Carver-Montgomery and Valley high schools met in the 5A Central Regional on Tuesday, Feb. 17 at the Acadome on campus at Alabama State University. With just over six minutes remaining in the game, a referee called a foul on Valley’s Enrique Florence, which touched off a shoving match between Florence and the Carver player he fouled, Roquez Johnson. The shoving match emptied the benches, setting off an on-court brawl. The brawl then spilled over into the stands.
The melee was over five minutes later. Eleven juveniles – appropriately designated by age as well as intellect – were taken into custody, charged with everything from assault to inciting a riot. The game, suspended and left unfinished, turned out to be an exercise in futility, as both teams were eliminated from playoff contention.
Footage of the brawl has made news throughout the country and around the world. Yours truly first saw the video on the Web site for KNBC Los Angeles. The sports blogosphere has been having a little fun at our state’s expense. One site, bawdy SportsByBrooks.com, fashioned a still-image slideshow of thrown punches – a Mobius strip of “basketbrawl” – for use in their write-up of the Acadome incident.
Deadspin, a popular sports blog from the Gawker family tree, has played on the bubbling racial angst resulting from the incident. After all, the majority of the participants involved in the fight were black and Montgomery is the former capital of the Confederacy. Under the posting “Alabama High School Basketball Bedlam,” the site highlights some of the comments posted on al.com’s wrap-up of the game.
“I didn't vote for Obama, but once he was elected I was really hoping that having a black man as president would change this type of behavior,” said one anonymous al.com poster. Deadspin’s reply: “Oh, Alabama.”
“Oh”, indeed. Locally, it’s another embarrassing, racially tinged storyline for our beleaguered state to weather through. On the national front, it’s another depressing example of athletes behaving badly and irresponsibly.
Case and point: It’s been couple of weeks since news broke that baseball’s highest paid and arguably best player used performance-enhancing drugs from 2001 through 2003. A little over a year ago, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez not only told Katie Couric on CBS’ 60 Minutes that he didn’t take PEDs, but that he was above being tempted by the drugs. Then the Feds started snooping, renditioned a confidential report fingering the Yankees’ slugger and soon the whole world was captivated by another doping scandal.
Of course, A-Roid continues to make things difficult for himself. After initially lying to CBS and after the report was made public, he admitted to ESPN’s Peter Gammons that he did indeed take the drugs, but claimed he didn’t know what drugs he took. Days later, A-Fraud admitted at a press conference that an unnamed cousin of his had injected him with something called “boli”, which the cousin had earlier procured over-the-counter in the Dominican Republic.
Not long after that presser, the cousin was identified (Yuri Sucart), as was the actual name of the drug (Primobolan). Contrary to A-Hole’s ever-shifting story, Primobolan is not available over-the-counter in the Dominican Republic. In fact, according to that country’s pharmaceutical regulator, Primobolan is illegal in the island nation.
What does all this mean? For one, it means Rodriguez is dumb as hell. Hooking up with Madonna was one thing, but having your “cousin” fill you full of a drug that’s been banned in the Dominican Republic? How harmful must this drug be? I mean, how stringent can the pharmaceutical standards be in a country where you and I can’t drink the water?
Most of all, it means that few athletes realize the stage they occupy. Charles Barkley famously decried sports stars doubling as role models – a fine thing considering his recent indiscretions – but facts is facts. Athletes represent what most Americans covet – fame and fortune. Barkley can tell a kid that all that glitters is not gold a million times over, but that kid watches SportsCenter or Best Damn. He or she knows that being an athlete – despite the requisite hard work – is a pretty sweet gig.
And when he or she sees Sir Charles’s blurry-eyed mugshot on the news or watches A-Rod’s presser on ESPN and then finds out that their jobs are still secure, of course they’ll want to copy that lifestyle. Wow, I can cheat and still keep my job. The hell with fair play! It’s a perpetuating cycle – one that guarantees more benches-clearing brawls, doping scandals and DUI arrests in our future.
Lost in the shuffle of A-Rod and the “basketbrawl”, was a story from Milwaukee about another high school basketball game; famous, this time, for all the right reasons.
Milwaukee Madison senior forward Johntell Franklin woke up on Sat., Feb. 7, prepared to take his college entrance exam. By the end of the day, he sat despondent at a local hospital as his mother, 39-year-old Carlitha, succumbed to cervical cancer. Franklin’s coach, Aaron Womack Jr., bolted for the hospital the minute he heard the news.
That night, Milwaukee Madison was scheduled to play DeKalb (Ill.) High in Milwaukee. DeKalb traveled two hours to get to the game and then waited two more for Womack to return from the hospital to coach his team. Womack naturally assumed Franklin would miss the game.
However, as the second quarter got underway, Franklin arrived at the gym and declared his intentions to play. But since the coach had expected Franklin to be inactive, by rule Milwaukee Madison would be charged with a technical foul upon his entrance to the game. In spite of the penalty, Womack chose to sub Franklin in.
DeKalb told the referees that they didn’t want the technical to be called, but the refs had no choice. The foul was levied and DeKalb had two free throws to shoot.
DeKalb coach Dave Rohlman asked for a volunteer to shoot the baskets. The players knew what their coach was driving at. Darius McNeal, a senior point guard, raised his hand.
McNeal stood alone at the free throw stripe, took the ball from the referee and threw up the first shot. It arced off his hands, maybe three feet, before tumbling to the hardwood 12 feet shy of the rim. An intentional miss. The second shot yielded the same result. Three feet, hardwood, miss. The crowd stood and applauded.
“I did it for the guy who lost his mom” McNeal later told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “It was the right thing to do.”
Milwaukee Madison went on to win, 62-47, but the final outcome is the least important storyline from this particular game. We learned that despite all the negativity we’ve slogged through in the sports world these past few weeks, it seems that hope for good sportsmanship is still alive, however slim it’s chances of survival may be.