Basketball, Terrorism and Retaliation

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Excerpts from the Los Angeles Times:

Shaquille O’Neal retaliated finally, with a ferocious overhand right that grazed the left ear of Chicago Bulls center Brad Miller. Enraged, apparently, over the hard and calculated fouls that accumulated over a game, and perhaps over a career, of being the biggest target in the National Basketball Association, O’Neal threw the punch he hoped never to throw…

“We warned the officials during the course of the game that it was getting too rough out there,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Shaq takes a beating every single night he goes out there and plays. I’m surprised he doesn’t let it go more often than that. I’m sure that’s going to suspend him and probably rightly so, because you can’t attack anybody with a fist in this game, but yet I hold those officials responsible for not taking care of the ballgame earlier than that.”

As I read the Los Angeles Times’ article on Shaquille O’Neal’s retaliation in the L.A. Lakers’ game with the Chicago Bulls, it reminded me of the September 11 issues. Yet before I explain how this event relates to the September 11 event, let me first comment on Shaq’s retaliatory event.

Brad Miller (along with Charles Oakley) of the Chicago Bulls fouled O’Neal “hard across the face and neck” before O’Neal took a shot at the basket. O’Neal then retaliated against Miller, throwing a punch at him. The question we need to ask is “Why did O’Neal react in such a way?” Players get fouled quite often. They don’t always retaliate.

Maybe it was the fact that O’Neal was fouled “hard” that made the difference between retaliation and no retaliation? It could be. But maybe it was something else.

The author of the article thought that O’Neal’s rage was due not only to the “hard and calculated fouls”, but probably also because the fouls “accumulated over a game, and perhaps over a career, of being the biggest target in the National Basketball Association (NBA).”

Being the biggest target in the NBA surely made O’Neal angry. Who wouldn’t be angry and enraged if he were in O’Neal’s position? O’Neal probably had had enough on this fateful night. He was probably sick of being targeted always. His anger boiled over. He let it all out.

What’s our first reaction to this incident? Surely, we would never condone O’Neal’s punch. Nobody in the right mind would do so. Even Phil Jackson, O’Neal’s own coach, would not accept such behavior from his player – “you can’t attack anybody with a fast in this game.” Jackson also agreed with the minimum punishment that his star player is to receive – “I’m sure that’s going to suspend him and probably rightly so…”

I think we would all agree with Jackson. We would condemn O’Neal’s punch as wrong. We would also agree that because O’Neal pulled a punch, he would need to face the consequences. He would need to be punished.

All is well. I think most of us would agree on the above. But I also think that that would not be the final say for most of us. How about Miller (and also Oakley) who fouled O’Neal badly? Are they totally innocent here? Should they be known only as “victims”? Didn’t they have a part to play in O’Neal’s reactionary punch? Of course! Their act was the catalyst to O’Neal’s reaction and retaliation.

How about the others who keep on fouling O’Neal? How about doing something about the fact that O’Neal keeps on getting fouled by so many people? Surely an honest appraisal would let us in on the fact that it’s tough being O’Neal. It’s not easy being a target week in and week out. It’s not fair or just either!

Responsibility ought to be placed upon O’Neal for his punch. There is no doubt about that. But I believe we would also sympathize with him in his situation. Not that we agree with his punch or his retaliation, but we would understand and feel sorry for the treatment he constantly gets in the basketball court from opponents who target him.

His own coach understood his situation. Jackson said, “Shaq takes a beating every single night he goes out there and plays. I’m surprised he doesn’t let it go more often than that.” Remember that Jackson condemned O’Neal’s punch. But that doesn’t mean he had no room to sympathize with the tough situation O’Neal faces during every game.

So far we’ve seen that Jackson condemned O’Neal’s punch and he also agreed with the punishment O’Neal would have to face. Jackson also sympathized with the pressures O’Neal faced which ultimately led to the unfortunate incident. In fact, Jackson not only sympathized with O’Neal but indirectly praised him for his self-restraint that “he doesn’t let it go more often than that.”

Lastly, Jackson actually placed the major responsibility for the punch on the officials “for not taking care of the ballgame earlier than that.”

Yes, O’Neal has a share of responsibility in this event. But surely we can agree with Jackson that the officials had their part to play in not warning the Chicago players of their rough fouls and the unfair pressure that they placed upon O’Neal? All this certainly led to the punch. And we need to realize that it is more than just O’Neal who is responsible. The officials and of course also the players (including Miller) need to take a share in the responsibility.

I’m sure all would agree with my analysis above? So how does this event relate to the September 11 issue?

Follow me for a moment. O’Neal’s retaliatory punch is akin to the terrorists’ attacks against New York’s World Trade Center’s towers. O’Neal is the terrorist or represents disgrunted Muslims all around the world. The victim, Brad Miller, represents America. And let’s say Phil Jackson is a wise observer – someone who has something extremely important to say to all of us, if only we would listen carefully.

Ok guys, do you follow me here?

What happened on September 11th was just like O’Neal’s retaliating against Miller. Our first reaction is probably to condemn O’Neal’s punch and sympathize with Miller, the victim. In the same way, the world has been condemning the terrorists’ acts and sympathizing with America, the victim.

But like in the above analysis of the basketball incident, we need to go beyond our initial reaction and condemnation. Yes, what the terrorists did was inhuman and utterly terrible! They ought to be punished, just as O’Neal would need to face punishment for his undesirable act.

But let’s ask an important question that the mainstream media have been reluctant to ask – “What caused such hatred among the Muslim terrorists that they resorted to committing such an inhuman act?”

We don’t hear such questions being asked much do we? But it’s important.

If we asked that kind of question in the case of O’Neal and sought to find out why O’Neal reacted the way he did, we’d realise that it was probably because he felt the injustice of being fouled so often, of being a target so often in the game and perhaps also because he felt the injustice of fouls being accumulated over his career and therefore just let it all out.

You see, there’s always a reason behind every action. We should not only condemn the action if it’s bad, but probe deeper to find out what caused the action. In the case of O’Neal, he reacted in retaliation to felt injustice of being fouled so often and being a target. If we ask why the Muslim terrorists did what they did, we’d probably find out that the terrorism on September 11 was a retaliatory act of vengeance on behalf of the Muslim people for the injustice and oppression Muslims have faced by America and its cruel and oppressive foreign policies.

Nobody would disagree that the terrorists acts were wrong and bad. Nobody would disagree these acts ought to be condemned. Nobody would disagree that the terrorists need to be punished.

But few would go further and look at the reasons for the terrorists acts. What caused it? If too many fouls and felt injustice led to a reaction in O’Neal, then surely it would be reasonable to suggest that it’s probably some kind of injustice that Muslims all over the world are feeling that has led to great hatred in them for America – and which ultimately led some extremists to plan the terrorism on September 11.

O’Neal isn’t the sole guilty party. Miller had a part to play. The lack of fair officiating by the referees was responsible too. We can’t see O’Neal as the sole oppressor and Miller as the sole victim. That’s a simplistic way to view things. O’Neal was a victim too – of too many fouls, of too much injustice done towards him. Miller was an oppressor too – for his part to play in committing such “hard and calculated” fouls.

In the same way, the terrorists aren’t the sole guilty party. The American government through its foreign policies has been oppressive to the Muslim world. The Americans have to take a share of the responsibility whether they like it or not. Their arrogant and bullying nature has led to widespread hatred by many Muslims for America. If only America looks at itself in the mirror, they will realize why so many hate them.

The terrorists are guilty. But so is the American government. The terrorists need to be punished, but so does the American government.

We cannot afford to just blame the terrorists and not see the reason that created so much hatred in Muslims that led to the terrorism in the first place.

Let’s be wise in the way we look at the situation. Let’s be like Phil Jackson. If he applied his logic to the September 11 terrorism, he would probably say something like this:

The Muslim world takes a beating so often. I’m surprised that Muslim terrorists have not risen up more often in the past and let it go more often than they did on September 11. I condemn the terrorists acts. When the terrorists are found they will be executed for such cruel crimes and probably rightly so, because you can’t go around killing innocent people like they did, but yet I hold those officials responsible for not stopping America in their oppressive foreign policies and unjust interventions in the Middle-East earlier than that.

Jackson placed the blame partly on the officials. Since there is no world government or ‘official’, there is no need to blame any particular organization or government. Maybe the United Nations can be blamed for not doing more to stop injustice committed by America upon the Muslim world. But then again, the United Nations do not have the power to stop America.If the United Nations were democratic and had the power to stop injustice, they would probably have prevented lots of injustice. But anyway, such a United Nations does not exist.

Because there is no world government, America has to take a lot of the blame and responsibility for September 11 – just as if there were no officials, Miller would have to take a great share of the responsibility and blame. They have not been innocent and they are not the victim as the mainstream media have portrayed. They are great oppressors. They have been responsible for millions of innocent lives lost – whether it be in the occupied territories, Iraq, Nicaragua…etc.

So what if we know all this? So what if we see that Miller is at fault, perhaps just as much as O’Neal is. What good is it if we realize that America needs to share the responsibility for the September 11 terrorism?

The great good is that then we will know how to solve the problem.

Let me pose you a question: What steps should we take to prevent O’Neal from repeating a punch in future? Definitely not to lay the blame totally on him. If we place all the blame on O’Neal and don’t see that players who consistently pick on him and target him for fouls also have a part to play in provoking O’Neal to retaliation, then O’Neal will only become angrier. How would one feel when everyone places the blame solely on him when the facts of the situation is that he is not to be blamed solely, but others have a part to play too? Surely angry.

But if we realize that those who picked on him need to be confronted also, then we have successfully gotten to the root of the problem. The players provoked him. If you don’t want O’Neal to retaliate with a punch again, then stop players from provoking him! It’s so simple. Get to the root of the problem, solve it at its root, then there will be no retaliation and no punches by O’Neal.

America and the world needs to see that the root problem to terrorism is America’s oppressive foreign policies. Fix that, then you’ll fix the retaliatory vengeance by Muslims. Make sure America is fair and just in their dealings with other countries, and less people will hate them and want to seek revenge on them.

It’s so simple isn’t it? But it’s not easy for America to see where they have erred…

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