updated 11/23/2004 10:32:53 AM ET 2004-11-23T15:32:53

Guest: Phil Mushnick, Stacie Burns, Jennifer Giroux, Drew Pinsky, David Jefferson

MIKE BARNICLE, GUEST HOST:  Sex in the suburbs.  They look like Stepford wives, but they are living secret lives.  How did a racy show about suburban housewives become a pop culture phenomenon?  And what does its message say about our culture? 

Then, the NBA dished out the heaviest penalties in its history for the melee that broke out between players and fans in Detroit, but is this part of a bigger problem in our society?  Have the days of self-control and civil behavior gone to the ways of pro wrestling and video game violence?

All that and more tonight on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

BARNICLE:  That‘s right, welcome to the show.  I‘m Mike Barnicle.  Joe is still out, still recovering from a painful back problem, and he is grateful, very grateful, for the many letters and phone calls of support.  He is expected to return right here to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY tomorrow evening. 

Now, much of the post-election analysis has been about red states and blue states and why Americans voted on values to reelect President Bush.  What, then, are we to make of the fact that the breakout show on TV right now is a sex-obsessed soap opera about a handful of terribly flawed, incredibly horny 40-something housewives having affairs, popping pills, living in a picture-perfect suburbia?  The show is “Desperate Housewives,” already infamous for its controversial “Monday Night Football” promo. 

With millions of viewers and a spot on this week‘s cover of “Newsweek,” you can be sure the show will be around for some time.  The question is, why? 

Joining us now, the author of the “Newsweek” piece, David Jefferson, Dr. Drew Pinsky, the author of “Cracked: Putting Broken Lives Together Again,” and Jennifer Giroux, director of Women Influencing the Nation. 

David Jefferson, is this just typical TV trash or is there something more here to this show? 

DAVID JEFFERSON, “NEWSWEEK”:  I really think there‘s something more than TV trash here. 

Look, this comes in a long line of soap operas, from “Dallas” to Dynasty” to “Falcon‘s Crest.”  And what makes this particular show different is, it‘s racy.  It‘s funny.  It‘s dramatic.  It has mystery to it.  I think it‘s being sold as a show that has lots of sex and sizzle, but I got to tell you, it doesn‘t have much more sex and sizzle than what you saw back in the ‘80s on “Dallas” and “Dynasty.”  It really doesn‘t.

BARNICLE:  Dr. Drew, have you ever seen the show? 

DR. DREW PINSKY, AUTHOR, “CRACKED”:  Yes.  My wife watches it religiously, and so I am passing the television frequently when it‘s on.  It seems like there‘s a fair amount at least discussion about overt sexuality on the show. 

And it seems to me the show is like “Sex and the City.”  And so we went through that on cable.  And now “Sex and the City” has grown up.  We are looking at the same characters that were in “Sex and the City.”  The same kind of pathology is being displayed, but now we are extra uncomfortable because these women are married.  This is what happens to the Carrie Bradshaws and the characters portrayed there when they try to have stable relationships.  So we are looking at the same thing. 

And, naturally enough, humans have always been interested in people that behaved dramatically and get in horrible, awful circumstances in their relationships, and it‘s always sick people that do that. 

BARNICLE:  Well, I am flying blind here.  I must confess, I have not seen the show.  I am a deprived individual. 

So let‘s take a clip.  Here‘s a look at the show itself. 


NICOLETTE SHERIDAN, ACTRESS:  Wow, get a load of you.  You look so pretty.  I hardly recognize you. 

TERI HATCHER, ACTRESS:  Oh, this?  Well, I have a date right now with Mike.  We kissed, FYI.

SHERIDAN:  How was your big date? 

HATCHER:  Mike had to reschedule. 

SHERIDAN:  Oh, because of the hot girl with the suitcase over there? 

Gosh, how devastating for you, FYI. 


BARNICLE:  Man, times have changed.  When I was growing up, our next door neighborhood looked like Yogi Berra. 

Jennifer, let me ask you, you are adamantly opposed to this show.  There‘s nothing we can do about the show, getting it off the air or on the air.  That‘s foolish.  But what is the root of your criticism of the program? 

JENNIFER GIROUX, DIRECTOR, WOMEN INFLUENCING THE NATION:  Don‘t be so sure we can‘t get it off the air there, Mike.

But I‘ll tell you what.  “Desperate Housewives” is about one thing, and that is a desperate network, because it is no knowledge that knowledge ABC has been in the tank for about a decade.  And so now they have kind of happened upon a show, which to their credit they weaved in a plot about a murder that occurred in the first show. 

What it clearly is, is a bunch of dysfunctional housewives that show a horrible side of women.  And it is very, very disrespectful to women.  It sends a terrible message to our younger women in college, even high school that might be viewing it.  We have a woman having sex with a minor who is doing her lawn and luring him into that and making fun of the fact that he is in the abstinence club. 

We have another woman who has left corporate America to stay home with four kids who is addicted to Ritalin that she steals.  It‘s a complete insult to women that are funny, sexy, and smart and are in fact happily married, and believe that sex is a great thing, like God intended it, inside the confines of marriage. 

BARNICLE:  Yes, but, I have seen stuff that is more harmful or hurtful to women, I would think, on MTV rap videos during the day.  This is on at 9:00 on a Sunday night.  What is the big issue here? 

GIROUX:  The issue is, Mike, I don‘t know if you have daughters, but I do.  And what message is being sent is that, A, women cannot control their sexual urges.  Do what you want.  This is a great thing.  This makes you a happy person, when, in fact, reality is, women have now come after 20, 30 years of empty advocacy by the National Organization of Women, that sexual freedom does not lead them to happiness.  It leads them to low self-esteem. 

PINSKY:  I have a question.

I totally agree with Jennifer, by the way.  I‘m completely agree.  But why do women—this is the same thing I feel about many of the women‘s magazines, too, is, why do you watch these things?  Why do you buy those magazines?  Why do women champion these things?  Why are they so entertained by these things that are clearly pathological?  Vote with your feet.  Don‘t watch these things anymore. 

GIROUX:  Are you asking me that? 

PINSKY:  Yes.  Yes. 


GIROUX:  I can‘t explain what women watch this, why they watch it.  I know I watch it for the very purpose of why I am on here, to try and oppose it, and encourage people to, in fact, go to the root of the problem, and that is those that are the corporate sponsors. 

I think the storyline does attract some people.  I think truly the bigger picture, though, is that there‘s a serious imbalance in the message that we are sending to young girls, and it is an insult to women that are in middle America loving their motherhood, staying home with their children.  There was just a cover story last spring about women leaving corporate America, seeking fulfillment at raising their children. 


PINSKY:  I so strongly agree with you.  I so strongly agree.

And so my question—I talk to young women all over the country.  And my question is, why do you patronize this stuff?  What makes you go to these things?  They are such pathological renditions of the female experience.  Why do you go after that?  I don‘t understand it.  I wish I could. 

GIROUX:  I do not patronize these things.  And I believe that the trend is turning.  I think young girls are starting to wake up to the empty advocacy and the bad advocacy by the National Organization of Women telling them that sexual freedom is a great thing, multiple partners is a great thing. 

We have now seen the devastating effect on women from things like this.  Look at the promo for “Monday Night Football.”


PINSKY:  You are absolutely right. 

JEFFERSON:  I have got to jump in here. 

I think you are talking—you‘re talking about—I don‘t know if we are even watching the same television show.  The fact of the matter is, there‘s one person on the show right now who has been having sex.  And, yes, granted, she is having it with the gardener.  There‘s also retribution for that particular character. 

The mother character who has the four kids who is on the Ritalin, she is actually presented as a character who decided to make the choice and go from corporate America and decide to raise her kids. 


GIROUX:  And needs Ritalin.  And needs Ritalin to keep up with the pace of it.  It clearly insults stay-at-home moms.  And we have a 9:00 program where a housewife is talking in explicit pornographic language to her sex therapist. 


JEFFERSON:  Wait.  Wait a second. 

What is the explicit pornographic language that you are talking about?  I know in one episode, she uses the word ejaculate.  Why is that pornographic?  That‘s fairly clinical, from my understanding of the word. 

GIROUX:  Maybe this is a foreign concept, but I believe many Americans want the standards of modesty and decency to be raised again.

And, clearly, I do believe that the standards need to be raised on what is allowed in prime time.  That‘s the only way that we are going to send a clear message to young women and women in their 40s that it is OK to save yourself for marriage.  You can live a moral life.  You can have self-control.  And to continue to say, there‘s no problem with putting on—I mean, I have the quote right here.  A person talking about licking a man‘s nipple on prime time is obnoxious, disgusting, and, quite honestly, not something that is appropriate for prime time. 


BARNICLE:  Jennifer, your concept of the ideal women, with 1950s values, or whatever, God bless you.  I wish part of the 1950s were back, too.

But that concept of your perfect woman, do you think that perfect woman is going to be swayed into do something immoral by watching a TV show like this? 

GIROUX:  You are talking about showing this type of behavior in women that are promiscuous and immoral and committing adultery against their spouse.  You are presenting that as acceptable behavior to college and high school girls that might be watching this at 9:00. 

That is wrong.  That is not the future we want for American women.  And I believe that there‘s a majority of women out there that are starting to step forward that are describing the disaster that their life has become following such lurid behavior. 


BARNICLE:  Dr. Drew.

JEFFERSON:  I would ask her, though, why are you targeting this show, when, if you were to target any soap opera on daytime, which plenty of kids watch, they would have much racier things?  I have got to say, by targeting “Desperate Housewives,” it seems as if you are targeting it because, hey, it‘s such a popular show.  Let‘s ride on the coattails. 

GIROUX:  Absolutely not.  I am 40-something.  I am a housewife.  That show offends what I am, what people I work as a nurse with.  I see the devastation of that type of advocacy every day.

And I live in a neighborhood.  People that behave like these women behave are dysfunction.  They are in therapy.  Some of them have been sexually abused.  It is clearly not mainstream America. 


BARNICLE:  Dr. Drew.

PINSKY:  Yes.  Jennifer is 100 percent correct. 

The problem is, people are watching these shows.  And, in my world, the reason they tend to gravitate to these things is, in fact, so many people are coming from abusive family systems, chaotic, broken-down families, the they start using arousal as a way of regulating their feeling state.  So the kind of things our culture provides, fast cars, the Nike world, these kinds of television shows, drugs, alcohol, sex, these things are how they get through life.

And so while, Jennifer, I am in 1000 percent in agreement with you, we have a bigger problem here.  They will gravitate to these things no matter where they are on the dial.  And I agree that it would be nice if we put at least the consequence, the reality of these behaviors.  I have been saying that about “Sex and the City” forever.  That Samantha character was one of the sickest characters on television ever.

And it was never portrayed like that.  It was portrayed as a liberated woman.  And that‘s a anathema to the truth and it‘s a horrible message.  But people gravitate to these things.

GIROUX:  But that was on cable TV. 

PINSKY:  Well, but we have grown up.  Now they have grown up.  Now they‘re housewives.  Now they‘re on network.  And you are right.  We should be dealing with these things .

GIROUX:  You know what?  I disagree that you can just go, that‘s where we are at right now; 50 years ago, men were arrested for selling dirty magazines to our boys in the schoolyard. 

Now they are lining up prime-time TV.  We have got to draw the line somewhere.  And if people are willing to call and ask the corporate sponsors to pull things, then we can move the pendulum back to pro-family. 


JEFFERSON:  I would hardly equate network executives with pornographers.  I mean, come on, I think you‘re really overstating it. 


GIROUX:  Oh, I am not overstating it.  Absolutely not. 

JEFFERSON:  The network executives are not there on the schoolyard peddling porn. 

GIROUX:  Maybe you are comfortable with a woman running around outside locked outside her house naked.  I am not.  That offends me.  And I think they are portraying housewives as being exactly desperate.  We are not desperate.  We are happy...


BARNICLE:  I‘m checking Century 21 for that neighborhood.

JEFFERSON:  Can I just say one here, though?  It‘s entertainment. 

It‘s entertainment. 

BARNICLE:  It‘s TV.  It‘s television.

JEFFERSON:  Turn it off. 


BARNICLE:  It‘s television.  You got a clicker.  You can switch it off. 

We have got to take a break.  We‘re going to be right back with the panel.  Don‘t go away.  We‘ve got a lot more on this ahead. 

And, later, was it basketball or boxing?  The Pacers-Pistons brawl, what does it say about our society?  We‘ve got much more on that.



BARNICLE:  You can weigh in on the “Desperate Housewives” debate. 

Just shoot us an e-mail at Joe@MSNBC.com.

SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY will be right back.


BARNICLE:  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  I‘m Mike Barnicle, in for Joe. 

We are talking about the phenomenon of “Desperate Housewives,” which, according to some, might be the end of civilization as we know it. 

We are back with “Newsweek”‘s David Jefferson, Dr. Drew Pinsky, and Jennifer Giroux, director of Women Influencing The Nation.

Front page, “New York Times,” this morning, Bill Carter of “The New York Times” writes: “The results of the presidential election are still being parsed for what they say about the electorate‘s supposed closer embrace of traditional cultural values.  But for the network television executives charged with finding programs that speak to tastes across the nation, one lesson is clear.  The supposed cultural is more like a cultural mind meld.”

And if we could get that map up of the red states vs. the blue states, and it says something about television ratings as well, because here‘s some analysis that shows how “Desperate Housewives” is being received in red states: “In the greater Atlanta market, reaching more than two million households, ‘Desperate Housewives‘ is the top-rated show.  Nearly 58 percent of the voters in the those counties voted for President Bush.  And in the Salt Lake City market, which takes in the whole state of Utah and parts of Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming, ‘Desperate Housewives‘ is fourth, after two editions of ‘CSI‘ and NBC‘s ‘E.R.‘  Mr. Bush rolled up 72.6 percent of the vote there. “

Dr. Drew Pinsky, what is going on here?  Is it schizophrenia?  Is it hypocrisy?  Or is it just Americans watching what they want to watch in the privacy of their own homes? 

PINSKY:  I don‘t know that we can answer that question with great accuracy, but my sense is that we have gone so far in terms of where our culture has devolved, if you were—and, by the way, God bless Jennifer for fighting so hard with those issues that she understands so clearly and she is absolutely right about. 

But we‘ve devolved to the point where people are thinking that perhaps we ought to be somewhere else.  So I sort of see the vote more about where we ought to go, about asking for limits, boundaries on our freedoms.  And the fact is, we are weak human beings.  We are attracted to certain things.  As I mentioned earlier, we are coming from dysfunctional families.  We don‘t regulate normally.

We are attracted to arousing material, and we go there.  And people I think are asking for some limits on that to help save us from ourselves, quite literally. 

BARNICLE:  David, it‘s sort of interesting to look at the red states vs. the blue states and see in places like Tulsa or right up the middle of the country, where they turned out for George Bush overwhelmingly, and many of them indicated in exit polls—some exit polls have been discredited—but they voted on moral values.

And if you listen to Jennifer—and she does have a real good point of view on this—that there is—you know, a large portion of this show is less than what you want your children to watch.  It‘s a funny thing to figure. 

JEFFERSON:  Well, here‘s one of the things about the red state/blue state construct that I think people get wrong. 

Republicans like to have sex as much as Democrats like to have sex.  Otherwise, there would not be new Republican voters.  OK?  Come on.  Let‘s get real here.


JEFFERSON:  So also I think red state, blue state, quite frankly is—there‘s a lot more purple out there across the country than there is red state, blue state.  So I really do think that it‘s a construct that we like to talk about in the media.

But, look, the reason folks in the red states, if you will, are turning into this show is, they find it as funny, as dramatic, as entertaining, and, yes, as titillating as Democrats do. 


PINSKY:  But I‘ll tell you what.  The thing I think that upsets everybody, though, is, what does it mean for young people and children?  I think that is sort of where we really all get a little uncomfortable with this material is, as we become parents, as we try to protect our kids from these messages, what does that really mean about our culture? 

We have become a little bit complacent about what our kids are exposed to.  And we go to it.  We enjoy it.  We figure we can handle it, but we really don‘t know the full impact on children.  And that‘s where I think Jennifer‘s concerns are well-founded. 


JEFFERSON:  And I agree with her concerns, but aren‘t parents responsible for then shielding their own children? 

PINSKY:  Right.  Yes.  Absolutely.  Absolutely.


GIROUX:  Can I jump in here, Mike? 

BARNICLE:  Sure.  Go ahead, Jennifer.

GIROUX:  I would like to jump in here.  We are talking about a Sunday night, 9:00 p.m.  This is family hour.  They threw that in on the football game.  That was deliberate.  That was intended to offend us parents that are sitting with young children to watch football. 

I talked to one guy, a happily married guy, that said, you know, all I want to do is watch football.  And they keep killing me with all these sexual ads. 


GIROUX:  It‘s coming in cartoon.  It‘s coming into the commercials.  The bottom line here is this.  And I would like to ask Dr. Pinsky and David, do you have any problem with your 14-year-old being seduced by your next-door neighbor and having sex with a minor...


PINSKY:  I am on your side, Jennifer, don‘t forget.

BARNICLE:  Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer...

GIROUX:  Yes. 

BARNICLE:  I have seven kids.  I have three daughters.

GIROUX:  I have nine. 

BARNICLE:  OK.  Nine.  Wow. 


PINSKY:  Wow.  God bless you.

BARNICLE:  Sunday night, 9:00.  Do you have cable TV?  There‘s 125 channels.  You have your pick of things to watch, from the benign to the immoral.  Why not find something...

GIROUX:  I supervise what my children watch.  Unfortunately, we do have children that aren‘t supervised, that are able to sneak and see it without their parents realizing it.  So the bottom line is, do we become complacent and say...

BARNICLE:  But they are not your kids.  They are not your kids. 


JEFFERSON:  Listen, I think a wonderful example of this is Terry hatcher who is, Teri Hatcher, who is one of the actresses on this show, has a 7-year-old daughter who she does not allow to watch TV. 

Now, I am not going to make a judgment as to what that says about what she thinks on TV or not, but the fact is, here‘s a parent who has decided that she doesn‘t think what is on television is good for her child and she set up a boundary.  She says, you are not going to watch TV.  Why is not that the parents‘ responsibility?


GIROUX:  There is no justification for this sexually perverted theme to be on Sunday night at 9:00 p.m., which is still family hour.  You could... 

JEFFERSON:  Family hour is 8:00 p.m., by the way. 

GIROUX:  You could stumble upon it with your kids and catch one scene of nudity.  That could traumatize a child, who couldn‘t possibly understand it. 

And the bottom line is, I don‘t think many of us here and many, many, many viewers out there, who I hope e-mail in and verify this, we do not want our young men and women that are growing up in this society to think what they see on “Desperate Housewives” is reality, is moral or it‘s healthy. 

BARNICLE:  Dr. Drew, what is the larger issue here?  What‘s the larger problem for Americans?  Is it lack of parenting skills, lack of responsibility among children and adults, or is it a show like “Desperate Housewives”?

PINSKY:  No, the big problem is our families.  They are so disturbed. 

Kids are—all I deal with all day—my practice in addiction medicine has become a practice of traumatology.  All I am dealing with is trauma survivors, people who have been neglected as children, abused, physically abused, sexually abused, emotionally abused.  This is sort of normative in our culture right now. 

And the real problem is that our culture offers solutions to their pain that intensify the problems.  That‘s what I keep sort of advocating here, is that people go to these shows because they can‘t regulate.  They feel awful.  And arousal helps them get through.  And that is what our culture offers, because it‘s commercially viable, because we have all these people that have survived abuse in our culture right now.

It needs to be contained.  It needs to be recognized for what it is, and we need to get back to the basics of having stable family systems.  We must do that or this is going to spiral out of control even further. 


GIROUX:  I think it also indicates that Hollywood, again, is rearing their ugly head of hating the traditional family.  And now we show this side of housewives that are immoral, adulterous and unhappy. 

BARNICLE:  Go ahead, David, quickly.



The show is created by a man who is Republican, who grew up in one of the most conservative counties...

GIROUX:  That makes it OK. 

JEFFERSON:  ... in California. 

Excuse me? 

GIROUX:  That makes it OK. 

JEFFERSON:  No.  But what I‘m saying...

GIROUX:  Who cares who invented it?

The bottom line is, it‘s on during a family hour and it sends a very ugly, harmful, disrespectful message to women and men alike. 


PINSKY:  But, Jennifer, wouldn‘t you be in favor of a program like this if it were aired at a time where children weren‘t as apt to come across it, and, B, it more clearly identified pathology as pathology and consequences of the behavior?  Wouldn‘t that be a useful thing, then? 

JEFFERSON:  Who is going to watch that show?  PINSKY:  If people actually saw the pain?

Well, but you still get to have the crazy behaviors, but you will see more of the real consequences for an actual human being who behaves like that.  That what bothers me about...


JEFFERSON:  Wait a second.  Drew, how do you know that they are not showing the consequences of that?  The mother who has gotten addicted to Ritalin is addicted and is going to have to deal with that.  They‘re going to show the consequences of that behavior. 

PINSKY:  You‘re right. 


GIROUX:  The consequences of this type of show is seen in the addiction to sex, drugs, immoral behavior that we see among kids today that perhaps don‘t have the role models they need. 

We should be stepping forward to say, let‘s provide them good role models, not what we are seeing in “Desperate Housewives.” 

BARNICLE:  Well, we have the ultimate answer, though, Jennifer.  If you have a monitor, I‘m holding up a TV clicker. 

GIROUX:  I don‘t.

BARNICLE:  Everyone in America has one.  You can turn the channel. 

David Jefferson, thanks very much.  Great piece.

Jennifer Giroux, thank you very much.

And, Dr. Drew, stick around, please, because, up next, I want to ask you and others about the Pacers-Pistons basketball brawl.  Has our culture created monsters?  Should they be role models?  And what do we do about it now? 

All that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.


BARNICLE:  Brawling basketball players, punching fans.  What has the country come to?  We will try to answer that question in a minute.

But, first, let‘s get the latest headlines from the MSNBC News Desk. 


ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.


And from coast to coast, everybody is talking about basket-brawl.  It began with on-court foul Friday night and ended with Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers charging into the stand to fight with fans.  Artest and eight other players were suspended and docked millions in pay.  But it‘s the National Basketball Association that comes away with a huge black eye. 

Joining us to discuss the ramifications of this incident are Phil Mushnick, columnist for “The New York Post,” Stacie Burns, radio talk show host, and, back with us again, Dr. Drew Pinsky. 

Dr. Drew, let‘s start with you to maybe shape this discussion up. 

Friday night—we have all seen this tape now endless numbers of times.  Could you talk to us about something that I have long felt happens in arenas everywhere, in baseball parks, in football stadiums, and here Friday night out in Michigan?  And it‘s the anonymity of the crowd and the false bravado and courage that I think some fans assume, along with a six pack of beer, by the sixth inning or the fourth quarter.  And this is what happens. 

PINSKY:  Yes.  I absolutely agree with you, that there‘s no sense of how people should behave.  It‘s just a complete expression of aggression and pandemonium.

So the other thing, though, that really troubles me more than anything is that the sort of human element is taken out of the relationship between the fan and the player.  It‘s pure exploitation, right?  The player is there to serve me.  And if I am not being entertained or if I‘m angry with him, he is not really a human being, so I can just take out my aggressions however I please.

By the same token, it‘s even more startling, though, when you see the player turn around and behave the same way. 

BARNICLE:  Phil Mushnick, you have written endless amounts of copy about radio and TV and the way they portray games, the way they show games. 

Talk to us a bit, though, about something that the doctor just alluded to.  And that‘s the entitlement that some fans think they have just because they purchase a ticket, that it entitles them to do whatever they want to do and say whatever they want to say at these events.  Some of the language you hear—never mind throwing things at players—some of the language you hear at these things are incredible. 

PHIL MUSHNICK, “THE NEW YORK POST”:  Well, I think, Mike and Doc, I think it‘s important to know that, approximately 20 years ago, we began—and I do mean we as a sports culture, television, radio, newspapers, pop culture—we began to market young people, what we call the young male demographic, so important in TV, and marketing them through images of violence, wise guy, gangster, punk, be a thug, lack of empathy, kick them when they‘re down. 

The fact that we made our great heroes in sports the loudmouths, the trash talkers, the chest pounders, the showoffs, and to the exclusion of the good athlete, who has a modest demeanor, this all comes around.  This isn‘t a political statement.  This isn‘t a religious statement.  This is a common sense statement.  Everyone involved in this brawl that you are watching now was probably under 35 years old. 

And their relative reality, related to sports, from the time they were 5 or 6 and first turned on a TV or picked up a newspaper was trash talk, taunting.  You can‘t keep selling people bad and expect anything good in return. 

BARNICLE:  I will tell you one thing, Phil.  One of the clips on this film, one element of the film that thrilled me was when the fat guy wearing the Pistons shirt came down to half-court, on the court, and got clocked.  I think Artest hit him.  That did please me.  But I know I‘ll probably get in trouble for...



BARNICLE:  Yes, I did, because I have seen that guy at a million games, the guy who comes down in the late innings, not that same guy, but the kind of guy who comes down in the late innings of a baseball game.  He‘s had a couple of pops and he thinks it‘s his game, to the exclusion of every other fan, and tries to inject himself into it by yelling at a player or whatever.  I was glad to see him get what he had coming to him there at half-court. 


MUSHNICK:  Hey, Mike, the NBA now...

PINSKY:  There he is.

MUSHNICK:  At the playoff games, they have an NBA-sanctioned beer blast before these games, make some money.  So the players, just like at NFL games—so, the fans, excuse me, the patrons, can enter loaded and then get more loaded, just like the NFL. 

PINSKY:  Yes. 

MUSHNICK:  Just stand at the entrance to an NFL game 11:00, 12:00 in the afternoon.  People are wasted by design.  It‘s part of the whole marketing endeavor.  The NFL brings in Kid Rock, a professional bad boy.

Coors Lite does the licensing for the beer with the NFL‘s license merchandise, the bad guys, the Raiders, the Browns, all the most notoriously—the creeps, the drunken creeps.


MUSHNICK:  And they are selling them.  Entry-level drinkers, come on, let‘s get involved.  You are here to be seen and to make a scene, not to watch a game. 

PINSKY:  I have got to say, Phil, for the last 30 years of working with young people, I have noticed that the bad guy has been marketed to them as the good guy.  There‘s no sense of a good guy being a good guy. 

MUSHNICK:  The only guy.

PINSKY:  The bad guy—yes, he‘s the only guy you want to be. 

And so the sociopath is the one that you try to strive for, in movies or in sports, whatever it is.


MUSHNICK:  Video games.

PINSKY:  Yes.  It‘s not the reality of who these guys are, by the way. 

In fact, the NBA has one of the most elaborate mental health systems imaginable.  They have a wonderful system to take care of their players.  So these guys, if they have issues, actually get taken care of.  Now, uncontained aggressions will emerge.  And this sort of an extraordinary circumstances.  But the fact is, these guys in reality probably are not bad guys.  And they aren‘t allowed to sort of promote themselves as being something more than what they have been asked to be. 

MUSHNICK:  Well, there‘s an interesting word, Drew.  And that‘s that attitude. 


MUSHNICK:  We were always told attitude for the last 20 years, and it‘s never a good attitude.  It‘s always a rotten attitude.  And that‘s what we are selling.  And this is—we reap what we sow.  Here we are. 

BARNICLE:  Ron Artest just gave an interview to “People” magazine this evening and said—quote—“I just wish the situation hadn‘t turned out the way it turned out.  I hope some of the Detroit fans I was interacting with before the game could come to my defense.  I would just like people to know how much I appreciate fans.  You know.  You‘ve got fans and 99 percent of them are great.  And 0.1 percent are jerks.”

Stacie Burns, is there any defense that you can muster for Ron Artest, and the other guy. Is it Jackson who jumped in there behind him? 


I see it as, if someone threw something at me with the intent to harm me, I think I would have reacted the same way, even though I am not a violent person.  I think that his—what he did, he should have gotten punished for, and I am glad he got punished.  But Stephen Jackson got a lesser punishment than he did. 

But if you look at the tapes, Stephen Jackson was looking for a fight.  He ripped his jersey off and was like ready to throw punches.  And then when Artest went up into the stands, he followed with no intention in breaking up the fight.  He heard every—he was ready to just like throw a punch with whose ever face came near him.  So I don‘t think—that‘s the only issue that I have. 

I completely think that it was it‘s the fans that are to blame.  If that cup wouldn‘t have been thrown...


BARNICLE:  The fans are to blame?  You think the fans are to blame?

BURNS:  For sure, because if we—because if that fan wouldn‘t have thrown that cup at Ron Artest, we would not be here talking about it. 


BURNS:  It was a flagrant foul at the very beginning.  It was a flagrant foul that had occurred. 

MUSHNICK:  Stacie, let me suggest to you...

BURNS:  That foul got called on him.  Then Ben Wallace pushed him.  He took a step back and walked away. 

BARNICLE:  Why didn‘t he fight Ben Wallace? 

BURNS:  I‘m sorry? 

BARNICLE:  Why didn‘t he fight Ben? 

BURNS:  He didn‘t fight any...


BARNICLE:  He went up and punched out the wrong guy. 

BURNS:  The straw was broken right then. 

MUSHNICK:  Let me suggest to you that the players were subjected to the same stimuli as the fans, that, from the time they were 5, 6, 7 years old, being a wise guy, being a bad ass—excuse me—it‘s cable, late night—that just having some attitude, being a thug.  The teams are changing colors to gang colors, on and on and on and on.

BURNS:  I don‘t think that has anything to do with it. 

MUSHNICK:  There‘s a cumulative effect at work here that is going to boil over, attitude on the boil served nightly. 

BURNS:  I‘m sorry, but if someone was harassing me...

MUSHNICK:  Agreed. 

BURNS:  ... for the entire game and throwing things at me... 

MUSHNICK:  Stacie, he was on his back.  He was on his back and he got hit with a cup of liquid, presumably beer.  How he could be from on his back—I understand.  He wants to defend himself.  I am right with him.  I‘m going in there with him.  How did he know who threw the beer? 

In fact, the young person he attacked—and he is a young person as well—already had a cup in his hand.  It would seem that that person couldn‘t have...


MUSHNICK:  It‘s not because he‘s thinking clearly.  I understand.

BURNS:  I think the fans and the alcohol was the majority of the problem.


PINSKY:  Mike, don‘t we want hold our role models for young people to a higher standard?


PINSKY:  This is almost back to the Jennifer argument again from the last segment, is that we really want these people to take the punch for us and to stand back and let the person—let security go take care of that guy and had the appropriate retribution that way.  But form to behave like...

BURNS:  But there wasn‘t much—there wasn‘t much security there, though. 


BARNICLE:  Drew, let me ask you something, though, about—specifically about the NBA.  And Phil will jump in here after this, I‘m sure, as will—listen, the National Basketball Association.  You have got young kids, and I mean kids, like LeBron James, who is a nice guy, terrifically talented player.

PINSKY:  Yes. 

BARNICLE:  But unlike the National Football League, where people play college football, unlike Major League Baseball, where they perform for a couple of years in the minor leagues, the NBA more and more is taking children, 17- and 18-year-old kids. 

PINSKY:  Yes. 

BARNICLE:  Who aren‘t even socialized yet, really, giving them millions of dollars.

PINSKY:  And turning them into millionaires, yes, exactly. 

BARNICLE:  Well, what is the pathology there?  What happens there? 

PINSKY:  Well, it‘s probably different for different cases.

But it‘s again about the unrestrained boundaries.  It‘s that there‘s nothing there telling them no.  There‘s nothing holding them back.  The world is their oyster.  They feel entitled to things.  And they act in ways that they might not do if they had some appropriate sorts of restraints put upon them.  But I have talked to a lot of people in their health care system over at the NBA.  And that is actually a core issue for them. 

How do you take these young guys that really—as you say, may still need to be grow up, they may still be adolescent.  And you turn them into millionaires.  And now you try to get them to do some tough work that may be unpleasant, whether it‘s emotional growth or taking responsibility for things in life.  That is a difficult task.  And you are right.  The NBA is the one professional sport that really has to contend with that. 

BARNICLE:  Well, we need to take a quick break here.

But when we come back, is there anything that can be done to change the culture that allowed something like this to happen? 

Don‘t go away.

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge:  What NBA player received the longest suspension from the league prior to Ron Artest?  Was it, A, Kermit Washington, B, Latrell Sprewell, or, C, Dennis Rodman?

The answer coming up.


ANNOUNCER:  In tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge, we asked, what NBA player received the longest suspension from the league prior to Ron Artest?  The answer is B.  Sprewell received a 68-game suspension for assaulting his coach in 1997. 


DAVID STERN, NBA COMMISSIONER:  The actions of the players involved wildly exceeded the professionalism and self-control that should fairly be expected from NBA players.  We must affirm that the NBA will strive to exemplify the best that can be offered by professional sports and not allow our sport to be debased by what seem to be declining expectations for the behavior of fans and athletes alike. 


BARNICLE:  David Stern, NBA commissioner. 

We are back with Phil Mushnick from “The New York Post,” Stacie Burns, radio talk show host, and Dr. Drew Pinsky, author of “Cracked” and host of radio‘s “Loveline.”

Phil Mushnick, basketball, NBA basketball, especially, but all forms of basketball, college and pro, the fans are as close to those players as they are at any other sports, closer.  So two-part question here.  Do you think there will be a time when the fans will be removed from the playing surface further back than where they are now at courtside?  That‘s the first part.  And the second part is, how would you like to be called tomorrow and asked to be the marketing director for the National Basketball Association? 

MUSHNICK:  I would love the latter.

Boy, I would tell you what I would do right.  The first thing I would do, I would tell everybody, cut it out.  We are adults.  We know right from wrong.  We know bad from good.  Stop selling the bad.  Stop selling the wrong.  Stop—selling the right and good.  They know—stop with the parole models.  Get back to the role models. 

As for the fans, they have always been encouraged toward the brink.  Even 20 years ago, when they began to pass out these towels and the noise sticks, those were done to disrupt the opponents, to alter the game, to participate in the game.  You are not there to make a scene.  You are there to watch the scene.  I could fix this tomorrow.  We would just cut it out. 

That the NFL would choose Ray Lewis, who took a plea in a double murder, that they have now made him one of their top endorsers, what more do you got to know? 

BARNICLE:  Drew Pinsky...

BURNS:  I‘m sorry.  I think alcohol plays a lot...

MUSHNICK:  Of course.  It always does. 

PINSKY:  Huge.  Absolutely.

BURNS:  Because I mean, the funniest thing, one of my listeners said, you have to be very drunk, completely hammered and out of your mind to throw away a $10 beer at that basketball game. 


BURNS:  I think that—and that was the majority of the problem, is the alcohol.  Maybe stop serving alcohol after.. 


BURNS:  ... quarter.

MUSHNICK:  Well, let‘s make it more expensive.  Let‘s make it more expensive. 

BURNS:  It‘s already 10 bucks. 


BARNICLE:  Drew, we are talking about the Pacers and the Pistons basketball game.  But if you think about it a bit, the culture around us, this is indicative of a larger issue. 

PINSKY:  Yes. 

BARNICLE:  People cut one another off in traffic, take parking spaces away from people in malls, give each other the finger on the road. 

We think we are all entitled to do something because we are all more important than the next guy, and we are not responsible for our own actions.  Isn‘t that playing the part in all of this stuff that we see? 

PINSKY:  Absolutely. 

The things that Phil are bringing up are absolutely right to the point.  The fact is, we have no expectations of how we ought to behave in this culture.  There‘s no discussion about excellence of human behavior, about virtue.  We really don‘t talk about those things.  And I will tell you where I encounter it more than anywhere, is when I go in and I speak at high schools and I find the kids drinking and having sex and doing these things.

And the administration at whatever high school I‘m in goes, well, we can‘t address the parents because they will sue us.  And the kids are just going to do it.  So the expectation is, well, what are you going to do?  I think we must set the bar higher in terms of the standard of behavior we expect from every citizen in the country, but we really have to pay very careful attention to how we are raising our kids and what we expect from them. 

We have come out of the ‘60s and ‘70s, where the idea was that young people misbehave and they express aggression and there are bad guys.  And the bad guy is the idealized individual.  The fact is, we need to turn that around, improve expectations, expect things from people that are far more healthy, expect more of our role models, and really start focusing in on changing the culture overall. 

BARNICLE:  Phil Mushnick, I have got it tell you, you can‘t escape this tape.  It‘s on every three and a half minutes on all the cable stations and up to the point where now there‘s no more shock left in it.  It‘s sort of like the Rodney King jury seeing that tape so often that they acquitted the cops because they were immune to the shock. 

MUSHNICK:  Right. 

BARNICLE:  I am immune to it now having seen it so much. 

MUSHNICK:  Well, we are all victims of the desensitization process. 

This is all part of it, I suppose. 

It‘s still kind of—it kind of makes my stomach turn to this moment.  Of course, on certain networks, like ESPN, they use it as an excuse to take out their archive reel of other violent incidents and just keep—under the guise of, we‘re very sensitive, oh, this is a shame, but here‘s some more violence.  Look at that baseball game, that folks game.  There‘s another excuse for these people. 

BARNICLE:  We‘ve got one more...

BARNICLE:  And it does happen in other countries, too.  It‘s not just the United States.  It happens in other countries, too. 

MUSHNICK:  We used to say, it‘s worse there.  Well, we are catching up. 

BARNICLE:  Ron Artest also said tonight that he would love the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Don‘t go away.  We‘ll get final thoughts from the panel straight ahead.

True story. 


BARNICLE:  Tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, we will be taking a closer look at “Desperate Housewives.”  Does the show mock stay-at-home moms?  That‘s tomorrow. 

But stick around.  We‘ll be right back with more.


BARNICLE:  Shot clock shows we have got about 20 seconds left for each of you for final thoughts. 

Phil, you‘re on. 

MUSHNICK:  Never, as a matter of commerce, especially as a matter of commerce, encourage a kid to do anything illogical and/or antisocial.  That is what the sports world, the business of the sports world has been predicated upon the last 20 years.  Cut it out. 

BARNICLE:  Stacie. 

BURNS:  Ron Artest, he needs to sell a lot of rap albums to make up for this $5.5 million that he is losing.  And it just gives you another reason to root for the San Antonio Spurs. 

BARNICLE:  Dr. Drew Pinsky. 

PINSKY:  I would just say, we have said pretty much everything that there is to say.  I am delighted that discussions like this are being held.  It means things are probably turning around.  And my closing comment is just, please, just take care of your kids.  Do that tough job that parenting is. 

BARNICLE:  You know, that is one thing that in both segments tonight, Dr. Drew, that we didn‘t hammer enough at, I think, both the “Desperate Housewives” deal and the Pistons-Pacers brawl, the role that parents play, and sometimes don‘t play, in the lives of their children, because their children grow up to be adults wearing Pistons shirts, getting in fights.  And it‘s a huge issue, a huge issue. 

PINSKY:  It‘s really the bottom line.  It really is the one thing that we all—the one line in the sand we can all look at and go, that—we are—everyone should be uncomfortable about what happens to kids as a result of our culture. 

BARNICLE:  Dr. Drew, Stacie, Phil, thanks very much to all of you for joining us. 

Make sure to catch Senator Joe Lieberman tomorrow morning with Don Imus. 

That‘s all the time we have tonight for SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Thanks, and good night. 



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