This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," Nov. 26, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Punching out the paying customers. The sports world shaken by a series of ugly incidents: a brawl in Detroit, of course, another NBA player arrested in a nightclub, a bench clearing melee at a college football game. You get the point.
But is it a case of today’s pro athletes simply being out of control, or are we just paying more attention to these problems these days.
Joining us now, football Hall of Famer, Paul Hornung.His autobiography "Golden Boy: Girls, Games, Gambling (and Notre Dame, Too)." It tells the tale of his brilliant career and his checkered past.
Now, Mr. Hornung, it’s good to see you.
PAUL HORNUNG, NFL HALL OF FAMER: Good to see you. Thank you.
GIBSON: We used to think of you having a checkered past, but you really were a golden boy next to what we’re seeing these days. What do you make of this stuff?
HORNUNG: Well, first of all, John, I really think the only way you can punish a professional athlete in all sports is in his pocketbook. I don’t think they understand anything else.
And it was the same way when I played in the 1960’s. I can remember one game in Baltimore. We were all in the service. There were about 70 of us recalled in the Berlin crisis and we had a weekend pass to play in Baltimore.
And there was rumored there was going be a big disturbance at the stadium, and Lombardi took me aside, especially.
GIBSON: Vince Lombardi (search).
HORNUNG: Vince Lombardi took me aside and said, "Look, do not get into any argument with the crowd. You stay away from it. I’ll take care of it. If somebody’s out there that’s going to act like an ass, then he’s going to do it for me and I’ll take care of that."
So, he had prepared us and, sure enough, there were five or 10 guys who were throwing beer and hollering and screaming. He got Nitschke and Dowler — I wanted to put Nitschke. Let Nitschke go in there. He could take care of the whole thing for us.
But anyway, really, this punishment that Ron Artest (search) got is very severe. I mean, it is amazing.
GIBSON: A $5 million fine.
HORNUNG: When I got suspended, I was suspended with the word indefinitely behind it. And that’s a scary word not to know that you’re not going to be able to get back.
GIBSON: Relatively speaking, when you got suspended and you weren’t allowed to play a game, what did that cost you?
HORNUNG: Well, it cost me my whole salary.
GIBSON: Yes, but how much was that?
HORNUNG: And I’m going to tell you. It was about $50,000, which was a lot of money in those days. Now, you take these kids today: Ron Artest is going to lose his whole salary. I don’t know how much he makes.
GIBSON: Well it’s $5 million.
HORNUNG: It’s $5 million and it’s unbelievable. That’s a lot, a lot of money.
But I really think Commissioner Stern, he had to do something, you know, very stern. And I tell you, he really did it. He got everybody’s attention. I will guarantee you that no basketball player is going to go up into the stands anymore.
GIBSON: You know, the one sure way, Mr. Hornung, to make sure that never happens is kick him out of basketball forever.
HORNUNG: Well, I think that’s a little bit too much. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. He lost his temper.
First of all, a chair has thrown into the thing. The guy who threw the chair should be kicked out of every basketball arena, should never be able to get into an arena again. That’s very, very dangerous, what happened there.
Now, Ron Artest was wrong. He got up into the stands. He lost his cool. I mean, these fans are antagonists, you know, when they’re going after the players. You see, the NBA is so close to the action, the fans are so close, I think they ought to build barricades.
We’re going to have to do — the same way they do in soccer in Europe. We’re going to have to build moats in between the players.
GIBSON: Paul, we look back now — some of your stunts were considered pretty scandalous for the time. That made headlines and so forth.
GIBSON: We look back on it now with a chuckle, in a way. Do you think we’re going to look back on a Ron Artest...
GIBSON: ...with, "Oh, remember the day when he went up in the stands and punched out that fan?"
HORNUNG: It’s not funny at all. It’s very serious. I think that’s why the Commissioner came down so harshly on Ron Artest. I will guarantee you one thing: whoever does it again is going to get the same thing. He’s not going be any easier on somebody who does that exact thing.
I will guarantee you that these basketball players — that showed them.
GIBSON: There is a great temptation, though, among people my age who watched you when I was young and watched Frank Gifford (search), and watched Vince Lombardi to say, "Boy, the Artests of the world just aren’t in the same league as those guys."
Do you feel close to the players of today? Or do you feel there’s some big gulf between you?
HORNUNG: Oh, there’s a gulf. There is no question about it.
The players of today are — I don’t know what they think of us. Maybe they think that we’re too old to cut the mustard and we can’t talk their talk.
There is something when I meet a kid who’s playing either football, baseball, or basketball today — there’s still just a gulf of space between us as far as what we can talk about on the same level.
GIBSON: Paul Hornung. The autobiography: "Golden Boy: Girls, Games and Gambling at Green Bay (and Notre Dame, too)."
Mr. Hornung, good to meet you.
HORNUNG: Thank you, John. Enjoyed it.
GIBSON: Thanks for coming on. Appreciate it.
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