As you know, I have been championing the idea of doing EKG's on High School Athlete's prior to training for the season. I consult constantly with Dr. Vishva Dev, Director of cardiology at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, CA. This was the column, armed with volumes of research, I was prepared to write.
However, for the moment, I have put that column on the back burner. The reason: I truly enjoy all your comments and this week, I received a great many, including one from my good friend Leon Lewitt, expecting that I would write a column on Ron Artest. Artest, in a momentary fit of "Macho Bravado", seriously injured an opposing player by throwing a hard elbow that caught Oklahoma City Thunder Guard James Harden on the side of his head.
Lewitt , in particular, called attention to other violent incidents over the years in professional sports.. These comments motivated me to express my own opinion.
The Kennedy Award named for my good friend, the late NBA Commissioner, J. Walter Kennedy, is given each season to the player who is considered the NBA's best citizen. Last year it was Meta World Peace aka Ron Artest.
I knew J. Walter well and I know that he would be appalled at the minimal penalty handed down by Commissioner Stern, for what I truly consider "Assault with a deadly weapon."
In fact, Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office did not discount the possibility that Artest could be charged. However, in order to be charged a referral would have to be initiated by local law enforcement. This would have to be initiated by the victim and it is doubtful that Harden might pursue this avenue.
My true concern is the effect it has on hero-worshipping young minds.
This not only teaches the kids watching that violence is okay and should be considered part of the game, it adds fuel to aggressive parents who seek success for their child. It's not unlike, the stage mother who has never achieved , but only dreamed of success and now spends thousands of dollars while pushing her son, or daughter to perform. While the child who may be talentless obeys, eventually to be disappointed.
The only real difference, there is seldom physical violence in music, drama, or comedy..
This, unfortunately, is not the case in youth sports. There are many examples of letting the rooting for your child, get out-of-hand. Much of the violence takes place at school football or Little League Baseball games.
For example: In 2001 at San Diego, three parents were arrested after a full-scale brawl erupted between coaches, parents and fans at a youth soccer game. My friend John Chafetz who was AYSO Commissioner at the time would eventually resign because of the overbearing parents.
How about the time in Texas (2005) where the father of a Texas Football Player shot and wounded his son's coach because he didn't think his son was getting enough playing time.
In 1999, still another enraged father was convicted of assault , after giving a 10 year old pitcher $2 to hit a batter with a fastball.
What about this one? In 2004, two teachers, who were supposed to teach our children the lessons of fair play and sportsmanship, were arrested for fighting at a girl's basketball game in Alabama, while a parent was arrested for punching a referee.
Who can ever forget that in 2005, a 13-year-old youth baseball player killed a 15 year old in Florida when he struck him over the head with a baseball bat.
There is a growing trend of parents pushing their kids too hard to "win" at any cost. It is easy to blame the parents who should be responsible and take control. We must look at what they see on Sports TV. "Sports Rage" seems to be an out-of-control "epidemic" situation. A great deal of this is based on what they see on TV.
In Pro Sports, Law Enforcement seems to look the other way and let the Sport itself mete out punishment. However, if the same person did something similar off the court, the gridiron, the field, or the ice, they would get the book thrown at them. There is apparently a double standard. Not all the time.
I have a friend who is a well-known , respected judge here in Los Angeles. Her name is Maureen Duffy-Lewis. I have not consulted with her on this column, but I plan to and will write a follow-up.
Don't get me wrong there have been many instances in Pro Sports of the act being so horrendous during a game that arrests have been made as a result of the unprovoked aggravated violence.
The first jail sentence ever imposed on a professional athlete came in 1998. Dino Ciccarelli of the Minnesota North Stars was sentenced to one day in jail and fined $1000 for hitting Toronto Maple Leaf Luke Richardson twice in the head with his stick and then punched him in the mouth. The NHL suspended him for 10 days and fined him $25,000... a huge sum at the time.
In 2000, Marty McSorley of the Boston Bruins was suspended for the entire season- the harshest penalty ever imposed by the league at that time. He had slashed Vancouver Canuck Donald Brashear and knocking him unconscious. McSorley was found guilty of assault and received 18 months probation. A condition of McSorley's probation mandated that he could not engage in any sporting event in which Brashear played on the opposing team.
In 2004, Todd Bertuzzi of the Vancouver Canucks sucker-punched Steve Moore of the Colorado Avalanche. Moore was hospitalized for several weeks with a concussion and fractured vertebrae. Bertuzzi was found guilty and given a one year conditional discharge, had to perform 80 hours of community service and a lifetime ban for the remainder of the 2004 season and received a lifetime ban of playing against Moore. He was also banned for the rest of the 2004 season and from playing on Team Canada in the 2004 World Cup.
Here, let me explain. There have been many more villains in Sports over the years that I have not cited. We all know their names! Many are legendary!
We can look at the New Orleans Saints and their Bounty quest. Part of the overall fan base couples their passion for hockey with their passion for WWE and UFC. The amount of suspensions and fights this year delights NBC which claims a 35% increase in viewers this year over last.
It's all about money. However, impressionable young minds imitate and follow what they see in movies and TV. In addition, the violent portrayals that they are exposed to in video games and the actual sports events, add to how they visualize and re-enact their participation in sports.
We recognize that Boxing by design is a violent sport. Today, however, the old bromide, " I went to a Boxing match and a Hockey Game broke out", is a truism.
While working with the Lakers, , I witnessed one of the most horrendous incidents in the history of the NBA. Kermit Washington the Lakers strong Defensive forward while engaged in a dust-up with one of the Houston Rockets when Rudy Tomjanovich tried to intercede from the rear.
Without thinking, Kermit wheeled around and punched Rudy in the face. The blow shattered Rudy's face and jaw while inflicting life-threatening head injuries. Rudy was sidelined for 5 months . he eventually made a full recovery, but his playing career came to a halt and he was forced to retire.
Despite his stellar career, Kermit is best remembered for that one punch which still haunts him to this day.
It doesn't help when Kobe Bryant the Lakers' potential current "Hall-of-Fame" candidate and crowd favorite lets everyone know in no uncertain terms for retaliation. It is the wrong message.
Getting back to MWP aka RA: as an old jock, I can, without question, tell you that you know when someone is on your shoulder. It's instinctive! The angry MWP decided he was going to show Harden as to who was the boss by pretending to clear every one away from him. This move with a deadly weapon was completely unnecessary as the skirmish was already over.
Based on his history, not unlike in the case of a rehabilitated felon, the incidence of recidivism (returning to one's old habits) is extremely high.
To me, he knew what he was doing and was intent on inflicting harm. He has had more chances than an actually criminal. Here in California, we have the 3 strikes law. Ron Artest aka Meta World Peace like in the game of Monopoly has been given a free pass one too many times.