August 21, 2002
Must the show go on?

Last night I attended the Comets-Starzz playoff game (which, alas, the Comets lost) along with Larry. We had fun at the game, even if Larry was confused by Haley, the Comets mascot.

Unfortunately, it wasn't all fun. With about 15 minutes remaining in the second half, referee Bill Stokes collapsed in front of the scorer's table. We watched in shocked silence as the Comets trainer started performing CPR on him, then later defibrillated him. He was eventually taken to a nearby hospital, where he is now listed in critical but stable condition.

WNBA Commissioner Val Ackerman was in attendance, and she made the call to have the game continue after this happened. Chron writer John Lopez was appalled by that. It's hard to argue with Lopez on anything but logistical grounds. Is suspending the game fair to the players? How do you handle the schedule when the next playoff round starts on Thursday? How do you handle the fans in attendance - do you charge for another game, or do you let anyone with a ticket stub in to the makeup game? What if a fan has already thrown out her ticket stub? Ackerman had to weigh all that against the emotionally correct response of calling the game that Lopez wants. She's in a no-win position, for I guarantee that had she called the game someone else would be criticizing her.

That said, if the Comets announcer had to tell us that Bill Stokes had died on the way to the hospital, I can't imagine anyone wanting to participate in the remainder of the game. Val Ackerman is lucky that her tough choice wasn't tragically misguided.

One odd note: Lopez said that after Stokes was wheeled off the court, the fans "broke into an impromptu recitation of the Lord's Prayer", while the sidebar story says that one fan "coerced the crowd" into saying the prayer. What happened was that the announcer asked for a moment of silence and prayer for Bill Stokes. One person called out "Comets fans! Let's say the Lord's Prayer!" and people followed the lead. I don't believe in public prayer - I'm one of those people who thinks that "under God" should be stricken from the Pledge of ALlegiance - but I'm uncomfortable with the implication that people were coerced. I felt no coercion, and no one looked to see if my lips were moving. I think silent prayer, for those who pray, is the right thing to do in this context, but I'm not particularly bothered that someone wanted group participation.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 21, 2002 to Other sports

Said better than I could say, and I've been trying all morning. And as for anybody looking at your lips, well, I was too busy looking at your beard and mustache, thinking "You know, I wish I could grow a beard and mustache that full and rich."

Posted by: Laurence Simon on August 21, 2002 12:59 PM