SOn Wednesday, we briefly mentioned the Tuesday night fight that broke out in the final minutes of a game between the WNBA's Detroit Shock and L.A. Sparks. In the following days, more than one sportswriter has opined that the publicity surrounding the brawl, which resulted in the suspension of league star Candace Parker and 9 other players as well as the suspension of Shock assistant coach Rich Mahorn, could ultimately be positive for WNBA. ESPN's Jemele Hill argues that while fights shouldn't be condoned or encouraged, they are an understandable, and even necessary byproduct of professional, high-contact sports played at the highest level. "The fight, which, by the way, isn't the WNBA's first, showed that squaring up isn't a man thing," Hill writes. "It's a sports thing. It's an athlete thing. It's an I'm-so-ticked-off-that-Candace-Parker-just-drilled-me-in-the-chest-and-the-refs-didn't-notice thing."Hill continues, "We treat girl fights like a novelty, when they shouldn't be seen as such. News flash to those still using sticks to create fire: Female athletes are just as competitive as men and when some are pushed to the edge, they'll exhibit the same lack of control." Salon's sports columnist King Kaufman agrees that the fight could ultimately be a positive for the WNBA, but for slightly different reasons. "The old truism says there's no such thing as bad publicity, and people who don't normally talk about the WNBA are talking a lot about it this week," Kaufman says. "[Though] it's worth noting that a big part of why Malice at the Palace II is getting so much attention is because it was so rare. As a brawl, it wasn't much. Ron Artest can get in a worse fight than that when he's alone in a room. But it stood out because that sort of thing isn't supposed to happen in the WNBA, land of role models." And honestly? I agree with both of them. I've been watching men's basketball for over a decade, and if a similar fight went down in the NBA, nary an eyelash would be batted. It would occupy maybe an inch of column space. Why should the WNBA be held to some pristine standard? Is it because people are so freaked out by angry women, and even more freaked out by angry black women? And the argument that people are reacting to this fight the same way they react to any fight in sports is hogwash. Take this touchy-feely commentary from ESPN's Mechelle Voepel, who wonders about the emotional motivation of Plenette Pierson, who was one of the main brawlers in the scuffle. "Why…did Pierson seem to be so angry all the time? It's something only Pierson and those closest to her can probably answer," Voepel said. When men in sports get into fights, no one tries to psychoanalyze them or explore their "feelings." In post-game commentary, Lisa Leslie, who was accidentally shoved to the ground by assistant coach Rick Mahorn, said she was disappointed about the fight because, "As a role model this is not the way I want to represent myself. I'm a mom, this is not the way I want to represent myself in front of my daughter." While Leslie is right on one level, the thing about role models is that they aren't infallible. One fight in the over ten years of the WNBA? I don't think Leslie's or anyone else's role model status is in question. WNBA Brawl: Bad, But Good? [Salon] In Real Life, Female Athletes Lose Their Temper, Too [ESPN] "Bad Girls" Mind-set, Pierson And Parker A Volatile Mix [ESPN]
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