Indiana at Detroit: Friday Night at the Fights

So I have been working my ass off as of late, which would explain my absence, and what the hell comes to my attention? I can't see or hear anything in the media today without some mention of the big brawl that occurred last week near the conclusion of the Pacers/Pistons game. There is conservative commentary abound lamenting the decline of civil behavior, coupled with visions of young crying fans, and topped off with expressed fear of allowing children to watch basketball games and the like due to the images their delicate eyes might see.

I can actually hear the sound of my own eyes rolling. Good fucking grief.

I know a little bit about how professional sports teams work. Prior to my illustrious career in the biotechnology/pharma industry, I spent a portion of my life working for professional sports franchises (both in business operations and player operations), including working for one of the NBA's teams. This particular league has been in decline in sometime, they had just been hiding it well. I was working for the franchise in the mid-90's that saw its 3rd largest sell out streak in NBA history go down the tubes. I personally witnessed the enabling of poor behavior at all levels of the game, from the boardroom to the locker room, and on and off the court. A rabid sports fan prior to entering the wide world of sports, I left it feeling bitter, resentful, and put off by the whole experience.

On this latest charade, David Stern and the NBA had it coming. May they all crash and burn. Stern and team owners have sat idly by and allowed convicted felons to comprise 40% of its work force. The NBA is little more than a very expensive prison playground. If sports franchises want to save their leagues in the short term, they'll start enforcing the moral turpitude clauses in their standard agreements and enact a player ban on all convicted felons, regardless of offense. Talented athletes are a dime a dozen, and if a particular athlete can't behave, then remove him (or her) from the league. There are no less than 6 equally talented players who will be willing to follow the rules, keep their noses clean, and just play ball.

Contrary to what liberal/socialist/commie/one worlders believe, nobody on this planet has the inalienable right to a job. Especially, nobody has the right to make millions of dollars playing basketball for a living. Part of a player's job is to be a public figure who represents a team's brand on a global level. If he can't do that in a positive way, then terminate his contract. The unions and lawyers can help the displaced find a career field that will allow an employee to behave as poorly as he chooses...until he ends up where he belongs...in jail. And yes, I understand the collective bargaining agreements better than you do. Saving sports as a viable entertainment industry will require these agreements to be burned or at least seriously modified. The players want to strike? Re-read the last sentence of my previous paragraph.

There is one more issue: where in the hell is law enforcement? If crimes on the court were prosecuted off the court, we may see less of them. I heard that in this latest episode, a fan threw a drink. Well, then the fan should be prosecuted as well as the players involved. Assault and/or battery is no less in a basketball arena than it is on the street; so charge and punish the offenders. All your evidence is on tape. You have thousands of witnesses.

Banning felons is only a short term fix however; there are many problems with professional sports in general that will not likely be remedied. I have always been of the opinion that the quickest way to clean up all professional sports is by requiring a college degree prior to entering a draft, or signing any player contract. You would weed out probably 95% of your riff raff. The leagues will never agree to this, so in the alternative, the time has come for us all to recognize the truth: sports at the college level are nothing more than farm teams for professional leagues. Rather than wasting classroom space and university resources on some illiterate who is only meeting his minimum requirements to remain on the team for that elusive shot at the pros, he should just be paid for the service he provides. Then, if he wants to spend his money on his education...welcome to college. Let him attend college between his sports job, in the off season, and like the rest of us.

Let's examine what is currently happening; the NBA in particular is recruiting its players at a younger and younger age. How many of you knew serious high school athletes? I don't mean some half-baked yotz who hasn't played basketball since junior high who tells everybody that he's talking to NBA scouts on the phone. I mean real high school sports stars. Those guys who devote all their time to practicing, often to the exclusion of academics. College scouts are in the stands, and coaches are fixing grades while offering to pay a couple of smart kids to tutor the star so he can maybe pass English, or make a high enough SAT score to get him admitted to the college who is offering that scholarship.

I knew plenty of these guys. They were all over my high school, some where my friends. Many got those college scholarships and even a few made the pros. These guys know they're good. They know they're special. They know they're above the rules and that somebody will pull strings for them to get ahead. They do stupid shit because they know they can get away with it...I mean no hometown policeman wants to be the guy who arrested the star center two days before that next crucial game. And these are the kids who the NBA is handing millions of dollars to and saying have fun. What in the hell does anybody expect?

Of course, I could have avoided this entire post by asking the first obvious question. Who in the hell should fuckin' care about a bunch of young hoodrats who make millions of dollars playing kids' games? If these are the people you hold up to your kids as role models and heroes, than you have a lot bigger problems.


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