Henry Abbott summed up
my feelings better than I can. Must-read link. But I'll do it anyway.
Thrilled as I am that the Suns fought back against the Spurs to win Game 4
, I'm even more thrilled that they fought back against the Spurs literally. This may be a game or two late, but I'm just about done respecting San Antonio on any level. My tolerance of Bruce Bowen has shot way past rock bottom, obviously, but the crap that Robert Horry pulled on Steve Nash is the just last nail in the coffin. One guy
called it "chickenshit," which I think is the perfect word for it. People think they're tough or gritty or whatever, but I think they're the exact opposite: a bunch of gutless cowards.
It makes me wonder... why do we refuse to punish people for cheating on the court
the same way we do when they cheat off the court
? Look at how steroid-based cheating is a goddamn federal case, while blatant, documented, VISUAL evidence of cheating is "the mark of a champion" or something. That's some ol' bullshit. If we're taking away Barry Bonds's records for steroid-based cheating, and taking away Final Four appearances for finance-based cheating, why do we not take away championships for just plain-old cheating?
I recognize that putting asterisks next to teams' titles for general cheating opens up a can of worms. Very few championship teams won without gamesmanship on some level. As a Patriots fan, I know all about the bargain with the devil. But I'm talking about punishing the poster children. The very worst of the very worst. Bonds is the poster child for steroids, and has thus been made an example. San Antonio is the poster child for cheating on defense and intentionally trying to injure players. Why can we not make them
an example? I think there's a pretty goddamn fabulous case to be made.
Dreams aside, let's return to the real focus of my bile: Bruce Bowen. How much more of his dirty, evil, talentless, and above all else unpunished
shit does America have to endure before someone DOES something about it?
The guy is a joke. He's not talented enough to compete, so he cheats. He is the physical embodiment of "getting away with it." He's O.J, he's Ray Lewis, he's Kobe Bryant, but only on
the court. Within the context of a basketball game, he represents everything that we teach our children to not
be. There should be no place for a despicable, immoral person like him in sports.
But he'll never be punished properly. Never. The NBA has set up a lovely Catch-22: they won't punish the perpetrators, but they will gladly punish the vigilantes. 1) The NBA refuses to suspend the perpetrators of cheating and intentionally dirty play.
If someone gets caught trying to rob a bank, or blow up an airplane, do the police let him go? No. That guy's in jail for a long, long time.
If Bruce Bowen gets caught trying to tear Amare Stoudemire's Achilles tendon, does the NBA let him go? Yes. No foul, no fine, no suspension. I guess he didn't do anything wrong!
I mean, it's not like there's no evidence. There's video of the play. The intent is there. He did it. How can that go completely
Here's what kills me...
David Stern takes pleasure
in handing out arbitrary, fascist suspensions. It's what gets him up in the morning. Just ask Jermaine O'Neal. Hell, ask Kobe Bryant. And when Stern does drop the hammer, he's bulletproof. Appeal denied!!!
So if David Stern were to kick Bowen out for the rest of the playoffs, for conduct unbecoming of an adult let alone an NBA player, there ain't a goddamn thing anyone could do about it.
Who's gonna beat the commissioner? The Spurs? They made Bowen what he is, so they ought
to be made to feel some pain. The players' union? They're the Washington Generals to Der Fuhrer's Harlem Globetrotters. They're puppets. Bowen's agent? Ha! Not likely. Stern could
do this. He could send a message. He could put the fear of an arbitrary, crazy God in the hearts of anyone who might
fit the description of a dirty player.
But he doesn't.
Why? Because he's convinced that dirty play on the court does not adversely affect the league's image. Bowen's transgressions are limited to the basketball court. He's not waving a gun outside a nightclub. He's not violating the league's dress code. He's not talking back to referees. So the league doesn't care. (Way to have your priorities straight. Trying to paralyze someone on purpose is okay, as long as you wear a suit and shut up.)
Therefore, NBA referees and league officials will allow Bowen to continue his path of destruction until a superstar like LeBron or D-Wade gets seriously, seriously hurt by this guy. Of course, then it'll be too late.
This all seems to rule out the NBA governing itself, which leaves it up to the players themselves. However: 2) The NBA is more likely to punish the response to a cheap shot than the cheap shot itself.
Not only has the league failed to address their own problem, but they've set up rules such that players who so much as think
about addressing the problem themselves get automatic suspensions. The NBA has set precedents for fighting so severe that the consequences are too dire to allow for proper retribution. We're not going to do anything about it... but don't you be a vigilante, either.
For example, watch what happens today in the aftermath of the fight. Amare Stoudemire will draw a suspension for the biggest game of his life, because he stood up and took exception to yet another cheap-shot from the Spurs. Didn't throw a punch, didn't hurt anyone. He just had a reaction. How much more of this crap can they be expected to take without doing anything about it?
And why do players continue to have that reaction, despite the threat of a "leaving the bench" suspension? Because they have ZERO trust in the refs and the league to handle things themselves. If just and appropriate punishments were EVER handed out, maybe you'd see players stay right on the bench where they belong. It's a snap-judgment, an instinctive thing to begin with; the lack of faith in the powers that be exacerbates it. If your teammate gets elbowed in the chops on purpose, and your choices are "sitting back, knowing nothing will be done" and "I get suspended, but at least I fixed shit," odds are that most people take option #2.
(Somewhat off-topic, but I would like someone to tell me why one's response to cheating is a test of one's cool, but not the act of cheating itself. Isn't it an implicit admission of inferiority if you resort to illegal play? A sign of weakness? If a player better than me is just owning me, and my lack of ability leaves me no choice but to resort to cheap-ass elbowing and oil-checking maneuvers, have I not also lost my cool? Why does the collective pressure lie on the victim? Explain THAT.)
The reason this stuff drives me so nuts is that the "new NBA" is so much better than the Rileyball era... but the league's refusal to discourage thug-ball will kill that trend before it even gets rolling. We desperately need one of these "new/exciting" teams (Mavs, Suns, et al) to win a championship and get it done against the thug-ballers. But the refs do not (and maybe cannot) prevent thug-ball from being so effective. Thugs like Bowen have no fear of significant retribution. They think they won't be punished if they can slip it past the refs. If dirty players knew that they could dodge a foul from the ref, but not a suspension from the league, watch how quickly they'd start behaving.
If the league continues to sit on its hands, teams will revert right back to Rileyball. Other than the Van Gundy brothers, nobody wants that. The NBA could stop it, but they won't. I wish they would.
Anyway, Game 5 should be a goddamn classic. Let's hope half the players aren't suspended.
Labels: basketball, crazy Jeff, david stern is a nazi