of anger, bile and frustration.

Never mind that WNBA games are less exciting than watching the lottery numbers being announced -- in Spanish.

Never mind that most people would rather watch that "Sleep Number" infomercial than a WNBA game.

Never mind that I couldn't name three teams playing in the WNBA this season, or -- worse -- even if there are more than three teams in the league.

Never mind that the "PEANUTTTTTS!" guys walking around Madison Square Garden probably earn more annually than do the WNBA players.

Never mind that pro wrestling is more exciting to watch than WNBA games, even for the people who know what the outcomes are going to be before the matches are over.

And finally, never mind that if my only choices for televised sports were a WNBA game and a pro bowling tournament, I'd probably choose instead to go play in traffic.

The answer, then, is to either move the Detroit team to a more calm city, like somewhere (anywhere) in Nebraska or Iowa or Idaho, and tear down the Palace once and for all. It's just not safe for anyone, even players on team called the "Shock."

By the way, if you're wondering whether these sentiments are sincere, let me interest you in a season ticket subscription for the soon-to-be relocating Detroit Shock.

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