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ChicagoJ
12-16-2004, 03:37 PM
Columns
VOL. 25 NO. 38, NOVEMBER 29-DEC. 5, 2004

Sports
BENNER: All is not lost if the brawl sparks positive reforms



By Bill Benner (bbenner@ibj.com)


Fifty years ago this month, the Crispus Attucks Tigers of Coach Ray Crowe were embarking on an unbeaten season that culminated in the state high school championship.

As an all-black team from an all-black school in a mostly white world rife with prejudice, the Tigers endured unimaginable bigotry from opposing fans and played any number of games "five-on-seven," if you get my drift.

The Tigers didn't get mad. They got even where it mattered most, up on the scoreboard. Crowe demanded his team adhere to the highest standards of conduct. He would accept nothing less. They would not--ever--take the bigots' bait.

"I always explained to the boys, 'Don't gripe to the officials and always be good sports,'" Crowe, who died last December, told me a few years ago. "I think people had a different perspective of blacks and athletes after we had those teams."

In the same era, on a national basis, a man named Jackie Robinson was refusing to respond to a similar kind of venom as he traveled America with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Breaking baseball's color line required both bravery and an incredible amount of self-restraint.

Robinson, a Christian man, adhered to the principle espoused by Dodgers owner Branch Rickey. In his book, "Tales from the Dodger Dugout," Carl Erskine quotes Rickey telling Robinson, "The bully is done when your only retaliation is a non-violent response."

Just as Jesus said. Turn the other cheek.

Crowe's Tigers did it. Jackie Robinson did it. Again and again.

Ron Artest tried to do it and he almost succeeded.

If only, if only.

Now the Indiana Pacers--a franchise that always has represented nothing but the best in terms of character, class and dignity in the oft-sullied environment of professional sports--will be forever linked to one of the worst incidents in American sports history.

Those road jerseys the Pacers wear say "Indiana" on the front and thus represent all of us, connecting to a heritage that values the game and places it in a special trust. Just as Conseco Fieldhouse was built as a modern cathedral in our reverence to basketball, those who play the Hoosier game--be it on the high school, college or professional level--are our missionaries and, as such, are expected to adhere not just to a higher level of fundamentals, but to a higher level of conduct and sportsmanship.

In Indiana, we do believe there is a right way to play the game.

That's why I have stated, many times (often receiving criticism in return), that I would rather the Pacers have players who competed with class, but lost, than for the organization to assemble a bunch of misfits who would win a championship.

Proudly, under Donnie Walsh's tenure, the Pacers--with rare exceptions--have been able to compete at the highest level of the NBA without sacrificing the ideals of what a Pacer should represent.

Since so much has already been said and written, it is pointless to rehash what happened or assign blame. Everyone is at fault: the NBA and pro sports for promoting a culture of sex, violence, booze and, worst of all, disrespect; the fans who think a ticket buys them the right to say or do as they please; and certainly the players, whose actions cannot be excused or justified.

But I am an optimist at heart, and I believe good can come from this as the passion abates and reason sets in.

It will be good if the NBA takes stock of what it is selling and addresses the increasing cultural divide between the players and the fans.

It will be good if Ben Wallace and all NBA players take just a moment to think about how they respond to that next "hard" foul and what it might precipitate.

It will be good if Ron Artest seriously seeks professional help; I believe he can be saved from himself, and I believe in the power of people to forgive if he acts sincerely.

It will be good if Artest, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O'Neal spend some of their newfound free time addressing youth, expressing their contriteness, and telling kids that, whether on the street or on the court, there is a better way to resolve conflicts.

It will be good if fans everywhere--not just those idiots in the Palace--take stock of themselves and the importance they place on team allegiance. Sure, we want our team to win, but it is, after all, just a game. It is, after all, just entertainment.

It will be good if leagues and franchises look at their alcohol policies. Yes, it's a huge money-maker. Yes, I like a cold brew at the ballgame as much as anyone. But there is an undeniable link between booze and boorish (and sometimes criminal) behavior in venues.

It will be good if we can all--next time we're cut off in traffic, suffer a personal affront at work, endure an insult--think of the examples of Ray Crowe and Jackie Robinson and turn the other cheek, as hard as it is to do sometimes.

Peace.

Benner, a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star, is now vice president of communications for the not-for-profit Indiana Sports Corp. His column appears weekly. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.com (http://www.ibj.com/) or send e-mail to bbenner@ibj.com.

https://www.ibj.com/columns.asp?A=16947

Doug
12-16-2004, 05:23 PM
It will be good if Ben Wallace and all NBA players take just a moment to think about how they respond to that next "hard" foul and what it might precipitate.

Well, we've already seen that won't happen, judging by how KG reacted in the latest scuffle.

Unclebuck
12-16-2004, 05:27 PM
"..............In Indiana, we do believe there is a right way to play the game.

That's why I have stated, many times (often receiving criticism in return), that I would rather the Pacers have players who competed with class, but lost, than for the organization to assemble a bunch of misfits who would win a championship".................................................. ....

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I have so much to say about this passage, and so little time. Let me sum up my thought. So Bill wopuld rather the pacers lose the right way than win the wrong way. That is a lie, I don't believe he truly believes that for one minute, he may have convinced himself he believes but he doesn't.

I also take exception to the underlying point he is making. That being that the current Pacers win the wrong way.

ChicagoJ
12-16-2004, 05:28 PM
What if Stern gives KG six games, just like Ben?

Not saying he would do that... but if he did *then* it might get the players attention that this is about the game of basketball. Not one-ups-man-ship, respect, or these silly tangents that are, although understandable, conpletely unrelated to athletic competition/ sportsmanship.

This ain't the park, or the 'hood. KG, Ben, et. al., need to quit thinking of it that way. These are league-sanctioned games; the players have to trust the officials to stop the cheap-shotting before somebody gets hurt. Which means, of course, the officials have to stop the cheap-shotting sooner rather than later.

ABADays
12-16-2004, 05:53 PM
I would rather have class. I think that's what enraged me the most about Stern's actions. He cast the Pacer franchise in a bad light when have never done anything, from the first day of the ABA, other than represent the fans and the city well.

indygeezer
12-16-2004, 06:06 PM
I would rather have class. I think that's what enraged me the most about Stern's actions. He cast the Pacer franchise in a bad light when have never done anything, from the first day of the ABA, other than represent the fans and the city well.


Um...he doesn't like us because we WERE in the ABA. He was in the league negotiating group back then, or so I just read somewhere. So I think he has some deep rooted "issues" with us over those days. Afterall, the ABA made the NBA brand of bball look boring and raised salaries tremendously. Or so the owners felt.

Hoop
12-16-2004, 09:27 PM
I agree with everything you said except the last line. I dont think our current team wins the wrong way, but thats a matter of opinion.

I do agree with your main point thoughI think you miss read Uncle Bucks last line, he was disagreeing with Benner's insinuation.

"I also take exception to the underlyingpoint he is making. That being that the current Pacers win the wrong way."