The sports world is abuzz with the brawl/riot that took place between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, and if you haven’t seen the pertinent videos, you can find some here (although the small screen doesn’t quite do it justice). When I first saw it, it made me actually a little sick, probably from some holdover desire for every game to be like “Hoosiers” or perhaps one of Dean’s random wins over Koach K.
Everyone’s trying to figure out who to blame – Pistons fans, Ron Artest, etc. – but the smarmiest judgments came from the sportscasters, who not only condoned the beating up of random fans, but also tut-tutted with endless disgust, saying it was the darkest night of NBA hoops any of them had known.
Frankly, I think that’s a bit disingenuous. I have never turned to the NBA for rational discourse, treatises on how to behave, or good basketball, for that matter. I’ve hated the pro game since I was a kid, because college was always more exciting. I’d rather watch Boise State play Montana than to sit through another Laker game.
The Pistons/Pacers brawl, to me, is the essence of the current American character. There is so much free-floating anger in this country that I’m surprised a massive arena riot hasn’t already taken place.
The last four years have shown us that when it comes right down to it, we are not protected. We are on our own. There were no parachutes or magic slides out of the World Trade Center, there is no flu vaccine for your pregnant wife, and the power will fucking go out for half of America for days on end. Don’t expect there to be a safety net, because there isn’t one.
Now, I’m repulsed beyond reckoning that a 6’6″ athlete weighing 250 is rushing into the stands to beat the living shit out of a 5’9″ schlub because he might have been the one to throw a plastic cup of beer. But the Pacers, at that moment, were in a situation that appeared to have no safety net, and then they made a decision: to beat up everyone they could get their hands on.
I think Tessa’s theory is correct: the number of violent murders with guns in this country is not the cause of a culture of fear (which was Michael Moore’s hypothesis in “Bowling for Columbine”), it is because we are a culture that says, from the very top, that it is okay to kill our own.
The death penalty sets a subconscious precedent from above that sets in motion a wanton disregard for life all over. It’s like having a parent who is a pathological liar; chances are you will be too.
The Pacers aren’t just from poor neighborhoods where fighting was a regular survival technique – they’ve taken their cue from the highest sources in America. Our current administration has reacted to every threat by killing hundreds of thousands of people who happened to be in the wrong country when the towers came down. The litany of our international thuggery gets longer every day.
Now, I’m not saying George Bush was unleashing his inner monster through the body of Ron Artest on Friday night, but I am saying that this country is full of blind rage at a world they can no longer control.
And this is the basic difference between some Americans. Some use their basest emotions, which they misconstrue as some sort of inner truth, and unleash unchecked punishment on anyone who doesn’t appear to agree with them. Others, on the other hand, would have walked out of the gym. You get hit with a beer? You’re mad, but you don’t throw roundhouse sucker punches at people a foot shorter than you.
Alone, surrounded, and feeling the pangs of a world without a safety net, I’m trying to be the latter. I’d like to formally withdraw.