Fight Night in the WNBA: What the Brawl in Detroit Really Means

Jeffrey EngmannCorrespondent IJuly 22, 2008

A melee broke out in a basketball game at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Tuesday night—and no, Ron Artest was not in the vicinity. 

It's summer time, which means that the teams hoopin' are in the WNBA.  

Its newest campaign tells viewers to expect "great," but who would have ever expected a fight? 

In a great battle between the Los Angeles Sparks and the Detroit Shock, what will probably be remembered most is the bench-clearing brawl that broke out in the waning moments of the game. And perhaps what is more shocking than that is the superstar female athlete involved. 

Unfortunately, the WNBA's newest sensation will be on ESPN all day for all the wrong reasons. Yes, the same woman who appeared harmless while racking up all those ESPY awards Sunday night turned pugnacious in a 48-hour span. 

Candace Parker, whose has really been tearing up the league in her rookie campaign,  got into a physical confrontation with Shock forward Plenette Pierson with less than five seconds left in the game, and as a result the brawl ensued. Three players were ejected, and even the Shock assistant coach—former NBA tough guy Rick Mahorn—got involved into the mess (the bad boy has apparently turned good, and he appeared to be breaking it up).

In the aftermath of the WNBA's first full-scale brawl, commentator Dorris Burke sounded utterly disgusted. Burke is a connoisseur of both the men's and women's game and is constantly trying to defend the constantly criticized league. So when she described the players actions as "classless and without dignity," it definitely caught my attention.

Fights happen in sports, but that does not mean they should be accepted. Sometimes things get out of hand, but I believe it is the fault of both the coaches and referees when things do escalate.  Refereeing in the WNBA is worse than terrible, and in some ways they are more responsible for the players who take swings.

Candace Parker reacted in a way that most competitors would in the heat of the moment.  For instance, on the play immediately before the female Lebron James turned into the female Kimbo Slice, Parker got into a little skirmish with Shock player Cheryl Ford after the whistle.

At that point, it was painfully obvious that both sides were testy. Double technicals should have been handed out, serving as a warning to the players and allowing the coaches to settle them down. 

Unfortunately this did not occur, and it only proves my hypothesis that the WNBA does a poor job of protecting and projecting its marquee athletes.

People who love sports love to watch people with exceptional skills compete. Even in boxing, a sport of fighting, we admire guys like Floyd Mayweather Jr.—not for the fact that he throws punches, but for the tactical way in which he does it. We respect that he wages war with other fighter's minds, and uses his wit, skills and athleticism to defeat them. 

Fights in basketball occur, but they're usually not positive. Instead, they are only romanticized when they are a part of something bigger.  Carmelo Anthony fighting in New York is something that has tainted his image—yet the classic fights in the 80s between the Celtics and the Lakers are glorified because they serve as pieces of a monumental rivalry.

But with women fighting still being a little taboo, and the WNBA still somewhat fighting (no pun intended) for mainstream acceptance, it raises the question of how this fight will be remembered.

Is the fight good for the league? I honestly believe in a way it can be. Not because everyone loves to see a good chick fight, or because any publicity is good publicity.

But when Candace Parker came into the league, and everyone anointed her as the savior, I told anyone who would listen to fall back. The league will be saved by quality teams who play quality basketball, not by one girl who can barely dunk (not hating, because at least she can). 

Tuesday night's game was a great display of women's basketball between two teams that could potentially meet in the Finals. If that were to take place, the fight would be a good thing. The matchup would be more intriguing and possibly attract more viewers.

And that's exactly what the WNBA needs. People may realize that they really should Expect Great(ness), and that most of these females can really hoop.

But on the other hand, I think Lisa Leslie said it best at the end of the game. Visibily holding back tears, she said something to the effect of "this is not the way we want the game to be represented". It's as simple as that.

If Candace Parker does not clean up her act, the Detroit Shock their play—and most importantly, the referees their approach—an ugly brawl will serve as a dark cloud over the league that plays basketball in its purest form.