Friday, November 19, 2004

Pistons/Pacers Brawl: Utterly Shocking

What I thought was going to be an ordinary (actually, boring) Friday night of studying turned out to be anything but that. In fact, it turned out to be one of the most shocking and disturbing nights in NBA history. What started with a hard push by Ben Wallace to Pacer Ron Artest quickly turned into a chaotic mass of fighting amongst players of both teams and Piston fans alike. When it was finally over, several fans had been escorted out of the arena by police, Ben Wallace and Ron Artest were facing fines and future game suspensions and the viewing audience was left in disbelief over the final minutes of the game.

The brawl, which was ignited when Artest threw a hard foul on Ben Wallace as Wallace attempted a shot, ignited the quick-tempered Wallace, causing him to throw a hard push at Artest's upper chest region, a move that threw Artest to the court floor. Almost immediately, players and staff members flooded around the two players, desperately trying to stop the feud that had already caught the attention of everyone in The Palace.

Ron Artest - who, at this point, lay horizontally on a table located in line with the players' benches - was then the target of a disgruntled and unwieldy fan, one who somehow felt justified in attacking Artest by throwing a plastic glass of beer straight at the player's head. The moment the beer hit Artest, the 25-year old Pacer flew into the stands with a ferocity that caused me to shudder as I watched the event unfold on the television screen. And, keeping with the ridiculous and immature events of the night, Artest and his teammate, Stephen Jackson, began fighting with the fans, throwing punches and trying to tackle the beer-throwing perpetrator and anyone else who got in the way. Let me make this clear: a professional sports player should never, ever jump into the stands. I realize that the fan made a very poor judgement call by throwing whatever he did at Artest, and he deserves whatever punishment he gets for this action. However, if Artest had an ounce of maturity in his body, he would have walked away from the incident.

At this point, former Piston Bad Boy, Rick Mahorn, stepped into the fighting scene, trying to break things up, but everything just seemed to get worse. Although Artest was grabbed and calmed down after his initial jump into the stands, a few other Pistons fans decided to continue the national humiliation of the Pistons by prolonging the fighting, which they did by throwing punches and chairs. As a result, the screaming and hollering continued, and another fan, who I first thought was a Pistons towel boy but was later corrected on by ESPN broadcasters, was punched in the face by the Pacer star, causing a further escalation of the chaos. This was mistake #2 for Artest.

The game, which was eventually ended 45 seconds early and announced as a Pacer win, wouldn't have been a win for either team, no matter who won. In fact, it was a total and utter embarrassment. Wallace pushed things a bit too hard in his roughness, a few Pistons fans acted like children, and Ron Artest made two critical missteps. It will be interesting to see what the NBA does about all of these incidents.