Sports desperate for sex, violence

Nov 23, 2004 5:50 AM

Violence and sex, the twin attractions so close and dear to the soul of Americans — overtly or covertly — were on a raging rampage last week. You saw it all, because television, which produced it, proudly flaunted it.

First came the Desperate Housewife, Nicollette Sheridan, blonde, wet and eager, emerging as a wraith from the shower of the Philadelphia Eagles dressing room. Wearing only a crucifix, Sheridan propositioned muscular Terrell Owens in the promo, and then dropped her towel and jumped into his arms.

Where did she come from? How did she get into the dressing room? Is she a long lost stepdaughter of the owner of the Eagles? An old girlfriend of Owens? A former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader?

No one seemed to know. The NFL said it was embarrassed. The Eagles were shocked. ABC, flesh peddlers without taste who were so upset and distraught by the sight of Janet Jackson’s boob on the CBS Super Bowl, regretted the intrusion into America’s living rooms. The network was, so very, very sorry that all this happened without anyone knowing about it.

The Commercial from Hell had no prior arrangements, no production schedule, no setup time in the locker room, no nothing. No one knew anything about it. No one thought it would offend parents. No one gave it a thought. It was an apparition in prime time.

As big a brouhaha as it created, it was but a prelude to what lay ahead. On Friday night, a goon squad of multimillionaires, 6 feet 7, 6 feet 10, weighing 250 or 275 or 280 pounds, earning a total of $54,113,000 this season, went berserk in Detroit, hitting everyone in sight, diving into the stands, cold cocking guys with cheap shots, going stark raving crazy.

If this were some Detroit street gang, it might make sense. But these were obscenely paid professionals, multimillionaires with big bodies and small brains, gone nuts.

Then, following the mayhem, a little guy who runs the whole show — pompous David Stern — shows up speaking for his National Basketball Association, saying how very sorry everybody was about this aberration, how it could not go on or be tolerated, how the shining banner of the NBA had been tarnished.

The guy at the heart of the problem, loose horse Ron Artest, did lose the season, which will cost him $4,995,000, unless the players’ union can convince Stern otherwise. If Stern meant what he said over the weekend, that seems unlikely.

Jermaine O’Neal, who makes — are you ready for this? —$14,800,000 a year — loses a cool $4,111,000 million. Stephen Jackson, with a $5,100,000 salary, loses $1.7 million.

The gutter-talking, beer-throwing Detroit fans who started it all, along with Artest and Ben Wallace going at it, will get fat lips and broken teeth and big headaches and maybe some settlements.

David Stern had a funny line at his press conference. He said the NBA "will have to reinvent the covenant between players and fans, and between fans and fans, and make sure we can play our games in welcoming and peaceful settings."

This is like Condoleesa Rice saying we will have to reinvent the covenant between Iraquis in Fallujah and U.S. Marines, and make sure they can sit down and play scrabble together.

The covenant is broken, and is not likely to be fixed. If you can think of any tougher duty in the world than patrolling the shattered streets of Fallujah alone, or with a buddy, in the dark of night, then try to conjure up a way to keep rowdy fans from acting like lunatics.

The Detroit fiasco was followed closely, of course, by the disgrace of watching Lou Holtz, a long respected figure in football coaching in this country, ending his career by vainly trying to restrain his musclebound South Carolina college kids from a crazy free-for-all with the frat boys from Clemson.

The hooligans of hockey have nothing on these guys. People go to NBA games these days like they go to NASCAR racing, watching the cars go round and round and round while they wait for the smashups.

Sports, and some of the people who play and watch them, have become sick and sickening.