How to Stop the Violence in Sports

Article excerpt

Byline: Mike Spellman Daily Herald Sports Writer

Every few years, an incident occurs in the world of sports that is so violent, so shocking and so unexpected it shakes people to the core.

From Kermit Washington decking Rudy Tomjanovich on the basketball court in Inglewood, Calif., in 1977 to Todd Bertellini blindsiding Colorado's Steve Moore on the ice in Vancouver last March.

In between there have been other disturbing scenes: a stabbing of Monica Seles in Germany, an attack on a veteran first base coach by a father and son tandem at Comiskey Park, and Los Angeles Dodgers players jumping into the Wrigley Field stands four years ago to retaliate against fans for dumping beer and stealing a cap.

As Marvin Gaye once sang, "What's going on?"

Saturday's punch/drunk melee in Detroit involving Ron Artest and his Indiana Pacers teammates, the Pistons, the fans and the security staff certainly raised the bar on unruly behavior.

Now that the suspensions have been handed out and we wait for fans, players and the NBA to take their game to a court of law, we asked a variety of people involved at different levels in sports to look at it from their unique perspective.

What's the problem? Can it be fixed? Does the punishment fit the crime?

Perspectives on fighting in the sports world

Barriers help

Peter Wilt, general manager of the Chicago Fire:

"There is virtually no barriers between the court and stands and that perhaps lends itself to a fan feeling more intimately involved in the game and there is more of a feeling he can communicate, touch or affect a player on the court. There is no boundary to prevent a player going into the stands.

"Security people at stadiums will tell you (cutting off alcohol sales) curtails rowdy fan behavior. But it could (also) impact some fans' willingness to attend events, and it could impact, in some cases, sports sponsorships

"(My reaction to the incident) was horror. This sacred boundary was being invaded in both cases, with players in the stands and then seeing those fans who went out on the court. It is more than an unwritten rule that the parties don't belong on the other side. …