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Doug Clark: Spo-fight Club would draw crowds downtown

Tue., March 12, 2013

Figuring out how to lure more of the public downtown has been the curse of every civic booster since Expo ’74.

Yet until now, nobody has been able to break through the firewall of excuses, such as …

Parking is too expensive. There’s not enough to do downtown. Man, the parking sucks. The malls have more to offer.

One of those new parking meters ate my toddler …

I know several Valley residents who view driving to downtown Spokane with the same queasy apprehension that settlers had before setting off for California in covered wagons.

But that was then.

The answer to our business core boredom has now arrived thanks to an unplanned outburst of nocturnal fisticuffs, which spawned the following headline:

“Downtown melee blamed on athletes.”

To paraphrase, police are looking into a rolling downtown brawl that took place Sunday morning and sent four people to the hospital.

The fighting may involve members of the University of Southern California men’s basketball team, which was staying here after being thumped 76-51 by WSU in Pullman.

Now that’s my idea of real March Madness.

Schedule some more of these downtown donnybrooks and I’m there every weekend.

And I’ll bet I’m not the only one who’d go for a Spo-fight Club.

Once word leaks out, I can see the sidewalks lined with spectator-filled folding chairs, just like it is for the Lilac Parade.

All those fight fans will have to eat and shop, of course. That can be a bigger boost to our local economy than another Oxycontin ring.

Maybe I’m being nostalgic. But saloon brawls that would roll out into the streets were a staple of all the TV Westerns I watched as a kid.

Take “Bonanza,” for example. Just about every episode would feature the Cartwright brothers – Hoss, Adam and Little Joe – duking it out with the townsfolk.

Even the lyrics to the show’s famous theme song made a direct reference to the municipal mayhem.

“We got the right to pick a little fight, Bo-nan-zah!

“If anyone fights anyone of us,

“He’s gotta fight with Meee!”

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking, “My Gawd, the Bonanza tune had lyrics?”

I know. Like, who knew?

Anyway, getting back to Sunday’s basketbrawl.

Apparently it all started when one of the players sucker-punched an employee of The Wave, which is a local bar, not that moronic demonstration at sporting events.

The hubbub really heated up outside the Satellite Diner.

“Another fracas breaks out with the 7-footer,” a witness was quoted saying in our news story.

“His friend, another 7-footer, comes out of the Satellite and proceeds to start hitting people in the crowd.”

Are you kidding me?

This sounds like that new 3-D “Jack the Giant Slayer” movie, only more violent.

The cops apparently showed up after everything died down, which is pretty much shooting par around here.

Missing were the two towering sluggers.

“You are not going to hide two 7-footers in downtown Spokane,” said a witness in our news story.

Oh, I wouldn’t be too sure of that.

Former Spokane interim police Chief Scott Stephens, for example, managed to disappear for almost three months after he got demoted and left the department in a huff to go lawyer shopping.

Granted, Stephens is a good two feet shy of these players.

But it was still a great disappearing act, all the same.

This mystery wouldn’t last long. By Monday afternoon the mutant hoopsters had been named and suspended indefinitely for their role in the so-called rumpus.

If they want some free legal advice, I’d recommend using the “temporary insanity due to being Couged by pathetic Wazzu” defense.

It sure makes you appreciate the Gonzaga Bulldogs, doesn’t it?

My hope is that city officials can get my Spo-fight Club idea going before police Chief Frank Straub flexes his ego like when he closed down the Knitting Factory last month.

That happened after several outbursts of gang violence. That offenders could be linked to shows at the Knitting Factory was enough logic for the chief, who decided to teach the venue a lesson along with the punks.

That made about as much sense to me as ordering Division closed after a car wreck, but what do I know?

I’m no expert when it comes to police work. Like Chief Straub, I’ve never been a real cop.

The worrisome thing is that I read that the USC “players were staying at the Davenport Hotel.”

We absolutely can’t afford to have the Davenport shut down should the chief go off his meds again.

Other than the occasional rolling street brawl and the garbage goat, the Davenport is one of the few downtown draws that Spokane still has.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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