(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)
On Tuesday, NBA commissioner David Stern spoke about the league becoming more involved with security issues in each arena as a response to the Pistons and Pacers melee two weeks ago.
He said new guidelines would be in place by January. While he said the league would be asserting more authority in its arenas, the only thing he mentioned specifically was a possible ban on cursing by fans.
I think that would be a step in the right direction. I’ve been to high school games locally, where people were yelling obscenities about officiating in a junior high game.
(By the way, what good does this do? Has there ever been a ref that heard a fanatic cussing about a no-call and reversed his decision? ‘Hey, that guy just yelled an anatomically impossible slur at me. I think I’ll cut his team a break!’)
While I don’t do it, I have been with friends who aren’t above it. Like the time my buddy Thomas called then Cincinnati Bearcat Nick Van Exel a word for female genitalia. It’s not as if I have a mouth like a saint. When I’m talking to people I know well I usually sound like Popeye, I just try to watch it when I’m in public.
Although it’s a good idea, I think the execution would be next to impossible. Considering that there are about 200 or so security personnel to monitor crowds as large as 19,000, I think Stern’s plan would be reliant upon some tattle telling from fellow patrons.
Security ‘guards’ are one of the main areas that need attention in my opinion. When I went to the Grizzlies’ first ever playoff game last April (I just love saying that), I saw what looked like someone’s grandmother wearing a yellow jacket emblazoned with ‘SECURITY’.
As sure as I’m writing this while waiting for ‘Law & Order’ to come on, that woman was pushing 70. I’m not an ageist or anything; I’m all for the elderly working, but as security at an NBA game? Long gone are the days when people came to games wearing their suits and hats and sat in their seats the entire time with rolled-up programs. In those days, geriatric security might have worked.
Nowadays there needs to be highly trained, highly skilled professionals securing these multi-million-dollar arenas and athletes, as well as protecting us hard-working fans who fuel the whole shindig.
Doesn’t the league have enough money to ensure that only the best is protecting their product and customers? The issue of security should start with security, not some first-step Orwellian desire to control what the public says.
Another area that needs to be addressed is the issue of selling beer at a sporting event. Despite what Stern says about fans “hurling obscenities”, what was thrown at Ron Artest that fateful Friday fight night, was a cup of beer.
(By the way, if you gave that guy another 50 attempts to throw an underhanded lob from 60-feet and have it land squarely on Artest’s chest again, he would miss every time. The only thing I’m more certain of is this column is boring you to tears.)
What is the need for selling beer at an NBA game anyway? Aside from the mucho lira everyone makes for Joe Kegger plunking down a twenty-twin-twin for a cup of stale ale, I can’t come up with one.
I think if you can’t go two and a half hours without drinking a beer, there might be larger issues that need your attention. Besides, don’t most of these drinkers have to drive home afterwards? I guess the NBA is cool with drinking and driving as long as you don’t attack a player, or cuss about it.
Don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not like I’m a tee-totaler who never indulges in alcohol. And I completely understand the need some have for blowing off steam after a hard day at work.
But to me, drinking or getting drunk at a sporting event is kind of weird. Good money is paid for expensive tickets, to watch athletes in peak condition, displaying some of the marvels the human body can achieve.
It’s like smoking a carton of cigarettes while watching the Boston marathon, or fasting while watching Emeril, or discussing hard scientific facts while Star Trek is on. Maybe I’m going overboard, but you get my point (I hope).
Speaking of cigarettes, they are banned in arenas, while beer gets a free pass. I’m not a smoker, but I’ve been around it all my life. I’m not sure which is worse, second-hand smoke, or listening to some belligerent drunk, who can’t stand up or speak coherently. There are exceptions of course, not everyone acts like a malcontent while they’re drinking. But too many do, and those are the ones that usually cause problems.
With better security and less beer served, I would almost guarantee that another incident like the one that occurred at the Palace, would never happen again. Then again, better officiating, better home training, and refresher courses to hammer home the fact that these are games would be useful also.
There are enough things in life to stress you out and send your blood pressure into orbit. Most people go to games to be entertained, not become swept up in a border war shouting-match that’s a few Mel Gibsons away from becoming Thunderdome.
Before any of those changes are made though, the NBA is going to wash your mouth out with soap.