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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Athletes and fans must be grounded back in reality

By now, most people have heard about the melee on Nov. 19 between the Indiana Pacers, the Detroit Pistons and the fans. Many are also familiar with the brawl between the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and the Clemson Tigers the following evening. And perhaps a few even caught a segment on their local evening news this past weekend about a Thanksgiving Day fight between two Rhode Island high school football teams, West Warwick and Coventry, which, according to NBC 10 from Providence, resembled “a scene right out of the brawl at an NBA game about a week ago.”
Hopefully, today’s newspapers do not contain any headlines describing a fight between two YMCA youth teams.
Although fights among teams are not new headlines, the frequency of these events and the extent of what is happening, especially between the Pacers and Pistons, is troubling.
It is time for the players and the fans to be put back in their place.
After the Tigers’ and Gamecocks’ fight, both schools refused to accept a bowl game invitation this year. Although this might seem unfair to the majority of the players and fans, it is an appropriate punishment. Anyone who has been to high school knows that sometimes the teacher must punish the whole class due to the actions of a few. Accepting this is a mark of maturity.
In a statement to the media regarding the Gamecock’s withdrawal, Athletic Director Mike McGee said, “Football is a team sport. The punishment will be one that will affect the entire team.” The universities’ actions this year should remind players that, should they let their emotions dictate their actions, their friends, family and school will suffer.
The night before this fight, 10 furious minutes of chaos ensued between Pacers, Pistons and fans. NBA Commissioner David Stern quickly responded with several suspensions, including an indefinite suspension of Ron Artest.
Focus of blame has been an issue of disagreement. Stern obviously believed that the players must take on much (though not all) of the responsibility for the events. Late Show host David Letterman, between his jokes against Artest, has blamed the fans for provoking the players. The fans and the players must take responsibility, and both must be evaluated by all sporting agencies to see what must be done when looking to prevent fights.
First and foremost, proper disciplinary action must be taken when these fights occur. USC, Clemson and the NBA especially have taken appropriate actions. Professional athletes must be punished the most since they are seen as role models to children whether they want to be or not. That is part of the job description. As such, they must act in such a way that children will benefit from attending the games, rather than being negatively influenced.
Any fans who get involved, whether by provoking players or by attacking them, should be turned over to civil authorities and dealt with accordingly. While players should not charge into the stands, fans must never come onto the playing field without authorization. In cases where a fan attacks a player, such as the 1999 attack on former Astros right fielder Billy Spiers, the other players have a right to defend their teammate.
Actions must be taken to control the fans as well. Although altercations between fans and players do not occur every day, they are by no means rare. The most extreme methods of control are to install physical barriers between the stands and the field and prohibit the sale of alcohol, a catalyst to violent behavior. Neither of these is necessary at this time.
However, alcohol consumption must be monitored and limited. Currently, the only way that alcohol is normally limited is by an individual vendor refusing to sell alcohol when a fan appears to have had too much already. Something more effective must be created, such as requiring fans that wish to drink alcohol to buy an “alcohol card” which must be used to purchase their beverages. Limits can then be enforced. This might seem a burden to some, but if it works, it should be used.
Society has come a long way from the fight-to-the-death sporting events of antiquity, and even from James Naismith’s rules of basketball that The Seattle Post-Intelligencer describes as complete mayhem. Progress must continue to be made lest there begin to be a slide back into barbarianism.

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