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November 20, 2004

Basketball, NHL style

The Daily Recycler has the video of the hockey game that broke out last night at the Pacers-Pistons NBA game.

The typical reaction to the incident will be outrage and self-righteous indignation. However, I must admit that the riot made me somewhat nostalgic of the bygone days of the NBA when such fights were quite common.

Back in the 1970's, my late father and I would often go over to The Summit (my folks' house was nearby) at halftime of the Rockets' game of the night and get in free to watch the second half of the game (I was a poverty-sticken law student; my father was just, might we say, parsimonious). Even back then, the first halves of NBA games didn't make much difference.

On one particular evening, we went to the second half of a game between the Rockets of the Calvin Murphy, Rudy Tomjanovich, Mike Newlin era against the Celtics of the Sidney Wicks, Dave Cowens, and Charlie Scott era. It was a close game and by the 4th quarter, the players on both sides were getting a bit chippy. Finally, Wicks threw an elbow at Murphy, and all hell broke loose.

Unfortunately for Wicks, Murphy was a professional caliber fighter and never lost any of his half-dozen or so fights during his NBA career. Combining amazing quickness with a rapid fire delivery, Murphy was on top of Wicks within seconds, had him down on the floor, and was delivering a devastating series of punches to the bridge of Wicks' nose, opening up a broad cut in the process. It took four players -- each taking one of Murphy's limbs -- to extract Murphy from Wicks, who frankly didn't know what had hit him.

After order was restored and Wicks was carted off to the dressing room for stitches, the game continued in a rather heated fashion. A few minutes later, after a rough exchange under the Rockets' basket, a big, fat fan sitting in the courtside seats took offense to Cowens' actions, walked out on to the court, and pushed Cowens. Cowens proceeded to place his right hand on this idiot's neck and then started hammering him to the chops with a series of lefts that would have made Rocky Balboa proud. Just for good measure, Scott blazed in like a streak of light and did his best Murphy imitation, pummeling several adjacent fans with a deft series of combination blows.

About this time, Wicks returned to the court with a large bandage on the bridge of his nose. My father, a respected Professor of Medicine with a long career at both the University of Iowa and University of Texas Medical Schools, used all of his long years of medical research in analyzing the situation for me: "Murphy really kicked Wicks' ass, didn't he?"

After "order" (we're talking generally here) was restored for the second time, the Rockets went on to score a satisfying victory over the Celtics. None of the combatants in the various brawls were even thrown out of the game as I recall, and certainly no arrests were made and no civil lawsuits were filed.

Ah, those were the days. ;^)

Posted by Tom at November 20, 2004 9:54 AM |


We really are getting awfully sanctimonious about this sort of thing -- it is as if we are imagining our children in that fight, instead of recognizing that the "combatants" generally grew up under circumstances far more difficult and violent than the typical fan in the stands. While I am reluctant to condone bad behavior on the court, I am too honest to deny that I am entertained by it. We are all Romans deep down, and we all enjoy seeing the occasional Christian thrown to the lions. Sports violence has its secret appeal for ancient reasons that we have not yet bred out of the species.

Posted by: Jack at November 21, 2004 7:07 AM

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