A Meagher Rant: Some lines should never be crossed

Practices, especially during pre-season warm-ups, are the only time when I would encourage fights.,”With the recent outbursts of brawling in the NFL, it has dawned on me that there is a time and a place for everything. Fighting during sporting events is no different.

Practices, especially during pre-season warm-ups, are the only time when I would encourage fights. The year the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams, there were three fights during training camp practices. The year before, when the team was 5-11, there were no fights.

Referees and officials have also been witness to some hard times this NFL season. Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber punched official Butch Hannah two Sundays ago, which is the worst thing I have ever seen a player do during a game.

Barber and New York Jets' center Kevin Mawae were tangled up in a scuffle and Hannah tried to break it up. It was at that moment that Barber took a swing and connected with Hannah, catching him in the eye.

Some people have made the argument that Barber wanted to punch Mawae and didn't mean to hit Hannah. My response is if Barber is stupid enough to take a swing at the 6'4", 289-pound Mawae in full protective gear, he is one of the most brainless individuals I have ever seen.

There are others who have made the argument that the punch was in the heat of the battle. I, however, decide the true character of an athlete during and after games. If Barber really is "one of the NFL's classiest players," as ESPN.com writer Len Pasquarelli wrote after the fight, then he would not have thrown the punch in the first place.

Barber was not suspended and was only fined $30,000. He got off easy. Punching an official should not be tolerated. He should never be allowed to wear football pads in the NFL again.

In terms of fans getting into fights, think better of it. It's not a smart thing to start a bout with professional athletes. Any sports enthusiasts who want to combat a player should ask themselves this question: "Do I really want to fight a guy this size?" If the answer is yes, make reservations at the nearest hospital.

Which brings up the infamous brawl between players on the Indiana Pacers and fans of the Detroit Pistons last November. Indiana forward Ron Artest and Detroit forward-center Ben Wallace exchanged words in a minor altercation under the basket. After that ended, Artest was lying down on the scorer's table, regrouping, when a fan threw a beer at him. Artest reacted by jumping into the stands and punching a bystander.

Later on, another spectator tried to challenge Artest to a clash by walking on the court with the intention to battle Artest. Needless to say, a scuffle began.

The duel between the Pacers and Pistons last fall was honestly not Ron Artest's fault. The incident on the court was over. Artest was just lying on the scorer's table when someone threw a beer at him. I would have done the same thing.

Buying a ticket implies certain rights. You have the right to boo, question and yell things that are not personal attacks on a player's family or race. A fan, however, never has the right to engage in fights.

Fans that initiate altercations during games suffer from a condition called "Mike Tyson syndrome"-drinking too much and thinking a player will not touch them. Athletes are people too. As much as the press and pop culture hypes them up to being demigods, they're just human beings. Say the wrong thing at the wrong moment to any athlete and he/she may snap.

There will probably never be a day when players don't fight with coaches, officials or fans. At least if we all try, rumbles will be limited to the participants on the field-which is where the action should occur in the first place.

Mark Meagher is a junior broadcast journalism major and sports editor of The Beacon. His e-mail address is [email protected].