The city of Chicago, which has been rattled by a pair of frightening incidents involving fans attacking a coach and an umpire on the field at White Sox games in the past year, is preparing to make such trespassers pay stiffer penalties. A panel of the City Council last week approved an ordinance that would mean a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail for anyone who runs onto the playing field at a major sporting event in the city. The full council will consider the matter Wednesday.
The folks who run onto playing fields tend to be substance-abusing yahoos with poor impulse control and a strange idea of what constitutes praiseworthy achievement. It's hard to imagine a fine and some jail time will do much to deter them once they set their tiny brains on "attack." But it's an intriguing idea that those who disturb, disrupt and distract from our enjoyment of sporting events should be punished.
Who else is ripe for a little disciplinary action? Funny you should ask.
The crime: Do you know how hard it is to knock down a guy who's 6-9, 250? Yet the NBA is filled with power forwards tumbling to the hardwood like bowling pins, sometimes without being touched.
The punishment: We pay to see good offense and honest defense. Flop for a foul and personally refund the price of admission to every fan in the house.
The crime: Being Larry Brown, Super Genius. This guy's had 71 head-coaching jobs in the last 30 years (OK, 10), and he's won exactly one title, a college championship at Kansas 15 years ago. He keeps turning teams around, further cementing his Super Genius reputation, then skipping town before he has a chance to win a championship -- which is how you measure coaches, isn't it? The maneuver, performed this offseason in Philadelphia, gives him the convenient excuse that he's never been able to find the right situation where he can see a team through to the title. Hey, Larry? You're never going to find that right situation. It's you, pal.
Isn't it funny how the Super Genius coaches in the league, Brown and Don Nelson, are the two guys who've been around longest without winning a title?
The punishment: He can coach till he's 100 and he'll never win an NBA crown. That's punishment enough.
THE DETROIT PISTONS
The crime: Firing Rick Carlisle, the coach who won 50 games in each of his first two years with a collection of journeymen. Carlisle's successor will have the blossoming Tayshaun Prince, whose playing time was increased dramatically by Carlisle in the playoffs, and the second pick in this year's draft, either Darko Milicic or Carmelo Anthony.
The punishment: The Pistons have handled this themselves by hiring Larry Brown to replace Carlisle.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL
The crime: Baseball is looking for 1,600 volunteers to act as community hosts, which is to say gofers, during All-Star Game week in Chicago. Major League Baseball is a $3.5 billion enterprise -- by its own questionable accounting -- and it's asking for volunteers to do grunt work as though it were the Girl Scouts holding a weekend jamboree.
The punishment: A fine of $640,000, the amount it would cost baseball to hire 1,600 college kids to work five full days at $10 an hour. That's $21,333 per team, or what the Mets pay Rey Sanchez to not hit for about three days.
The crime: hubris. The Rocket took the mound for his first try for career win No. 300 with a patch on his glove commemorating his 300th career win. The Red Sox griped to the umps, who made him switch gloves. Clemens has now failed twice to win that 300th. Perhaps there are baseball gods punishing him already, but he still has to pay.
The punishment: Five more starts without a win, leading an infuriated George Steinbrenner to trade Clemens to Tampa Bay, where he fails to win a game for the rest of the year, forcing him to reconsider his retirement. Either that or five minutes alone with Mike Piazza.
The crime: Refusing to face reality. The NHL commissioner assured the hockey world that all was right with the league last week at his annual state-of-the-game press conference. "I don't think there's something fundamentally wrong," he said. Well, that makes one of him. Bettman earns bonus charges for labeling those who criticize the dull-as-soccer state of the game "politically correct." Huh?
The punishment: TV ratings lower than those for billiards, teams in bankruptcy, a labor impasse that makes a disastrous work stoppage seem inevitable next year, declining attendance and the league being dominated by a style of play that prevents marquee stars from developing or, once developed, shining. Still.
The crime: Choosing artistic camera angles at crucial moments that no doubt garner them praise from colleagues but prevent fans from actually seeing the game. Examples: The worst seat in the house-cam, the close-up on a player who just did something while something else is happening elsewhere-cam and the floating on a string to produce pictures that make you seasick-cam.
The punishment: Any director who doesn't keep the ball or whatever constitutes a sport's focal point in the center of the screen, at a comprehensible angle, must watch his or her own broadcast.
It sounds cruel and unusual, but as they've decided in Chicago, it's time to get tough.