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FIRST-PERSON: The recipe remains for another NBA brawl

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–“Unfortunate” and “ugly” aptly describe the fight that broke out during the waning moments of the recent NBA game between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons.

For the most part, pundits who have offered reasons for the “Motown Melee” have been too narrow in their assessment. For some, the players own all the blame. Others want to lay everything at the feet of the fans. Some point a sweeping finger at society. A close look at the situation indicates a buffet of blame exists to explain the Detroit debacle.

Upon examination of the elements that contributed to the pugilistic eruption between players and fans, it’s evident that the recipe for a repeat performance is present at every NBA game. These are listed in no particular order:

— The “gangsta” image some NBA players cultivate. The tattoos and attitudes possessed by many players project an “I’ll mess you up if you fool with me” message. The image is worn like a chip on the shoulder, just daring someone to knock it off. During the course of a game, some fans are more than willing to accommodate.

— Spoiled and pampered players. Many, if not most, professional athletes have been catered to most of their lives. Too often, bad behavior has been excused — simply because they are talented.

— Societal incivility. In general, American culture has become increasingly crass and course. Foul language peppers too many conversations and obscene gestures are displayed much too often. Vulgarity is an omnipresent reality at professional sports events.

— Alcohol. The beverage thrown on the player that helped spark the Pacers/Pistons fight was not water or Coke — it was beer. Alcohol remains a major problem in America. Beer sales are ever-present at NBA arenas. Inebriated fans at pro sports events are obnoxious to other fans and abusive to players.

— Ticket prices. A decent seat for an NBA game can easily cost $100. Most courtside tickets cost much more. A fan that has shelled out $200 feels entitled to express whatever he or she wants to express.

— Fan loyalty. The home-court advantage is something NBA teams count on. Many fans seek to help the home team by trying to distract the opposition by hurling derogatory comments.

— Fan proximity. Many NBA fans are only a few yards, some only a few feet, from the game. Players and coaches can hear anything and everything that is directed toward them during the course of a game.

When all the factors are considered, it is really amazing that more brawls do not occur at NBA games. All it takes is a few players and/or fans behaving badly to create chaos.

Many of the aforementioned issues can and must be addressed by the NBA and its fans. If they are ignored, the decorum of pro basketball will continue to deteriorate and might eventually come to rival the atmosphere of a Jerry Springer show.
Kelly Boggs’ column appears each Friday in Baptist Press. He is pastor of the Portland-area Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.

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