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Why do NBA Fights Get More Press that Other Sports?

A debatable truth is that NBA Fights get much more media hype than fights in other sports. There have been major fights in Major League Baseball, perhaps among the most famous ones is the Yankees vs. the Red Sox when Pedro Martinez chucked the old guy (Zimmerman, I think) into the ground, toro style. Hockey is perhaps the pro sport best known for its fights. Yet, despite all the press that these fights get it seems like NBA fights get more press still.

One easy way to account for all the extra press is to immediately point to race, since baseball and hockey are predominantly white sports. Personally, I don't think that is the reason at all. For me, the most persuasive explanation involves the proximity of the fans.

The race issue I think is a little confused due to the thug image that has plagued the NBA. The thug image, which happens to correlate with race, but is not the same thing, has been a problem for the NBA and not for sports like hockey (where there are very few blacks) nor sports like baseball, which historically does have a significant number of African-Americans, but by contrast to baseball does not have black players who embrace the thug look. Take Barry Bonds for example, who can be fairly called a lot of things, but not a thug. If you need evidence of an image problem, just look to the recent NBA dress code rules for players sitting on the bench, but not in uniform.

I really don't think that the media attention is motivated by the racial component or the thug issue. I think it is more about the danger to the fans. Fans know there are risks involved in being a spectator at a major sporting event. The fine print on the back of the tickets disclaims these risks, like fly balls, broken bats, and the like. In hockey the puck leaves the ice on a rare occasion. These risks are real, but are accidental and unavoidable parts of the game.

Fights are not accidental, and should be more easily controlled. If a fight breaks out on the hockey rink, there is no need for fans to fear for their safety. The same is true of the biggest brawls of them all, the ones on the baseball diamond. Even though these fights may involve greater number of players, they only involve the athletes. Fans do not get dragged into the fray.

The most shocking part of the malice in the Palace in 2004 between the Pistons and Pacers was that fans got drawn into it. Granted, some of the fans made very unwise choices that got them involved. But, this most recent brawl in Madison Square Gardens between the Knicks and the Nuggets highlights the fact that fans, reporters, photographers and others do not need to do anything to quickly become entangled. Watching the video above, it quickly becomes obvious that fights in basketball, where much of the draw of expensive seats is being so close to the players, expose fans to serious risk, which in turn risks basketball. Since basketball is profitable because of the fans, hurting the fans hurts the revenue of the sport, which hurts the sport. That is why these fights get more press than fights in other sports.

Also, it might be because fights like this are so rare in basketball.

by Cameron Hatch
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