You know that old line about wanting to see a fight in which the victor dies of his wounds? That's the image that comes to mind on hearing George Karl rant on about Isiah Thomas and the brilliant one's instigation (or lack thereof) of Saturday Night's Main Event at Madison Square Garden. Well, we don't really want either of them to actually die but you get the idea. If each of these buffoons could fade permanently from the Nation's view, that would do nicely, thank you.
Putting some perspective into the sports news these days makes you kind of fearful. Just when you thought much of the news was as bad as can be, it gets worse. It's not just the Nuggets-Knicks punch-up that has us dismayed. It's Tank Johnson and his gun arrest and his presence when his security guard/roommate (and fellow arrestee) is killed in an early morning shooting at a Chicago area bar. This Chicago Bear was clearly in a place he shouldn't have been. What he was doing with an apparent mini-arsenal in his house we'll let others figure out. I am mystified.
On Tuesday we see that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Detroit Lions assistant Joe Cullen for one game for his late summer arrest for DWN--that's Driving While Naked, kiddies. You Lions fans must be so proud.
Imagine that Terrell Owens getting fined $35K for spitting in the face of the Falcons DeAngelo Hall is only fourth on our hit parade.
And of course there are the Cincinnati Bengals who lead all leagues with eight players arrested this year. We would ordinarily let that just go without comment but seeing the Bengals on ESPN getting whipped by the Colts on Monday night raises this question about how people view this team's missteps. ESPN's magazine has a coming article (which was on its website in advance of the Bengals appearance on Monday night) in which Coach Marvin Lewis angrily defends his players' actions if not their activities in those off-the-field incidents. Then on TV, the story is different. Tony and Joe are telling us that Coach Lewis finds the arrests terribly disturbing and embarrassing. So which is it guys? And while we're making people fade away would it be too much to ask to never again have to see or hear Joe Theismann get it so wrong while so sure he's so right? Monday night he was ripping the Bengals for trying to establish a running game early. But he was saying that when the Colts had long since clinched their victory. How could he be wrong? Of course, the Colts were last in run defense coming in and had given up 375 yards on the ground the previous week. Joe's explanation? The Bengals, who have a very good running back in Rudi Johnson, by trying to establish the run, had played into the Colts advantage. Huh? What? Joe Theismann's mouth may be the least of our worries about the sports world but it is one thing that is constantly unpleasant anyway.
But let's go back to the incident at MSG. You can argue from day till night about whether Carmelo Anthony got what he deserved with his 15-game suspension. One wonders if he would have gotten more or less for that sucker punch to the face of instigator Mardy Collins if he had stayed to take his blows instead of moon dancing backwards like a 6-7 Michael Jackson.
But here's our question and it goes to Commissioner David Stern: What the heck were you thinking when you didn't suspend, fine and publicly reprimand Isiah Thomas and George Karl? What were you afraid of? Lawsuits? Appeals? The wrath of the team owners? Do you really believe the fines assessed to each team will keep this kind of thing from happening again?
Could the Commish be afraid of being barred from his hometown arena at Madison Square Garden if he offended the Knicks ditzy owner Jim Dolan? Could he be afraid of getting his Wal-Mart shopping privileges revoked by Nuggets' owner and Wal-Mart heir Stan Kroenke if he bounced Karl? What is it?
Stern made a big point while talking to the media on Monday about the penalty that the teams are facing for the incident--losing their players (a big penalty for sure, particularly in the Nuggets case) and the fine. The league said it had never fined a team so much and that very well may be true. And we won't argue that $500,000 is not a lot of money. But the Knicks are paying Jalen Rose some $16 million not to play and Larry Brown some $28 million not to coach so who's kidding who?
A fine of $500,000 is not enough to change behavior, not enough to stop coaches acting like preening jerks and not enough to get their players to try to defend their "manhood" for an action on court. The coaches, both of them, should have been suspended, even if it could not be proven that Isiah had "ordered" the flagrant foul by Collins. A fight like that does not happen with a coach who has the proper control of his players, who cares that his players act as one of the FanNation bloggers said the other day: "if you have a problem with someone on the court...take it out on the game. Play harder. Shoot better. NOT HIT HARDER!" Stern wimped out big-time in his dealing with Karl and Thomas. Big-time.
Consider that since the brawl of Auburn Hills in November 2004, the league has assessed several fines of more than six figures for such atrocious acts as:
- A $100,000 fine to the Houston Rockets for taking their players on a one-day jaunt to Las Vegas while on a road trip. (A violation of the collective bargaining agreement and its salary cap apparently.)
- A $200,000 fine to the very same George Karl for illegal contact with college players. (That conjures an image we'd rather not contemplate.)
- A $200,000 fine to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a voluntary, but against the rules, mini-camp.
- A $200,000 fine for Mavericks' owner and maverick owner Mark Cuban, $100K for coming on to the court during a playoff game and another $100K for criticizing the League and the Commissioner in his blog. (Uh, oh.)
- And my personal favorite, a total of $650,000 for several teams' allowing their players to play with their shorts too long. Among the leaders in this clubhouse? The Knicks with $100K and the Nuggets with $150K.
So let's get this straight: the Nuggets (coached by George Karl) allowed three players (Andre Miller, Voshon Lenard and DerMarr Johnson) to play with baggy shorts below their knees and got $150,000 in fines and that same coach and team had their players partaking in a horrendous on-court fight that endangered fans at courtside and that was worth just another $350,000? No wonder people laugh at the NBA.