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Litmus Artest
2004-11-22 13:22
by Mike Carminati

A naked, once-hot Nicolette Sheridan jumps into bad boy Terrell Owens awaiting arms. This comes on the heels of a college player, Pittsburgh quarterback Tyler Palko, saying the Bono/Cheney word in a postgame interview.

Ron Artest and half the Indiana Pacers roster attempt to reenact a game of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" with Bowie's "Panic in Detroit" as the soundtrack in Auburn Hills.

The National Hockey League is still dead. And now they won't even be drafting young players until and unless they have a CBA in place.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, baseball seems reconciled to missing sports sweeps week for scandals. Even with the ongoing Balco investigation belching up a morsel or two every so often, not much interest is being generated. I guess Barry Bonds continuing to amaze after the scandal sort of took the wind out of their sails.

What's happen to the national pastime's ability to offend? Where are the halcyon days of Robbie Alomar spitting in umpire John Hirschbeck's face? These overpaid millionaire players today aren't even trying. A 60-year-old war, as interpreted by Steven Spielberg, can now incite people's enmity more effectively than baseball.

Baseball missed out on all the hand-wringing and blame assessing that make the other sports so popular. Everyone who ever played an NFL game has now apologized for the towel incident. Never mind that the spot was as racy as the intro to "Petticoat Junction" and that a forty-something Sheridan in a towel is no longer Must See TV. Of course, another kind of "raciness" was really what piqued the public's ire especially for a game that was broadcast in good-ole-boy Texas.

As for me, I was offended by ABC's blatant cross-selling of the entertainment division by their sports division. I mean, Fox shuttles the cast of "That Seventies Show" to every sporting event they cover, but they don't make them part of the game (they reserve that for Budweiser's "Leon" and Jimmy Fallon).

I don't want to hear the argument that the cheerleaders are more revealing or that the in-game violence is more offensive. Don't worry: Michael Powell and the FCC is after them, too. We just need the go-ahead from a couple of nuts like the ones that held "Saving Private Ryan" hostage on Veterans Day to stir Powell and his crack squad into action. My mention of "Petticoat Junction" above already has the FCC investigating TV Land.

As for David Stern's outrage over the Artest incident, has he forgotten the Vernon Maxwell incident, which happened on his watch? Yes, Artest's actions were abhorrent, and yes, he should be fined. But shouldn't someone be looking into what was going on with Detroit's security enforcement that night. Did the guards leave the game early to beat traffic? Artest was hit with a Big Gulp of beer after all. He shouldn't have rushed into the crowd, but I didn't see any rent-a-cops tracking down the offending fan. Of course, given what hockey players have done to fans in the past should be remembered when trying to get perspective on the incident. Then again, those guys were white so their actions were not seen as an indictment of the all the players and the sport in general like in Artest's case. Some may argue that it is the SportsCenter affect: Maxwell got just a 10-game suspension while Artest will have to sit out the year (73 games) and in total 143 games will be lost for the players involved.

And I won't even go into why I don't care if a player uses off-color language in the excitement of winning a big game. Isn't it more interesting than another bobblehead thanking his maker?

In baseball, Jose Guillen gets shuttled to the new Nationals because of an on-field incident in Anaheim that would have seemed like a love-in for the crosstown Lakers last season. Barry Bonds endured a season in which threats that his batting records should be removed or asterisked because of steroid allegations and went on to have one of the greatest offensive seasons of all time. And players actually congratulated each other after the Dodgers lost to the Cardinals in the playoffs last year. Tanner Boyle must be rolling over in his wee little grave.

Where's Chad Kreuter when you need him anyway?

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