Monday, May 21, 2007

On that.....

Daveto asks (and answers) the question of whether the NBA's policy of suspending players who leave the bench during an altercation has to do with the fact that most of the players are black, and most of the NBA's audience is white.

I agree with his affirmative answer, but I don't think that ends the conversation.

From the NBA's perspective, it seems this means they are doing the right thing. They are running the business. Their customers demand a certain product (world-class basketball without bench-clearing brawls). The NBA's task is to provide it.

Which brings us to the demand side.

As Simmons has noted, bench-clearing brawls in baseball and hockey don't bring about nearly the concern that they do in the NBA. But I'm not sure the reason for that is entirely racial. The crowd is much closer to the action in basketball than it is in other sports, and there isn't much of a physical barrier. As the Ron Artest incident showed, the crowd can easily get involved in an NBA scuffle, and help it turn ugly.

Of course, this begs the question of whether it's "ugly" because the crowd's involved, or "ugly" because it's black guys fighting instead of white guys. Not sure we'll ever be able to tease that out.

Which may bring us back to the NBA's culpability. They could have better security, but that would take away from the atmosphere. Jack Nicholson might not pay the same price for his courtside seat if there were a barrier between him and the court, so there won't be a barrier any time soon.

Plus, the NBA exploits animosity. Why have the Lakers and Heat played each other the last three Christmases? Didn't they play up Reggie Miller jawing with Spike Lee?