The Highs and Lows of Sports

This past weekend, we saw the highs and lows that people who like sports are capable of.

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For the high, consider the Grey Cup. This is what Don at All Things Canadian had to say after getting tickets to the game.

Co-worker: How’s it going?

Me: Pretty good - looking forward to the weekend!

Co-worker: Grey Cup - I’ve got my Rider jersey ready. (Starts singing some Rider Pride song)

Me: Excellent.

Co-worker: My Grandfather’s coming (from Saskatchewan). 88 years old. He’s bringing his jersey… and a flask of rum.

I think I’ll cheer for which ever team is on offence unless there is a big defensive play then I’ll cheer for them on that play.

Is it my imagination, or has the CFL turned a corner in recent years? I remember about six years ago when we started to look at each Grey Cup match as being the last for the venerable, beleaguered league. Teams were losing money hand over fist, attendance was down, way down, and the league’s experimental expansion to the United States had ended disasterously. Now the crowds are back, even in NFL-mad Toronto, and there is serious talk of adding a team in Halifax.

Moreover, the sentiment expressed above is actually quite common at Grey Cup matches, and a very good reason to attend, or hold a party while watching the game at home. And it wasn’t just the game that was important. Although there was no Grey Cup parade this year (shame!), there were breakfasts and get-togethers, and fun gatherings. Lots of hoopla, but all good clean fun. It was just a party. Sure some people may be cheering for one team over the other, but most everybody is just glad to be there. And the CFL is more glad than most to be anywhere these days.

Ugly, however, does not begin to describe what happened in Detroit during a regular season NBA match between the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers.

From Sports Illustrated

Wallace began the fracas by delivering a hard, two-handed shove to Artest after Wallace was fouled on a drive to the basket with 45.9 seconds remaining. After the fight ended, the referees called off the rest of the game.

The initial skirmish wasn’t all that bad, with Artest retreating to the scorer’s table and lying atop it after Wallace sent him reeling backward. But when a fan tossed a cup at Artest, he stormed into the stands, throwing punches as he climbed over seats.

Jackson joined Artest and threw punches at fans, who punched back. At one point, a chair was tossed into the fray.

Nine people were treated for injuries, and police are investigating possible criminal charges.

From the Detroit Free Press:

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Who’s to blame for one of the worst brawls in NBA history was a hot topic Saturday — for police, league officials, sports commentators and fans. But most agreed the Pistons fans who showered Pacers players with beer, ice and popcorn as they left the court after the 10-minute, game-ending fracas did not help perceptions of the city.

Of course, the NBA had no choice but to hand out some hefty penalties. A 73 game suspension for Ron Artest. Over 50 days in suspensions for his Pacers teammates. Over 140 days in suspensions in total. All without pay.

But more than a few people have commented on the part that unruly fans played in this detestable fracas. Northstar at the People’s Republic of Seabrook quotes Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy:

Van Gundy described taunts from fans as symptoms of the problem that might help explain how an incident can escalate from a confrontation on the court to violence in the stands.

“Certainly fans in that situation bear a large burden of responsibility,” Van Gundy said. “We have gotten into a mentality that anything goes. As a fan, you can say anything. I think civility needs to make a comeback as far as fan behavior. Be more positive for your team vs. negative toward opposing teams and/or players.

“Paying money to go to a game does not entitle you to do uncivilized things that would not be tolerated on the street. You can’t walk up to somebody on the street and pour something over a guy, say anything you want to a guy, and have no ramifications.

“I’m not trying to say Artest’s response was correct. I’m saying, ‘Do not put all the burden on Artest.’ He’s an easy target for all the things he’s been through.”

The conduct of some fans at NBA games has been compared to that of soccer hooligans in England, and on PBS there was some discussion about the need to restructure basketball arenas to pull the fans back from the court.

Sarah, a commentator on the People’s Republic of Seabrook takes a fairly pessimistic view, while offering up a pretty simple solution: stop selling beer at the games. On the level of violence, she says:

The recent electoral dysfunction and the anger-lashing rhetoric on both sides, building up to a frenzy that hasn’t yet passed thru the national paroxysm of spoilt ballots, overvotes, undervotes, whacked-out e-voting results, and general bad feelings, is feeding into the natural “competitivity” syndrome (read riot-scale aggression over something as dumb as a ball game. Yeah, you heard me. DUMB!) overtaking not just civility but common decency across the face of our planet.

I can understand why some fans get overexcited. One of the reasons I don’t follow sports to the degree I used to was because I got caught up in it too much. I had to come away in order to reorient myself and strike and hold the proper perspective. I was able to cheer for the Red Sox while holding respect for the strength of the Yankees. I watched the Cubs lose last year and only threw a pillow.

But the Grey Cup and the World Series and plenty of other examples show the joys that are possible through sports. That’s reason enough for us to embrace them… so long as we’re able to put aside the idea that sports is a model for war.


Reading over Seabrook’s post, I was surprised by the amount alcohol had to play in the fracas, and how reluctant some teams were to cut off this revenue stream.

This is the same NBA that was so opposed to gambling on principle that it interfered in the internal affairs of my province and threatened and cajoled when we dared to propose a provincial lottery on sports, including NBA games.

The fact that the NBA could get so upset over somebody putting two dollars down on a game that benefits hospitals, and yet let the beer flow in its arenas, suggests to me that somebody doesn’t have their priorities straight.

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