This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Enough with the outrage and moral grandstanding.
Let's just admit most sports fans like a good shoving match.
Birdman and Tyler Hansbrough talking tough and pushing each other around during the Heat-Pacers series? With all the tension in this defense-oriented, physical series, is it really a surprise that some of these guys really don't like each other?
And yet, here we are, a few days later, discussing whether this has a place in the NBA. What we really should be asking is this: Why are we punishing Andersen for being who he is?
By pretty much any measure, Chris Andersen is one of the best basketball players on earth. But the difference between a great NBA player and a marginal one is a wide gap. Compare Andersen, a man with career averages of 5 points and 5 rebounds per game, with his three best teammates.
Many marginal ones cultivate a reputation by being colorful, by being tough, and by not taking any disrespect real or perceived from anyone.
There's really nothing wrong with that, because it's what we, as fans, enjoy. Don't point the finger at the Birdman, even if he enjoys dressing like the villain, complete with a mohawk and neck tattoos. He's going to enjoy a solid NBA career because there's demand for his kind of skill set and personality.
One of the things that stood out to me about when Jason Collins revealed his orientation to Sports Illustrated was that he was rather frank about his career. Even though he's never averaged double-digit points in his career, he can find a roster spot year after year.
Said Collins: "I take charges and I foul that's been my forte. … I enter the court knowing I have six hard fouls to give."
For some, those hard fouls are career-defining. And frankly, there are many times fans want to see that kind of aggression.
There is a line: Players who threaten other players' careers or at worst, fans' well-being should be reprimanded accordingly. There was no excuse for the Malice in the Palace. Fist fights in the stands don't do anything for professional basketball.
Still, a player such as Ron Artest, now Metta World Peace, would've never been reinstated into the NBA if there wasn't a quiet but powerful demand for a player with his edginess. NBA teams can use a sometimes explosive, sometimes even unbalanced player who is not willing to give up an inch. NBA fans, more importantly, will tolerate those players because it's something we embrace.
So a suspension? For a little shoving match? Please. We're the ones who allow and even celebrate this type of behavior.
No one was hurt, except in their pride. Let's just take it as it is: Part of the game.