Much has been made over the last decade or two of the rise of popularity (and skill, quite frankly) in international basketball. Many trace it back to the 1992 USA Dream Team's ceremonious romp through the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Ask any international star today between the age of 30 and 40 why they love basketball so much, and for most, inevitably it comes back to Magic, Michael, Charles and company.
Well, unbeknownst to me, apparently the rise in popularity of basketball globally is surpassed only by the rise in popularity of wheelchair basketball globally. At least in Turkey, that is the case.
In a Turkish Wheelchair Basketball Super League recently, "bitter rivals" (the announcer's words, not mine...I'll take his word for it) Galatasary and Besiktas hooked up in what was scheduled to be the equivalent of Alabama and LSU, only in basketball. And in wheelchairs.
There was only one problem. One great big, collective problem.
And it was the audience in attendance which was no doubt weened as sports fans on the international soccer model of "cheer for your team, until the other team does something good, and then brawl. And brawl. And brawl. Until the tear gas arrives, and then go break shit."
0:01 -- Ok, first of all, the best part of this whole video (other than the tear gas), is the British announcer, whose voice just inherently makes this whole donnybrook seem like some sort of international incident that will ultimately end with nuclear weapons being deployed.
0:03 -- How do you know you're about to watch some crazy, violent, mace soaked shit? When the commentary begins with "Supporter violence sunk to an all-time low in Turkey this weekend..." I mean, imagine how low you have to sink to be part of the all-time worst in stadium violence for an entire European country? Let's find out.
0:08 -- We get the requisite "hazy tear gas" wide shot, complete with scrambling fans and police in riot gear. It's not clear yet if these are truly fans who passionately care about their team, or a bunch of Turkish people who are just looking for a fight. Let's keep going...
0:24 -- With players breathing into the shirts so as not to ingest tear gas, we find out that the bout had been delayed for 30 minutes before the start because of violence, and things reached a head with six minutes to go in the second quarter with Galatasary leading 31-26, to which my reply is "Damn, a European crowd made it through almost eighteen minutes of basketball without trying to kill each other?"
0:32 -- Apparently, the players and coaches tried to calm their respective fans down, but the supporters continued to "fire missiles at each other". Missiles? Can we be sure that the narrator isn't referring to actual missiles?
0:38 -- Apparently, these savages started wrecking wheelchairs?!? This begs the question, and perhaps some of you international riot fans can chime in -- where does destroying wheelchairs belonging to a bunch of handicapped people fall on the pantheon of spectator assholishness? Is it above or below bagging up your own urine or other bodily fluids and splattering the opposing fans in the face with your makeshift "liquid" balloon?
0:48 -- "The hooliganism spread to the hallways of the arena..." This is the "break shit" part I mentioned earlier. We get a shot of a dude throwing a crutch as far as he can, which means either (a) he's so made that he just threw one of his own crutches for no real reason, or (b) somewhere there is a crippled person squinting through a cloud of tear gas trying to hobble out of this gym on one leg (at most). I'll go with (b).
0:53 -- Someone got a hold of the fire extinguishers, so naturally the fans began spraying those devices. Because nothing says anger like extinguishing things that aren't on fire.
0:55 -- Apparently, ten fans were arrested in this melee which for the cops is the equivalent of going to an Easter egg hunt and finding one egg.
Reportedly, Galatasary has won the title in the league six consecutive times, which is probably a source for some of the angst between the teams. I know some of you will say that Turkish Wheelchair Basketball is always better when traditional powers like Galatasary are relevant, but I'm of the opinion that the TWBSL is much better when there is parity, and not so top heavy.
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Whatever the case, Galatasary appears to be the "Alabama" of the TWBSL, so these riots are all well and good. Wake me up when Galatasary Fan is dropping his testicles on Besitkas Fan's face teabag style.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.