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Ron Artest Fight / Pistons - Pacers Fight





/ Nov. 25, 2004

Breaking down fight night

Reader Wayne Sweeney blamed both the players and fans for their roles in last weekend’s Pistons-Pacers melee.

“If someone threw a drink at me, I’d charge them too,” Sweeney wrote in defense of Pacers forward Ron Artest. “But if I was making millions of dollars to entertain fans, keep my body in shape and represent my team, my wife and my children, then I might be able to control myself.”

Jason Patton wrote, “The NBA has hit the players where it hurts, and now the league should do the same to the fans. Aside from moving home games to a neutral location, the best way to punish a franchise is through suspension of beer sales.”

Christian Neumann (Germany) wrote, “(NBA commissioner) David Stern should further punish the Pacers by making them draft with the final pick in the first round, regardless of how they finish. That way, the league can make sure the Pacers do not gain any advantages by forfeiting the season.”

Jason Woodruff (Los Angeles) wrote: “I don’t condone the Pacers’ actions, but had (Pistons center) Ben Wallace reacted differently to Artest’s foul, Piston fans would have reacted differently. And if Piston fans had reacted differently, they would not have felt the wrath of Artest, Stephen Jackson, and Jermaine O’Neal.”

Finally, Clive Watson (New York City) pointed out why basketball players are sometimes referred to as “cagers” -- because at one time, the game was played on courts that were enclosed by wire mesh to protect the athletes from fans.

According the The Columbia Encyclopedia (Sixth Edition, 2001), “There are tales of fans in cramped gyms sticking players with hat pins and lit cigarettes. In Pennsylvania coal towns, players were known to be subjected to nails heated with mining lamps.”

Watson concluded, “What Artest did was wrong, but what some fans did was cowardly and criminal. The next time you go to the zoo, try to remember that maybe the cages are there to protect the animals from the people.”

OK, my turn.

1. Professional athletes CANNOT go into the stands for ANY reason. They know that, the fans know that … EVERYONE knows it. The actions of Artest, Jackson and O’Neal were WRONG, and NOTHING excuses their behavior.

2. Artest ticked off Ben Wallace, and if there’s one thing we all know, it’s that Wallace is one of the few players in the league who could rip Artest limb from limb -- and probably smile and sing a pretty song while doing it. Artest knew he was no match for Wallace, so he took out his frustrations by charging the smallest fan he could find. And it wasn’t even the fan who threw the cup.

3. Despite what the guys on ESPN’s “NBA Fastbreak” will have you believe, throwing a cup of beer at someone is NOT assault. It does NOT give you a right to self-defense. It might make you mad, but your life is hardly in danger, and therefore, you will be the one in trouble for beating up the person who threw the cup. Especially if you attack the wrong guy.

4. Having said all of that, the fans who came onto the floor deserved what they got. In these days of stalkers and knife-wielding psychos, the players should be allowed to protect themselves if an outsider enters their arena.

5. Also, something has to be done to curtail the fans’ behavior -- and if you ask me, it all begins and ends with alcohol. Idiots become really BIG idiots once they get a little tipsy, or especially, flat-out drunk. Nobody who’s sober walks onto to an NBA court to challenge Ron Artest to a fight -- I don’t care how big of a Pistons fan you are.

6. My proposal? Everyone who attends an NBA game can buy two special tickets for beer upon entering the door. Once you’ve redeemed your tickets, good for two beers, you’re done. Also, no tickets can be used after the third quarter, and they don’t carry over.

7. Granted, this might lead to “underground” beer ticket sales, or people who aren’t drinking giving their tickets to friends who are. And there’s no way to keep people from imbibing before the game. But something needs to be done, because some fans are treating sporting events as nothing more than a really expensive trip to the neighborhood saloon.

8. You may not believe I’m writing this, but the NBA-sanctioned penalties were too harsh -- especially for Wallace, and yes, Artest. Wallace didn’t throw a punch (it was more of a two-handed shove to Artest’s face), and should have received no more than a three-game suspension. And in my opinion, Artest didn’t do anything WORSE than O’Neal and Jackson. Yes, Artest was the first to run into the stands, but at least you could make the argument he was provoked (again, it’s a worthless argument, but at least it exists). But Jackson ran up there for no other reason than to let his fists fly.

9. The NBA is being too sensitive on this issue -- and Artest, O’Neal and Jackson should all be allowed to come back immediately following the All-Star break. As Pistons coach Larry Brown pointed out, this kind of stuff used to happen all the time in the old American Basketball Association. The difference is there was no such thing as SportsCenter or 24-hour cable back then.

10. When my wife Carley heard of the suspensions, she said, “Hasn’t the NBA ever heard of something called HOCKEY?” In other words, what happened between the Pacers and the fans was another embarrassment for a league that’s image is at an all-time low -- and worse, a league that has lost its charm. But it’s no reason to start freaking out. Our society has always consisted of obnoxious and unruly fans, and in the NHL, it‘s practically accepted.

At any rate, only drastic and high-priced measures will be able to curtail poor fan behavior. And as we’ve already seen during Stern’s reign, if it means spending or losing money for the good of the game … well, FORGET IT. That’s something the NBA has told die-hard fans like us over and over again.

More on Artest and the Pacers

Every generation has its own Dennis Rodman. Ron Artest is the latest.

Artest is nutty -- and it’s hard to understand how he can argue with the season-long suspension when you consider just one month ago, he was talking about retirement.

But that’s Artest for you. He’s the best player on his team, one of the top 10 in the league, and among the best defenders of all time. If he wasn’t so weird, he might not be so good … who can say for sure?

And I believe, for the most part, Artest is a decent guy. He’s never been arrested, and before last weekend, all he had ever been was a guy who played hard and occasionally did something stupid -- but for the most part, harmless. When you think about how much money these guys make and how infrequently they have to answer to authority, it’s a wonder they don’t act WORSE.

My point is this: What Artest did was wrong and unjustifiable, and while I think his punishment is too severe, I’d have a hard time building a strong defense for him.

But even nut-jobs need love. And love or hate Ron Artest, he’s still a human being. He’s still someone who, while needing a lesson in conduct and controlling his temper, plays and lives with great passion.

That’s something to think about before we ship him off basketball’s island on a quickly-deflating life raft.

Brand vs. Randolph

Last week, I asked you who was the better power forward: Elton Brand of the L.A. Clippers or Zach Randolph of Portland.

A whopping 52 of the 73 responses chose Brand, who just happens to be my pick too (but not by much). Here are some of the best replies:

From Jim Darling (Amherst, Mass.): “Brand and Randolph are similar offensive players, but Brand is a much better defender, shot-blocking threat, and rebounder. So in the ultimate GM game, I would Brand ahead of Randolph every time.”

From Vitor Araujo (Sao Paulo, Brazil): “The most important aspect to me is that Brand is not a head case. He’s never been close to trouble, something you cannot say for Randolph. Brand is one of the true good guys in the league and has been hampered by bad luck, having been drafted by the Bulls and then traded to the Clippers. Yet he’s remained a pro through it all.”

From Jason Palumbo: “Brand is better for his team if not more talented than Randolph. Randolph scores and gets great rebounding position while he’s not defending anyone. To be honest, I’m not sure Randolph is the best power forward on his own team.”

Of course, my FAVORITE line from Jason’s e-mail was this: “Nice work on the newsletter. Consistent as Elton Brand, but with fewer career losses.”

More Reader Feedback

From Josh Redetzke (Eagan, Minn.): “In response to your list of worst all-time No. 1 draft picks, I really don’t think Philadelphia forward Glenn Robinson should have been included. Obviously, his recent struggles and attitude have been an embarrassment, but can you really call him a bust? In eight straight years for Milwaukee, Robinson averaged more than 20 points and six rebounds, while shooting roughly 46 percent from the floor. Had his career ended there, I think people would have looked back on his playing career with respect.”

Dear Josh, you’re right about Robinson playing well in Milwaukee -- and maybe I was indeed too hard on him. But a lot of fans agreed with the choice, simply because he never really turned into the “franchise” player he was expected to be.

From Andy Fan (Cupertino, Calif.): “How could you leave Wizards forward Kwame Brown off your list of worst No. 1 draft picks? I mean, do you still think he can play better than he is now?”

Dear Andy, no. Brown will most likely be an inconsistent backup for his entire career. But I’m at least willing to give him a few more seasons before I call him a flop.

From Joe Cote (Dana Point, Calif.): “In regard to your comments about Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskus and his insomnia, I just wanted to point out that guard Moochie Norris was put on the injured list with the same problem a few years back, when he was playing for Seattle.”

Dear Joe, thanks. I’m starting to become tired of all this talk of sleeplessness.

A Final Thought from Golden State

Warriors fan Dave Theony (Pleasanton, Calif.) wrote, “Amidst all the NBA tabloid news today was a quiet reminder about the retirement of John Stockton’s number in Utah. It reminded me how the league’s collective values have migrated away from mine over the years. Stockton always worked hard (even in practice), never made disparaging remarks about his employer, always seemed to put the fans first, and appreciated every moment he was fortunate to play in the NBA. We will miss him more than we know.”

Thanks, Dave. And HAPPY THANKSGIVING everyone!!!

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