Stuart News Oct 21, 2008, 2004 – Kevin Van Brimmer – In the days since Friday’s fight between NBA players and fans in Detroit, commentators, writers, coaches, players and fans have been expressing their outrage, disgust and shock that such a thing could happen in American professional sports. But the question is: Should we be shocked?
“I think this issue has been brewing and accelerating for a long period of time,” says Jupiter-based (correction – Palm Beach based) sports performance psychologist John Murray. American culture is more and more becoming one of violence. It sells in the news and it sells in entertainment, from professional wrestling to blockbuster movies. So was it any surprise it has spilled over professional sports like a tidal wave? Friday night’s fracas isn’t the first case of athletes and fans tussling in American sports. But the tsunami crested and broke in the 15-minute melee in Detroit on Friday when Indiana’s Ron Artest charged into the stands to mix it up with a fan who threw a drink on him and was followed by his teammates. Artest received a season-long ban from NBA Commissioner David Stern for his actions and eight other players on both sides received suspensions of various lengths. But will Stern’s actions quell any future player-fan confrontations? Murray says no, not by themselves.
He says there needs to be proactive measures taken by teams to ensure its players don’t get so close to the breaking point again. “I do believe in discipline, suspensions and fines,” Murray says. “I think it’s a great move by Stern. I think (Artest) being out the whole season is the way to do it; tighten up the grip a little more. You have to stand up and have some bite behind the bark. Otherwise, it’s just talk. There needs to be a policy of no-tolerance. “My pitch is, each franchise needs to have a genuine sports psychologist that can work with these athletes and give them perspective. A sports psychologist may also help athletes express themselves in positive ways instead of exploding.”
But it’s not just the moral compass of the professional athlete that has been progressively skewed in recent years. The other part of the equation Friday was the behavior of the fans, Murray said. “I think the opportunity for people to become part of the limelight has changed,” Murray says. “Especially with reality television. Everybody wants to become part of the action.” Murray also believes the media perpetuates the growing culture of violence and aggressiveness in America. The best example is the fact that footage of Friday’s fight has been playing continuously on sports and news channels since the incident. “We’re intoxicated as a culture, so we need a detox program,” Murray says. “We need to think smart as a culture. “The most important thing is our kids see this and think it’s acceptable. It’s not. We need to wake up.”
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