Sunday, December 17, 2006

The NBA Needs a Fight Code

"Elmo!" "Barney!" "Elmo!" "Barney!"

Baseball fans have seen it many times. Pitcher beans batter, batter charges pitcher, benches clear before the tussle gets out of control.

In hockey, equipment issues make fights deliberate, almost dancelike routines.

And football players use most of their energy beating each other up during plays, not between them.

But the latest NBA brawl demonstrates basketball players could use a fight code, a protocol for fisticuffs.

The lack of a history of NBA violence has left players feeling obligated to throw punches. The old rule of reserve players staying on the bench hardly seems to apply.

Part of the problem is on-court personnel: There aren't enough referees and assistant coaches to separate players. Another problem is the court itself: Basketball is also the only major sport without a barrier between players and audience (as Ron Artest was reminded in Detroit).

Since David Stern can do nothing except publicly oppose all forms of fighting, it's up to the players to write the fighting script.

Don't expect any masterpieces soon.

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II