Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why I like Anthony Parker and dislike other people (including Doug Smith)

From the Star:

Players, fans fear for lives after blast on court during Israeli league game

U.S.-born players like ex-Raptor Tucker ponder heading home after scary incident

Smoke. Explosion. Blood. Panic. Fear.

Really, does anyone set up suspense better? Eat your heart out Tom Clancy!

A frightful scene in a Jerusalem gymnasium, when terror met sports, the worst nightmare for athletes normally inured to the possibility that danger from the outside could invade their world.

For P.J. Tucker, the former Raptor trying to cling to a professional basketball career in the Jerusalem suburb of Holon, the moment was simply frightening.

Frightful and frightening? The great word choice is great. And 17 FDS points for locating PJ Tucker, whose career seems to be hanging in the balance, teetering on the brink of annihilation.

Also, not terrorism - insanely dangerous and stupid hooliganism.

"I've never seen anything like it," he told Eran Soroka, a journalist who covers the Hapoel Holon team.

"We thought somebody shot us."

It remains unclear what possessed a 20-year-old to toss the firecracker on the court 90 seconds from the end of a game between Hapoel Jerusalem and Holon on Sunday. Yossi Malakh is in custody in Jerusalem and may never admit precisely why he did what he did, but it set in motion of chain of frightening events that ended with a security guard's hand blown up, two of his fingers severed, an arena of fans in panic and players fearing – momentarily – for their lives.

I have tried for years to understand hooligan culture and I just can't do it. I wish they could ship this piece of shit to Syria or Iran to stand "trial."

Even in Israel, where citizens live with the spectre of terrorist attacks hovering over them daily, it was too much. It was basketball. And basketball is supposed to be free of such horror.

Again: hooliganism, not terrorism.

"That's never happened before," said Toronto's Anthony Parker, who played six seasons for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli league. "Usually when they throw anything on the floor, it's not something that blows up. Maybe one of those little flares or something, or a piece of paper but that's just – I don't know – too much."

That is an understatement, but yeah.

It might be enough to bring Tucker back home, to some North American minor league where he can try to work his way back to the NBA, where fan violence is practically nonexistent, where the thought of a firecracker – or some other bomb-like device – going off is unimaginable.

"My girlfriend was supposed to come to Israel next week and now she doesn't want to," Tucker told the Israeli journalist Soroka. "Right now, I'm here and I'm just taking everything day after day."

Good idea. There's clearly a paramilitary campaign to root out foreign basketball professionals. Get out of the war zone while you can, Tucker and Tucker's shorty.

Holon officials acted swiftly to ensure the players would be given whatever assistance they needed. There was a two-hour team counselling session on Monday and team owner-manager-coach Miki Dorsman has demanded better protection for his players and steadfastly supports whatever decision the American-born players reach – even if it means disbanding his team.

"There are a few foreign players who are undecided," he told the Haaretz newspaper. "We decided that if one of them leaves, we will all leave with them."

Perfect response from Dorsman, says this PR consultant. The incident was senseless and shocking and the team should be made to feel safe wherever they're playing.

The explosion, by far the most serious incident at an Israeli league basketball game, has led to calls from all quarters for increased security.

It has been difficult in the past to attract American-born players to Israel, precisely because of the threat of violence that pervades the area. Parker, a huge supporter of Israeli basketball who remains close friends with several former Maccabi teammates, and fellow Raptor Maceo Baston say the incident is so isolated, it shouldn't deter others from going or Tucker from staying.

"I was never worried, that's why it caught me off guard that it got that close to the players on the court," said Baston. "I never felt scared or anything; that was one of my fears, that I would be, but luckily in three years I never witnessed anything like that."

Doug, you're talking about terrorism. AP and Pass The Peas Baston are talking about hooliganism. Are you really still trying to bridge this thing?

"We went through some pretty big rivalries with Hapoel Tel Aviv team, or Jerusalem, we had some pretty intense battles but nothing other than flares going off. Nothing like this."

"I can see if it was my first year over there and something like that happening it would really shake me up but it's not something that you have to be afraid of," Parker said. "It's not something like suicide bombers bombing next to your house. It's not one of those situations."

Security at Israeli games is not unlike security at NBA games. Fans undergo a rudimentary search of bags and backpacks, although that's certain to be tightened in the wake of Sunday's incident. Fans of all sports in that area of the world and Europe are known for their passion and emotion but the Sunday scare went far over the line.

"I remember we were in Greece and they started throwing lighters and coins and spitting on you," said Parker. "I mean that was worse than anything that happened to me in Israel."

2324.9 context points for Parker. I understand the newsworthiness of players' safety being breached. But shut up with this terrorism shit. You're more at risk playing for the Wizards than any Israeli team.

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