Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Brawly Brawl

Everyone's weighed in on the lovely display that took place last Fri night at The Palace in Auburn Hills, including me on a Baltimore sports radio show last night (sorry you missed it -- insights galore). And while it's easy to dismiss the ravings of, say, Rush Limbaugh, whose idiotic take last year on Donovan McNabb provided laffs aplenty, the ex-junkie is on to something about the current state of the NBA:

"We have a sports culture that practically encourages [violence] and promotes it, by rewarding the most obscene behavior with the most television time and the most attention, and the most appearances on the highlights reel, and so one thing feeds off the other. So I don't know what they're going to do to get hold of it."

This is the first time that I've ever agreed with Limbaugh. Indeed, I wrote pretty much the same in my book "American Fan." The present American sports culture is based on strutting, preening, braying, trash talking, humiliating one's opponent while celebrating, as loudly as possible, one's victory. Not only do we see this on Sports Center and related shows, you can find this behavior re-enacted in various sports video games. That's just for the young jocks to emulate. Fans are encouraged to act as crazily as possible, to lose emotional control at the mere sight of a camera lens, to paint face & chest and emit tribal grunts & screams as a means of supporting the home team.

And thanks to ESPN, among others, such extremism is seen as quirky, funny, the very beating pulse of the red-blooded American fan. So it's no wonder that we saw what we saw last week. And we will see more. Much more. After all, as Limbaugh should appreciate, the market dictates, and the media-driven roles for both athlete and fan have proven most profitable.

That's as far as I can go with Head Rush. But typically, he went further:

"Just rename the city of Detroit to New Fallujah, Michigan, and then what happens at the Palace of Auburn Hills will be understood by everybody who goes there."

Dunno if Rush knows that the areas surrounding Detroit are home to the largest Arab-American population in the US, which includes a fair number of Iraqis. Surely they'll get the "New Fallujah" joke, especially in light of what we've done to Old Fallujah, a blood-soaked bit that I'm sure kept Rush laughing into the wee hours.