For better or worse, the NBA is as clean and non-violent as it’s ever been

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Basketball is all soft and cuddly and fight-free now. I mean, all sports are these days, mostly as a result of what the world now knows about head injuries and such. For that reason at least, I see nothing wrong with the people in charge putting rules in place to keep athletes safe. That said, nobody said they had to go all fucking crazy with it.

Really, it’s gone way too far.

After everything that’s gone down, all the concussions and PR disasters and Ron Artest’s journey into the stands in Detroit, this is what we’re left with: an over-officiated, non-physical game where all of the emotion is basically regulated right out of there. Shit, this blessed love tap is what passes for a flagrant foul these days.

Again, I’m all for the safety of the players and all that good shit, but when we’ve gotten to the point where there isn’t even such a thing as a “message foul” or even a hard one, well that’s a bridge too far. What are you supposed to do in the playoffs to discourage players from driving the lane with impunity, stare at ’em funny? Would would have happen to pat Riley’s old “no lay-up” edict under these rules?

Got me to thinking about how much has changed in say, the last 35 years or so, when fighting was at it’s absolute worst in the NBA. 1977 was the year when a routine fight between the Lakers and Rockets turned into the most brutal, violent spectacle  in NBA history after Kermit Washington decked Rudy Tomjanovich and more or less completely broke his face. Crazy as it sounds now, later that same year there was an absolutely frightening fight during the NBA Finals, a perfect example of what happens when two gigantic men get pissed off enough to start swinging like madmen, resulting in absolute pandemonium during the league’s signature event, and best of all, broadcast on national TV for all to see.

Maurice Lucas was bad. Back in the days when you actually needed a enforcer on your team to protect your star players from cheap shots, (a position rendered obsolete by the  Artest melee and the resulting rule changes it spawned) Lucas was one of those dudes you just didn’t fuck around with. Lucas was brought into Portland at the start of the 1977 season to keep teams from gooning it up on Bill Walton, and not only did Lucas succeed on that front, he went on to lead the team and scoring and grab 12 rebounds a game to boot.

Well, it was in Mo’s job description to intervene whenever an opponent starting taking liberties with his buddies, which is the best way to describe what Darryl Dawkins did to Bobby Gross while the two got tied up going for a rebound. Dawkins got to acting so crazy, so big-guy-pickin’-on-little-guy, so fully engrossed in playing the puffed up bully role, you just new somebody was gonna have to do something about it.

That’s fucking crazy. I mean, that’s not “two dudes settling things like men” (as is de rigueur in Hockey) or “even two dudes getting caught up in the moment”, that’s two pituitary cases who, if not for the enormity of their limbs and their inability to control them, might have fucking killed each other.

Yeah, I’m not advocating a return to the old lawlessness of the 70’s or anything that nuts. Shit, I’m not even saying you should be able to do this or even this without their being severe consequences and the like.

So what am I saying, then? Well, something about how most problems usually get over-corrected before we get it right, and that’s pretty much the stage we’re at now. If you watched any of the NCAA tournament this year, you saw how they’ve taken the Flagrant 1 rule to it’s logical conclusion by awarding two shots and the ball every fucking time and elbow made contact with a face, any face, regardless of intent. How long before players start throwing their faces at said elbows in an attempt to circumvent the rules, especially since the NCAA wasn’t even smart enough to institute an accompanying “flopping rule” to discourage them? Even the NBA was smart enough to do that, right?

Still though, as much as some of us older folk lament the softness of the current game, at the end of the day it’s probably better than what was happening in the seventies or really, any time up until the night of the Palace Brawl.

Better safe than sorry and all that, but some shit needs fixin’. If it gets any worse, they’ll end up playing in their own atmospheric bubbles and shit, and actual physical contact will result in public execution.

Oh, and two shots and the ball.

-JH

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