From the Sidelines: Tourney events black eye for game

Published 10:19 pm Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What took place in Montgomery Tuesday afternoon was a travesty. There is no way around it. An event that should have been a testament to the virtue of amateur athletics deteriorated into something much, much different.

The fight the broke out between Valley and Carver on the court was one thing. It shouldn’t have happened. With 6:23 to go in the game, Carver held a double-digit lead.

Yes. Valley’s frustrations were understandable. They had worked all season and their efforts were about to come to a screeching halt.

Yes. Maybe Carver’s Roquez Johnson had cause to believe Valley’s Enrique Florence fouled him with malicious intent.

No. Johnson should not have shoved Florence. He should have understood that his team had the lead and was on its way to a big win.

That is where the blame stops for Johnson and Florence.

How can we reasonably hold high school kids accountable for such actions when they’ve seen the very same thing at the professional level? Each of these players is old enough to remember the Detroit Pistons-Indiana Pacers “Malice in the Palace” clips that aired repeatedly on ESPN for months just a few years ago.

But somebody should have stopped it before it got to the point that it reached. Alabama State should have had more security present. The Valley and Carver coaches should have had more of a reign on their teams. And the individuals in the stands should have had more self control.

No matter how high emotions ran, there was no way the respective coaching staffs should never have allowed their benches to clear. That triggered the fight spilling over into the stands where fans began trading punches and authorities had to be called in.

Most of Valley’s players were ejected, stopping the game immediately. Their season ends in the worst way imaginable.

The event will likely be a longstanding black eye for Valley, Carver, Alabama State University and the AHSAA. But what is worse is the light in which the event casts basketball and the men who play it.

In recent years, the sport and its athletes have continued to garner a bad reputation. Basketball players at most levels are often viewed as undisciplined thugs as much of society opts for unwarranted stereotypes in branding the athletes.

But to paint the entirety of the game with such a brush is unfair and just as much of a travesty as the events that took place in the Acadome.

Most basketball players, especially at the high school level, are good, hard-working student-athletes. And while they may not have a mastery of the game’s fundamentals, they most often have an appreciation for it.

So in the aftermath of Tuesday’s occurrences, the greatest challenge for onlookers is not to hold all players accountable for the action of Valley and Carver.