Wednesday, February 21

Those Rapscallions And Their Orange Ball

NBA All-Star Game = Crime. This is the new meme. Or, for some, it's just another case of 'nothing to see here, move right along.'

Once again, it's just the sports media overreacting and non-reacting and creating a vast gulf between opinion and truth.

I wasn't there, so I don't actually know what happened -- but neither were most people who will read lurid accounts in the news and pass judgment upon the league and it's players. I'm just trying to use this crazy thing called reading comprehension, which may be nuts, but I'm willing to try it this once, instead of just mindlessly reacting.

For the overreacting we have AOL's Jason Whitlock who hopes that David Stern considers "moving the event out of the country for the next couple of years in hopes that young, hip-hop hoodlums would find another event to terrorize." Like Russia, that'd be cool.

I was there. Walking The Strip this weekend must be what it feels like to walk the yard at a maximum security prison. You couldn't relax. You avoided eye contact. The heavy police presence only reminded you of the danger.
So, because Jason Whitlock was tense and looked at his shoes it felt like prison must feel (though 'tense' and 'looking at your shoes' may amply describe some prison activites), and the heavy police presence reminded him of the ever-present danger. I thought heavy police presence reminded you that danger will be taken care of, but I'm white so maybe I just don't get it.

Again, I wasn't there, he was.

His piece is littered with such fact based phrases like 'word spread', 'reports of' and even the word 'gossip', which means we don't have to question the veracity of it. Hell, if it made it's way around thousands of drunken, gambling, tourists it must be true.

Don't get me wrong, it sure doesn't sound like a great place to be but it wasn't 'Nam either.


Funny guy Bill Simmons also adds his account of the madness in Hip-Hop Woodstock:
There were barely any cops along the Strip,
Not the good kind at least, only the ones that were there to remind you of the danger.
even though tens of thousands of people were walking around at all hours, even though there were tons of legitimately sketchy people cruising around who seemed to be sizing everyone up and didn't seem to be heading in any specific direction (reminiscent of the shady guys who walk around during Mardi Gras looking everyone over), even though cab lines and gridlock were forcing everyone to walk more than they expected to walk. Again, this was a free-for-all: Walk around at your own risk.

After initial reports that the weekend was relatively quiet, more and more information about shootings, arrests and brawls keeps trickling out. I know for a fact that the Strip was closed twice on Friday night because of shooting incidents (saw it myself), that there was a 20-person brawl outside the Mirage's cab line at 5 a.m. that same night (my friend Marty saw it), that paramedics were covering up something that looked to be a corpse in front of the MGM Grand on Saturday morning (Sully saw it), and that I threw myself into the spirit of the weekend and shot somebody outside of Treasure Island because they were wearing a Yankees cap (fortunately, no witnesses). Who knows what else happened? Was it in Vegas' best interest to report every unflattering crime or brawl that happened? Probably not.
So legitimately sketchy people (read: black) were walking about (which should be illegal, am I right?) and Bill saw the strip closed twice and somehow managed to witness the cause of both, that being multiple shooting incidents which, I mean what are the odds! And one friend saw a massive brawl and figured he should count how many people were involved instead of getting help, and it's a good thing he did because we now know conclusively that it was twenty. And another friend saw something get covered up by paramedics and it looked like a corpse (although, no homicides were reported) so it probably was. Sure, everyone was half drunk on Red Bull vodkas but, hey it looked like a freaking corpse man!

I know Bill writes with exaggerations and facetiousness and that's why he's funny but it still leaves the reader thinking that the weekend was a juiced up south central LA.


For the non-reacting we have Michael Wilbon in this week's Washington Post chat house. Whether to protect the image of the league (which supplies some of his pay) or to protect the already tarnished image of a sport played by young black men, it's quite clear he's on the defensive.
Manassas, Va.: [...]the NBA All-Star festivities were a fun time, but what's with the mass brawling, shootings and hundreds of arrests? That should be addressed as well.

Michael Wilbon: There are brawlings and shootings in Las Vegas every night. You want to blame the NBA All-Star weekend for that? Did you blame the Super Bowl weekend for the shootings and brawling in Miami a few weeks ago?
Do I want to blame the brawling and shootings that happen every night on the All-Star game?

Nope. I'm cool with those, Mike.

I want to blame the increase in brawling and shootings on the All-Star game. And, other than dissimulation, what the hell does the NFL in Miami have to do with the NBA in Vegas? NFL/Miami, NBA/Vegas -- those are different things right? Am I wrong about that? Totally different places and leagues, right? Nothing at all to do with each other? Because, assuming I'm right about that, it's really odd that Mike would try to compare such unlike events.

The important thing to note is that Mike apparently doesn't think the game had anything to do with an increase in crime, which, does in fact happen daily with or without the All-Star game.

Really? Is he serious?

That's funny, because I put together this handy chart (Yes, I made a handy chart) using data from the Las Vegas police department website (using The Strip zip code, 89109) and it seems that the weekend of the game saw more crime reported to police per day than the 8 days prior.


As you can see the game had a definite impact on reported crime. No shootings in the beginning of the week, shootings at game time. A slight increase in fights and narcotics.

Another important thing to note is that other than A & B's and throw back jersey sightings, crime didn't really sky rocket, at least, not anymore than any influx of people to any festival in any town. And it was Vegas. Tens of thousands of people decended upon The Strip and only 23 measly assault and battery's on game day? That's it? Chuck Norris has battered more people in 5 minutes. Pathetic.

And that's what Wilbon, or any of these writers, should say; when people come from out of town to a party, things go down.

A close approximation to the truth wasn't melee or mayhem but rudeness, bad attitudes and a lack of tipping (I AM SHOCKED!) that left people in sour mood. From that paragon of truth, the Casino City News:
From Thursday through Monday, 403 arrests were made of people attending NBA All-Star events or in town for NBA-related activities, Gillespie said. Of those arrested, 172 were residents, and 231 were from outside Southern Nevada.

A majority of the arrests, 239, were for prostitution-related crimes. During an average week, the department makes about 175 vice-related arrests. Gillespie said vice arrests increased because the number of squads dealing with such crimes was doubled.

The second-largest number of arrests, 63, was for trespassing. The remaining arrests were for disorderly conduct, battery, burglary, petty larceny and outstanding warrants.

There was an average of 81 arrests every 24 hours during All-Star Weekend. By comparison, on New Year's Eve more than 130 people were arrested during a 12-hour period, Gillespie said.

It's no surprise that an event billed for weeks as 'crazy' ended up being rowdy, in of all places, Sin City. But it's not an indictment of young black men or the league as much as it is of Vegas and big parties.

Don't want this to happen again? Don't make sporting events into extravaganzas.

6 comments:

Ryan said...

This was a pretty decent piece of writing. You make some excellent points, and support them well. I especially enjoyed reading/analyzing your handy dandy chart, that was hilarious!

Anonymous said...

All-Star weekend was a large group of people with a ton of money and a much larger group of people with little/no money at all. The big money crowd partied in the Strip resorts and got along great. The small money crowd hung out in lower-roller joints, started fights, abused the help, didn't tip and even walked out on their restaurant bills.

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Anonymous said...

I agree with some of the stuff said in this article. As a whole, there's too much praise for being
a thug and not enough praise for being a good guy and doing the right thing these days. Don't turn this into a race issue because its not.It's a culture issue, the whole
hip hop/NBA lifestyle that is all over the TV and media is what gives these kids the idea of how they should act in public, to women, and anyone that gets in their way. I grew up with a lot of
different kids who listen to rap, play ball and act this way. It's not a single race that needs to change...it's a culture, meaning the NBA,NFL, hip hop lifestyle...whether your white,black,asian, hispanic whatever. The problem is that nobody wants to adress this and put their name out there by making a stand.

Eric said...

Comment #4, I agree with you a bit there. There were undoubtedly problems during All-Star weekend, problems that could probably be attributed directly to the influx of a certain demographic for the game. However, I think the major problem was that people felt uncomfortable being around a large part of the crowd and like you said it's a flat out culture issue. That's why Simmons using the phrase "legitimately sketchy" in his article is important; legitimately sketchy is a gut judgment and not relative to any actual evidence. A commenter spoke above about money and it's true, rich white guys in suits may find it legitimately sketchy to be around a young hip-hop crowd, but it's not tantamount to real danger or anything criminal. That's why I checked the crime report which wasn't indicative of the mayhem most people have intimated was so prevalent; one could argue that LVPD was being lax to make a good impression, but, to me, if that's the case the blame falls squarely on the shoulder of the LVPD for not maintaining a safe environment, not the hip-hop crowd or the NBA for supposedly fostering that environment.

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