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Who says the NBA is dull?

Matt Mooney | Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Coming off a post-season that saw my Detroit Pistons, the paragon of basketball boredom, win a championship by inducing a coma, that same team helped bring national attention back to their sport. Saturday’s prizefight with the best street thugs the NBA could find signaled a new trend in sports marketing. Why use those annoying Thunder-Sticks to get the fans involved when active participation works just as well? The word on the street is that David Stern has contacted Sylvester Stallone about bringing back the Rocky character for promotional events.However, basketball is new to the whole fighting scene. George Mikan, one of the first pro-basketball stars, wasn’t exactly the brawling type. Plus, as a sport that prizes height, the physics just aren’t conducive to fighting. Tall people, with their high centers of gravity, can be knocked over much too easily. It took a long time for the NBA to cultivate a talent/thug like Ron Artest to carry the torch.Basebrawl has perhaps the longest tradition of mid-game rumbles. Ty Cobb, one of the greatest players of all-time, started the tradition early in the 20th century when he went Indiana Pacer, charging into the stands after a heckling fan. Nolan Ryan didn’t let a batting helmet intimidate him when he turned Robin Ventura’s head into a bongo drum.Then there’s hockey. Fighting is as old a tradition in this sport as the word “eh.” The draw of hockey is not the ability to execute a perfect one-timer or the artistic skating. If that were the case, SportsCenter would show a lot more Brian Boitano highlights. No, the beauty of hockey is the ability to fly down the ice on a sliver of metal, control a little rubber disk and still avoid the goliath that thinks he heard something said about his mother.The one sport in which fighting absolutely confuses me is football. Every player on that field is heavily armored in pads and, more importantly, a helmet. Obviously, once a fight gets started, as seen in Saturday’s South Carolina-Clemson game, the goal becomes something like capture-the-flag with helmets. Not only is a helmet an effective protection, it also serves as a nice weapon once someone else’s is stolen. But I don’t understand how those fights get started. About the most that can be done at the start of a football fight is drag a guy to the ground and go for the helmet. And that just looks silly.Despite all the restrictions that will certainly be put in place, there will still be fights in sports, almost certainly seen in just about any Red Sox/Yankees game.Just don’t look for Artest in any United Way commercials anytime soon.