Pacers And Pistons: Lights, Camera, Rumble

By Jerald LeVon Hoover
Updated: November 21, 2004

NEW YORK – This is the current climate of sports entertainment as we know it. If a fan or opposing player “disses” you in any type of way, fist will fly. So much regrettable so was the case on Friday at Auburn Hills, The Palace where the defending NBA Champion Detroit Pistons play. What started off as a hard foul (from lightning rod, Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers delivered to center Ben Wallace with 45 seconds left in the game and the Pacers up by fifteen points), turned out to be an all out brawl that spilled into the stands.

First Wallace was fouled and of course he took exception to it and proceeded to “mush” Artest in the face. Artest went back and kind of went with the flow of the push. He did not once retaliate. I can’t blame him for that one; Wallace isn’t called “Big Ben” because he’s a midget. But, the fact remains, he didn’t try to go back at Wallace. Instead he allowed basically the bravado of his teammates, chiefly, newcomer Stephen Jackson, formerly of the Spurs and Hawks to act as enforcer. Artest simply laid his 6 foot 7 inch torso across the scorers table and acted as if he were doing a radio interview when a cup of beer came down and landed on his chest.

Now, for the life of being “dissed” and struck first, a cup of beer is a lot less damaging than a “mush” to the face; especially being mushed on national television in front of millions of viewers. But, Artest took more exception to the cup of beer being soft tossed to him than the mush by Wallace and went on the attack. The only problem(s) now seems to be that Artest probably attacked the wrong person. And his teammate in rumble, Jackson probably did like wise.

A lot of people from fans, media and the average fan have given their opinions on what the player should have done. One thing is for sure, going into the stands and attacking and or retaliating from fans misbehavior will lead more to the player(s) getting into trouble more so than the fan.

In this case, lawsuits of epic proportion are sure to hit NBA headquarters as soon as the office opens for business. The sight of children crying and fist flying is going to leave a negative mark on sports as we know it. Heighten security measures not withstanding because the damage has already been done.

Who’s to blame? The fans? The players for going into the stands? Or the security force that was hired to patrol The Palace? Whoever is at fault really doesn’t lend much to the cause, but attitudes on all sides need to be adjusted and re-adjusted. Fans should know that there’s a limit to what you can say or should say to the players. And the players need to learn that earning lots and lots of money does not give you the right or green light to act like a jerk.

In the end, Commissioner David Stern will have his hands full. And, I’m not speaking in reference to the sure record finds that will be handed down to the players, but from negative image and stereo type that will label the sport of professional basketball for years to come.