Look, fistfights are not the worst thing around. They have always been part of sports. They are present in every aspect of basketball--practices, games, showering.
There was another one last night, between Orlando's Keyon Dooling and Seattle's Ray Allen--two players who aren't known for getting in these kinds of tussles.
Their story, it occurs to me, might tell a lot about why there are fair number of Americans who sort of hate the NBA without knowing much about it.
Here it is, with my thanks to reporter Jayda Evans and The Seattle Times for indulging me in a very long bit of quoting from an excellent article about last night's Orlando/Seattle game:
Allen threw two punches and Dooling responded with at least two of his own before Magic forward Stacey Augmon pulled Allen away and Sonics forward Nick Collison reached into the fray to restrain Dooling.
Both retreated to their respective benches, awaiting the referees' ruling on the incident, but once Dooling learned of his flagrant foul and ejection, he bolted through the KeyArena concourse toward the Sonics locker room to allegedly meet up with Allen in the hall. He was again restrained, this time by two police officers and Sonics personnel, yet once Allen entered the hallway, Dooling started shouting expletives at the five-time All-Star and had to be pushed back toward the visitor's locker room.
Allen didn't stay after the game to speak to media, but spoke to Lewis at halftime.
"He got hit three or four times and then when [Dooling] pushed him to the floor, he kind of stood over him, so Ray said that was when he was pissed," said Lewis, who had already scored 12 points to help the Sonics build a 33-24 lead when the incident occurred. "You can only get hit so many times, and with the ref not making the call, he had to make his own call."
Dooling did egg on Allen throughout his brief 3 minutes, 44 seconds of first-half action. Dooling helped rip the ball away from Allen, leaving the Sonics guard sprawled on the court in a no-call turnover. Then Dooling popped Allen in the jaw after a rebound, busting his lip, but again there was no call. Allen just gave a disgusted look before passing the ball upcourt.
Finally, on a screen cut, Dooling pushed Allen into Sonics forward Damien Wilkins then shoulder-checked Allen to the court, standing over him while Sonics guard Ronald Murray was setting up a play at the top of the key. Allen responded by picking up Dooling and slamming him into the front-row seats and the fight ensued.
Neither player scored a field goal, with Allen scoring only one point on a free throw. He also had four assists in eight minutes played. Dooling registered one steal.
"Ray is a guy I look up to, a guy who has a good reputation," Dooling said after the game. "I'm one of the same kind of guys. Obviously, if I wouldn't have ever been hit with an [elbow] then I wouldn't have ever retaliated with an elbow ... ya know?"
Allen will most likely be suspended without pay for Friday's game against Miami for throwing closed-fist punches. The penalty will cost him $120,210.36 in salary per game missed, plus $1,000 for the ejection. Dooling likely will receive a similar penalty, his costing him $28,181.82 per game.
"I didn't think it would come to punches," Dooling said. "My paper [salary] ain't long like Ray's, so I definitely didn't want it to come to blows. It was just a mistake on both of our parts. I wish I could take it back."
I'm just saying, here we have one player knocking the other down, standing over him to taunt as play continues, and then bloodying him seperately, all in the course of normal play.
Then there's the main event, the never-pleasant spectacle of your children's heroes swinging fists at each other.
Then there's the follow-up would-be assault, involving the cops even, back in the hallways.
For good measure, you throw in the fact that together they'll be losing more per game in salary than four or five typical American families, combined, make in a year.
On top of all that, there's the news from Dooling that he and Ray Allen are both good guys. And in the context of the NBA, that's certainly true.
And finally, the big story of the game has nothing to do with all that--instead the lead is that Rashard Lewis scored 45.
Me? I'm a sports fan. I'm used to all this, and none of it really bothers me. I care more about who wins than all the circus sideshow stuff. But just for a second, I think I might be able to see things from the point of view of someone who isn't a sports fan, and it's not hard to see that there are some things about this that are a little hard to like.