Look, I’m hardly interested in writing some kind of cliched-up “today’s athletes are pussies” piece or whatever, but just exactly how much is a dude who is old enough to remember the Detroit Bad Boys and the Riley Knicks and Kevin McHale’s lariat on Kurt Rambis supposed to take?
The game had to change. I get that. David Stern is the grandaddy of polarizing authority figures for a multitude of reasons, chief among them the fact that he’s put every ounce of muscle he’s had over the last 30 years toward fixing one perceived image crisis after another for the sake of long-term health of his predominantly black sport. In the 70’s and 80’s, it was the drug problem, and he jumped out in front of it to kill the Cocaine epidemic before it killed his league, which the infamous 1986 NBA Draft came close to doing, literally and otherwise. The NBA got to where it is on the backs of it’s superstars and outsized personalities, and because Stern did everything he could to keep his players from getting in their own way, image-wise. Fair or not, He knew that things like a dress code and age limits on the talent pool help shield the players from unfair, even subconscious racial profiling. Stern’s genius has always lied in the fact that he is keenly aware of what, if anything, could threaten the posterity of his league.
Like it or not, the 2005 Palace Brawl (also known as the Artest Melee) changed the league as much as the concussion issue is altering Football, only this situation is a result of avoiding image problems more than health-related ones. What happened that night, as far as Stern was concerned, had more to do with the image of his league than any actual physical violence that occurred. On that night, everything changed. Now, players get suspended for just stepping on the court (a rule that just might have cost the Suns the 2007 Championship) and anything even remotely physical gets you fined, suspended or worse. In Stern’s eyes, the violence that took place on that fateful night in Detroit threatened to brand his entire league as a place where wild, uncontrollable pituitary cases ran wild, beating the shit out of each other and worse, paying customers, and nothing could be worse than letting that perception become reality in a league where 75% of the work force is African-American.
It was the most practical solution to the problem, like it or not, and honestly the game is better off without the kind of wild-west shit they used to let slide in the eighties and early nineties. Don’t get it twisted or anything, I’m not asking for a return to this.
You gotta be careful though. You know the ‘frog in the pot of boiling water’ theory? It’s perfectly reasonable to want the game to be free of violence and dirty play. Problem is, the flagrant foul rules have gotten pushed so far that at this point, you can’t touch a guy above his shoulders, accidental or not, can’t really make any kind of hard foul and quite frankly, can’t do much of anything without getting a technical foul, a flagrant call or an ejection. Thing is, it’s been such a gradual process, this elimination of anything even resembling dirty, that it’s hard for anyone but the oldest fans to even see how much as changed.
Last night, though. For me, it was the last straw.
C’mon, man. You can’t tell me J.J. Barea deserved to thrown out of a fucking game for giving Ray Allen an itty bitty little chest bump. Little J.J., all 5’10, 175 pounds of him. Maybe half of why this was called has to do with the dive Ray Allen took. maybe some of it is owed to the retaliatory nature of what he Barea did after Allen got away with pushing off. Doesn’t fucking matter. That is not a flagrant foul. In the words of Don Logan, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no!”.
For fucks sake, It’s a body contact foul that should have been a ‘ball out of bounds’, proposition, not the ‘rugby scrum, close to a donnybrook’ deal it turned into, thanks to the way Aleen hammed it up. And really, if the boss is serious about the new flopping rules, I’d fully expect Ray Allen to get punished before Barea does.
I’m serious. I know the NBA is a different, cleaner, more family-friendly place than it was way back when. Still, I refuse to believe that we’re that far gone and if we really are, how long it will it be before you are literally forbidden to physically contact another player without ejection, suspension or death-by-strangulation?
Watch the video again, specifically the part where Barea calls Allen a pussy. Funny as it is, I disagree. An actor, maybe. Drama queen, perhaps. Pussy is a stretch, tho.
The Commissioner, on the other hand.