What I hate most about that brawl was that I was not there! I know that is callous, self-serving nonsense, but I missed it.
I cover almost every Pistons home game, but I had just traversed the rush-hour traffic the day before to interview Venus and Serena Williams, so I just could not pull the trigger to go drive another 30 miles down the 75 Interstate Freeway the next day.
I told myself, the Indiana Pacers will be back here at least two more times. So, I went and watched some high school football playoff games instead.
Later in the evening, I was with some friends at Half-Past Three and we all were mesmerized by what we saw happening at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
It was a surreal moment, as we watched the Pacers and Pistons fans engage each other in fisticuffs " okay . . . it was a little one sided for the Pacers.
Quick as Carl Lewis negotiating the 100-yard dash in any Olympics, the NBA Commissioner, David Stern, and his cronies dished out an unprecedented set of suspensions.
Pacers forward Ron Artest received a 73-game suspension and lost over $5 million in salary, guard Stephen Jackson is out for 30-games and lost close to $2 million in wages and NBA All-Star forward Jermaine ONeal got 25-games and $4.5 million in lost earnings. In addition, Pacer guards Reggie Miller received one-game and Anthony Johnson received a five-game suspension.
Conversely, Pistons center Ben Wallace received six-games and his teammates guard Chauncey Billups, center Eldon Campbell and forward Derrick Coleman all received one-game suspensions.
Now, I agree Stern had to dish out tangible punishment; however, I believe there was a rush to judgment to appease the media and white corporate America.
The punishment did not fit the crime. It seems when professional basketball players, whom in most cases are African-Americans, engage in a transgression, the overblown "Whats wrong with those hip-hop generation athletes" comes flowing off the lips of the sports talking heads.
I know many of todays Black athletes and I find them approachable, intelligent and community minded. Painting Basketballs professionals with the broad negative brush seems to be fashionable.
What Artest did was unquestionably wrong! A player should never go into the stands. That action will almost always produce a negative consequence. I believe a 30-game suspension for Artest would have been fairer. Although I believe Artest made a mistake attacking the fans, I do understand the emotion that produced the bedlam and Stern should have too, when he pompously unleashed those Pacer suspensions.
Artest was already at a heightened frenzied state, following one of the hardest shoves by Wallace to Artests throat I have even seen in a basketball fight. The aggrieved Pacer held onto his cool and did not retaliate. Then comes the bottle to the throat/ face.
Artests actions were precipitated by two personal attacks " Wallace and The Overzealous Fan. Again, I really understand the feeling of being violated and disrespected. Just because an athlete makes a million dollars doesnt mean he or she becomes a non-caring, no emotion robot.
Being a millionaire has nothing to do with a persons ability to take personal, physical abuse. Can you honestly say you would let someone, anyone throw water or beer in your face and it would be okay? Ill answer, no, no no!
To a large degree Ben sparked that riot in Auburn Hills with the intensity he attacked Artest; it raised the ire of the Pistons fans against Artest, especially since they were getting firmly spanked at home.
Former Piston John Salley started another uproar, when he said On The Best Damn Sports Show that the Pistons dummied-down to a lower level of fans by lowering ticket prices to accommodate the beer guzzling, truck-driver types. Many took offense to that; but it seemed to have been delivered tongue-in-cheek.
As for the fans, I really do not understand why the NBA, the only professional game where the fans are on top of the action, allows hecklers to denigrate the athletes in the mean-spirited and malicious manner in which they do around the league.
I generally sit right behind the visiting teams bench on the floor, and Ive seen the guy Artest went after and he is the worst heckler at The Palace. He is relentless in his negative urgings. Im sure thats why Artest went after him because he had been riding him all game.
Its annoying sitting there trying to write your story and this guy is right behind my ear screaming negative mess, and getting personal with it. I would like to see people like that put out or at least told to calm down.
As for the Basketball-Brawl, it does not shine a negative light on Detroit or give the City a black eye. It is, without a doubt, however, a black eye to civility and courtesy, all of which appears to be permeating downward throughout America. And that is the last word!
Leland Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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