Weighing in on the fight heard ’round the world

Published 12:20 am Sunday, February 22, 2009

With the Central Regional basketball tournament concluded, I’ve had a little time to think back on the events that transpired throughout the week.

Of course, the Selma girls and boys teams fell to Talladega, Southside left with a first-round loss, the R.C. Hatch girls fell in the championship game and Keith almost knocked off R.C. Hatch to move on to Birmingham.

But those games are not what I’ve been thinking about. My mind is actually still set on something that happened during a game I had no intention of writing about.

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Yes, I was on press row during Tuesday’s Carver-Valley game. No, I did not see what started the fight, as I was in the zone on work for the paper. All I know is fans were exchanging jeers one second, and both teams were rushing the court the next.

I looked up to see the same scene most of you have seen on television or the Internet, and then I noticed a mob of fans jumping over the railings behind and around me to join the fight.

A number of questions have popped into my head since then — particularly as those still in the stands decided they had not had enough and commenced fighting each other.

Where were the police? The mob moved toward the portal leading from the locker rooms and media entrance, and the three or four overwhelmed Alabama State security guards in that area began moving away from it. The majority of security on hand that day was campus security. Twenty ASU officers resigned shortly after that fight.

But, back to my question. Every sporting event I have been to on any Division-1 campus has had one thing in common. It is the rule — not the exception — to have police stationed around the playing surface with one task — keep an eye on the stands and make sure all hell does not break loose.

It seems to me that a basketball tournament with that number of fans, players and family members present would require taking every precaution to ensure nothing went wrong. It seems that the entire event deserved the same treatment reserved for any collegiate sporting event. It also seems that a contingency plan should be in place in case what happened, well, happened.

But there was no sign of a plan. Things got out of hand and the few police that represented the long arm of the law were overwhelmed. I do not blame them. I blame the planning.

My other question is what did those who joined the fray think they would accomplish? Several were arrested and will face charges, on top of bodily harm they suffered. The same could be asked of the fighters in the stands.

It’s a basketball game. I repeat, it’s a basketball game. I emphasize that it is a game. Hard foul or not, I don’t care. There is no excuse for the way any person acted that day.

But, what stood out to me the most was the lustful look in the eyes of many that joined the fight. They couldn’t get involved fast enough.

I hope they got their money’s worth.

Was it the game? Was it the participants? Was it the setting? Was it simply an urge to fight?

After racking my brain for the better part of five days, I realized I don’t have the answers. I’m not sure there are any answers.

Hopefully the fight will teach a lesson to always — regardless of the perceived stature of the event — be prepared for the worst.

On Tuesday, Alabama State and the AHSAA were not.