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Rant: Shaq's attack on par with that of Bertuzzi

PETE YOUNG
Published March 14, 2004

Which is worse, approaching an opponent from behind and throwing a sneak-attack (gloved) punch to the side of his head, or a 340-pounder slamming a post-dunk elbow into an opponent's noggin?

Both earn first-ballot selection to the Hall of Infamy. But most folks, gauging by media and public outrage toward the Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi for his sucker punch of the Avalanche's Steve Moore, think his was a far more egregious violation than Shaquille O'Neal's atomic elbow to the head of the Jazz's Andrei Kirilenko.

The Shaq attack became an issue when referee Bob Delaney correctly called O'Neal's second technical foul - he got one earlier for flinging both arms at Kirilenko's face after a shot attempt. Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Delaney was prejudiced against Shaq. Dr. Phil, as usual, was the prejudiced one. Shaq's elbow was as purposeful, malicious and dangerous as Bertuzzi's roundhouse. It just was disguised better.

The outrage about Bertuzzi mushroomed because of the somewhat-fluky, very serious injury Moore sustained. Otherwise, it would have been washed away, after a brief uproar and suspension, as NHL-style cowboy justice.

Shaq's act was just as bad, just as likely to inflict major trauma as Bertuzzi's blow. Yet it was old news in a few days, which is wrong. It is the act, not the result, that deserves the punishment.

Rave: BCS take note: This is how to determine a champion

It will be Saint Joseph's vs. Kentucky for the national title. They're playing in three weeks. In the Tostitos/FedEx/Nokia national title game.

It's done. The Hawks and Wildcats ended the regular season No.1 and No.2 in the BCS and thus were appointed to the national championship game. Let the hype begin. If this were college football, that sham might have been foisted upon us. But thankfully, this is college basketball.

Instead, we have March Madness.

Instead we get thrilling conference tournaments preceding the magical NCAA Tournament. Instead, we get a playoff-style format that ensures teams earn berths in the national title game by winning elimination games on the court, not by popularity contest (the polls) or computer formulas.

Instead of a designated national title game with a smattering of other games played at random leading up to it - Gonzaga vs. Mississippi State in the Continental Tire Classic! - we get survive and advance. We get upsets and buzzer-beaters and tension covered in excitement wrapped in drama. We get conference champs such as Central Florida and East Tennessee State getting a shot at glory.

We also might get Saint Joseph's and Kentucky in the title game. If so, we'll know they earned it, the right way.

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