There is no such thing as an innocent exhibition in China. There are only loaded political games, as John Thompson III apparently understands. Thompson hasn’t won any coach of the year awards lately but he deserves an award for diplomacy, and apparently a safety medal, for his handling of Georgetown’s bench-clearing, chair-throwing cultural exchange in Beijing.
The pictures are ugly: Hoyas guard Jason Clark laying on the floor while a Chinese rival stands over him with his leg raised, ready to stomp him. Fists wind-milled and chairs cartwheeled through the air, one of them hitting Henry Sims. First the benches cleared, then the stands, as the fighting spread all over the arena, forcing one Hoya to wield a chair like a lion tamer. Chinese security stood by, apparently incapable or unwilling to control the situation, while water bottles rained down.
Somehow in all of that, Thompson kept his cool. Somehow, he got his group together. Somehow, he got them off the floor, into the locker room, and on to the bus. “We’re outta here,” he said.
It’s one thing to have a bench-clearing brawl between New York and Detroit, or Duke and Maryland. It’s quite another to have one in China. The stakes are simply higher, especially this week with Vice President Joe Biden visiting the country to discuss tensions between the two biggest economies in the world.