08/21/2011 01:12 pm ET | Updated Oct 21, 2011

What Caused The Georgetown-China Brawl?

In the final minutes of a game between the Georgetown Hoyas and the Bayi Rockets, a team affiliated with the Chinese military, on Thursday, a fight broke out between players that only took on more significance because it coincided with the second day of Vice President Biden's first official trip to China. (He was no in attendance.) The goodwill match ended in a tie. In the days afterward, Georgetown coach John Thompson III said that the two teams have patched things up, and that the fight had nothing to do with politics of the two countries. Still, some are skeptical. "It's unclear what exactly touched off the fight, though presumably it wasn't a discussion of the U.S. credit rating," says Austin Ramzy in Time. So what's this all about?

More than a game: "Basketball is also a very physical game," and when violence erupts, it "rarely has to do with the game itself," says Donny Lumpkins at New American Media. "I'm no expert in international politics but I think it's safe to say that the fight was about more than basketball." But I've never seen this kind of melee before. "It makes me think that for the Chinese players the anger stems from much more than that, and our relationship with China is more tense than the politicians are letting us know."

It's a lesson about China: While we should resist calling this incident "a grand metaphor," it does "shed light on China and its changing place in the world," says Brook Larmer in The Washington Post. Sports matters.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics were portrayed not just as another Games, but as incontrovertible proof, for all to see, that China had arrived as a world power ... It's now competition first, friendship second.

This was the wrong venue: "The next time two countries are looking to foster goodwill, they should think of holding something other than a basketball game," says Ian Crouch at The New Yorker. We've seen several international games lead to brawls of this sort. And China has even been involved before.