Monday, November 22, 2004

OK, we’ve all seen the video lowlights of the Malice at the Palace by now: Ron Artest fouling Ben Wallace, Ben Wallace double stiff-arming Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson daring the entire Pistons bench to throw down, and both teams just acting tough but not really engaging in any real physical activity. Most “fights” in professional team sports generally end up like this, with both teams shoving and posing and generally hiding behind their biggest players. Ron Artest actually laid down on the scorer’s table, feigning exhaustion and/or boredom. All had pretty much settled down…

Until some schmuck threw a cup of beer from the third row onto Artest’s chest. Artest, already the poster boy for anger management, leaped to his feet, hurdled two rows of seats, and began pummeling… the wrong guy. Turns out the right guy was right behind Artest and began punching him from behind. Another schmuck splashed the three of them with a full beer. Right about then, Stephen Jackson came flying in and started firing right hands at the beer splasher (roughly like pistol whipping someone that squirted your friend with a Super Soaker). After a few minutes of some wild WWF action in the stands, security and Indiana coaches managed to drag Artest and Jackson from the stands back onto the court. Of course, while security was up in the stands trying to extricate the Klitschko brothers, other drunken Piston fans made their way to the court. One particularly stupid one ran right up to a seething Artest and screamed something stupid at the 6’7”, 250lb pro athlete. Artest responded by unleashing a huge right hand and dropped the fan in his tracks.

Security got Artest and Jackson back into the dressing room through a shower of beer, soda, popcorn, and peanuts. Meanwhile, still on the court, Jermaine O’Neal decided to take a run at some probably drunk fan that had (inadvisedly) come down near the Pacers bench. The video I saw looked like the guy had either fallen or was knocked down by someone, and was just trying to get back to his feet. The 7’0” O’Neal ran up and connected with a wild swing, dropping the guy again. O’Neal then threatened to run up into the stands as the torrent of concessions rained down. Frank Francisco was there and fired a chair into the melee just to keep his arm in shape.

Yesterday, the suspensions came down. Artest – the last 70+ games of the season. Jackson – 30 games. O’Neal – 25 games. Wallace – 6 games. I have some issues with the lengths of these. Wallace’s is fine, it’s comparable to other on-the-court, hit-someone-in-the-face kind of suspensions. I think O’Neal’s suspension is too long, given that it happened on the floor, and his more penal (hehe, you said ‘penal’) punishments will be criminal/civil. Jackson’s suspension should be closer to Artest’s in length, or Artest’s should be closer to Jackson’s. If you watch the PRE-fight, Jackson is clearly attempting to provoke the Pistons, pulling at this jersey, and generally looking like a punk looking for a fight. Also, Jackson entered the stands to FIGHT, not as a peacemaker. He wasn’t trying to save Artest or drag him away, he went into the stands to kick some ass.

Regardless of the actual punishments though, the players’ union response has been predictable and completely fucking wrong. Ron Artest is a known psychopath, and has been suspended multiple times. Why defend someone who is un-defendable? In an ESPN interview, Billy Hunter actually blamed the violence in the stands on the war in Iraq adding to the heightened tension at the game, ignoring Artest’s history of unbalanced behavior and Jackson’s blatant provocation. The union will appeal all Indiana suspensions. Great, I hope David Stern sits through the sessions calmly, and says “You’re right, I’m wrong. I’m reducing Jermaine O’Neal’s suspension to 15 games, but now Stephen Jackson will be suspended the whole year too.”

The fans need to be punished too. In this high-tech era, we have cameras focused on the stands. I’m sure we know exactly who threw the beer, who punched the players, who ran down to the court, and who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Every single offender should have their season tickets revoked (no refund or an onerous service charge), their rights to future tickets cancelled, and a day in court for either assault or trespassing charges. Oh, and the punishments need to be highly publicized, as least as highly publicized as the players’ punishments have been. This way, the precedent will be set for fans who get too full of liquid courage and feel like chucking stuff at the players.

Every single security guard on that side of the court needs to be fired, the referees should be suspended, and the beer sales need to be cut off at halftime for the remainder of the season (at least in Detroit). In order, this will punish the incompetent security guards who failed to keep the crowd under control, the referees who failed to keep the players under control, and the Pistons who failed to provide a safe, non-drunk-infested venue. The clips I saw showed the officials huddling at center court while the players were clustered by the scorer’s table, within easy earshot and throwing distance from the stands. Shouldn’t it have been the other way around?

Oh, and memo to all you former players who are defending the Pacers for their felonious assaults: Going into the stands to punch someone is NEVER a good idea. One, if you’re on the road, it’s about 15,000 to 12. Two, you’re supposed to be a professional athlete, heckling is part of the game, especially if your name is Ron Artest. Three, getting hit by a cup doesn’t necessitate a violent response.

One point I haven’t heard mentioned by anyone… Everyone says that Artest showed self-control when backing away from an on-court confrontation with Ben Wallace. Fine, but when provoked by a much smaller fan, Artest ran into the stands to beat the shit out of him. So, when actually punched by someone BIGGER, Artest backed down, but when hit by a plastic cup by a little guy, he’s suddenly homicidal. In fact, the guy Artest actually hit was the smallest guy out there, was wearing glasses and still had a drink in his hand! Artest ran past the guy who actually threw the beer (who was bigger than Milquetoast and therefore a less attractive target for the cowardly Artest) to beat up on some nearsighted wuss. Artest is not only a psycho, but a gutless one.


At 2:10 PM, Blogger Mas said...

Hey Commish,

Howzit. I saw the debacle at the Palace on Fri night and my friends and I have debated this issue in great detail.
First thing is - Artest did not really pummel the guy in the glasses that he 'thought' threw the drink on him. It looked alot worse than it was. He did push him down - but I don't think he ever really Hit him.
(However Steven Jackson looked like he got a lick on the dude after Artest was pulled off him)

Doesn't justify running off into the stands - he deserves suspension - but for the whole season?

I thought Artest was going to get 30 games and that would've been alright with me. But now thanks to Stern's overreaction we're going to hear about this for the rest of the year.

I'm with you on the other stuff. To me S Jackson was WAY out of line - and he had murderous intent - no matter that he was getting his boy's back. 30 games is fine by me.

As for Jermaine - I didn't see what he did in the stands but those jokers that strolled out on the court? Got what they deserved. I don't see why Jermaine gets 25 games. Hell - he doesn't even like Artest...

As for Ronnie - I think it's interesting how ESPN's NBA guys were first all over the fans (especially Saunders) and are now all reversing their opinions. Artest is going to be crucified in the media - and while some of it is deserved - it's unfortunate that his reputation will taint public opinion.

Hopefully - this will be the wakeup call for Artest that leads him to change his life. And salvage his now flat-lined career.

Just to clarify - yes I am a lifelong St. Johns fan - and I grew up spitting distance from Queensbridge where Artest was a playground legend. I was extremely upset when the Knicks passed him up for Fred Weis - and about the only good thing I can think of about this whole situation is that maybe the Knicks have a shot at picking him up cheap (a la Sprewell).

PS - BTW this would never have happened at the Garden. Too many rich people in the court level seats - they sure ain't mixing it up with the players...

At 11:38 PM, Blogger Ignatious said...

agreed. great post.

while in vegas, i called for a season long suspension for artes and was roundly mocked everytime.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger MtDewVirus said...

If you recall, Artest recently asked for time off to work on his rap album. Looks like he got his wish!


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