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11-22-2004, 05:48 PM
Pacers were justified in going after fans
NBA encourages rowdy fans butdoes nothing when it goes too far

COMMENTARY
By Michael Ventre
NBCSports.com contributor
Updated: 1:19 p.m. ET Nov. 22, 2004


O.K., so heís a knucklehead whose actions are almost impossible to defend.

But Iím going to give it a try anyway.

A Native American proverb states, ďDonít judge a man unless youíve walked a mile in his shoes.Ē Doing so in Artestís case may result in severe damage to oneís psychological well-being, but itís necessary in order to explain why the Indiana Pacersí nutbag had some justification for his offenses in the now-historic melee that earned him a suspension for the rest of the season ó which, including time served (Saturdayís loss against Orlando) amounts to 73 games, plus playoffs ó from an image-obsessed NBA.


If you noticed anything amid the flying beer cups and overweight Pistons fans attempting to fight world-class athletes, you should admit that Artest did not start the ruckus, and in fact, sought to remove himself from it.

Artest fouled Ben Wallace hard in the final minute of the Pacersí win over the Pistons Friday night, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. Yet Wallace completely overreacted, shoving Artest hard and thereby instigating the drunken dullards in the seats. Wallace admitted he was wrong and even attempted to contact Artest afterward to apologize.

After the benches emptied and players milled around with typical but harmless post-incident posturing, Artest tried to remove himself from conflict and controversy by lying on the scorerís table. Everything would have been fine if not for the actions of a few beer-guzzling louts who couldnít leave well enough alone.

One of the aforementioned cretins hurled a cup of beer at Artest, causing him to jump off the table and rush into the seats, fists flailing.

I would have done the exact same thing.

Iím not proud of it. I donít think violence is the answer. But again, walking a mile in Artestís shoes? When all I did was foul someone hard, and Wallace blew his cool, instigating a brouhaha? When Iím trying to stay out of trouble, and someone from the stands assaults me? When the league is doing almost nothing to protect players from unruly fans?

Youíre damn right I go into the stands, regardless of how much it may eventually cost me.

And if Iím in the shoes of Stephen Jackson, or Jermaine OíNeal, and I see one of my teammates being beaten up? I go up and help.

Now hereís a key point that should not be ignored.

The NBA takes a strident and unflinching stance on the issue of players going into the stands. No ifs, ands or buts. It is absolutely inexcusable, it says.

But David Stern and his minions make it sound as though there is a massive divide between the players on the court and the fans in the seats. In actuality, fans are only a few feet away. And thatís by design.

The league has a major selling point for the fansí access to the action, as opposed to the arms-length arrangements in baseball, football and hockey. The clubs sell tickets at exorbitant rates just so beer-swilling jerks can sit close to the players and, at the very least, make vile comments. And at the very worst, inject themselves into the fray.

I donít know if concession stands at the Palace of Auburn Hills shut off beer sales after the third quarter, like some venues. But it seems to me that there was no shortage of giant cups of brew in that game's final minute, judging by how much was thrown at players and team personnel.

The NBA condones the heavy drinking. It requires a skeleton crew of security men at its events. It invites fans to get as close to the action as possible. And then it breaks out the soapbox when the powderkeg goes off.

Artest and the other players certainly deserve suspensions. But the NBAís hypocrisy is laughable. Stern and the league are as culpable as anyone.

Stern has an easy target in Artest, who recently caused an uproar when he cluelessly asked for time off from basketball so he could promote his R&B album. Stern views him as the Latrell Sprewell of the 21st century, someone he can demonize as ĎThe Player Who Doesnít Get Ití.

But Sprewell was different. He attacked then-Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo after verbal provocation. And after he did, he had plenty of time to calm down. Yet he attacked a second time.

Artest was physically assaulted. His response was self-defense, even though it may not fit the classic definition.

To me, self-defense is this: If you attack me, Iím going to attack you back.

I bring up the Sprewell example because Artestís suspension is Sprewell-esque. That ban was originally 82 games, but was later pared down to 68 by an arbitrator. So is the league suggesting that what Artest did is worse than what Sprewell did? Or is this just a case of the NBA covering its behind in the interests of polishing an image and keeping the revenue stream flowing?

The league professes a zero-tolerance policy on players going after fans in the stands. With these penalties ó Jackson got 30 games and OíNeal 20 games, among others ó it pretends to be doing the right thing.

Wrong.

What the league is doing is protecting the cash cow. Itís siding with the buying public against the players. Itís protecting itself against litigation by making believe that the problem is the players, and the problem is being dealt with. Yet by taking that approach, it is giving tacit approval to boorish actions by its customers in the future.

Iím not saying the NBA is condoning violence by the fans. Iím not suggesting it doesnít want to see certain fans prosecuted for their actions in that brawl.

But the unusually heavy suspensions will serve as a smokescreen to obscure the leagueís own responsibility here. What do you think are the chances that fans will be seated farther away from the action now on, which would discourage any such future incidents? How likely do you think it is that the league will insist beer sales be severely limited at its arenas, or discontinued altogether? What is the likelihood that security forces will be doubled from now on at all NBA games?

I have the answer for you: The status quo will remain in effect, because itís easier to blame a small handful of wealthy, high-profile NBA players who can afford the fines and suspensions than it is to tackle the root causes of the problem.

This whole situation is embarrassing and appalling. The brawl was ugly, too.

Cactus Jax
11-22-2004, 05:57 PM
:o:o

Wow, somebody else who thinks exactly like I do.

This is a great article

Shade
11-22-2004, 06:09 PM
That's the best, clearest article on this incident yet. That writer is 100% dead-on.

waxman
11-22-2004, 06:09 PM
"The NBA condones the heavy drinking. It requires a skeleton crew of security men at its events. It invites fans to get as close to the action as possible. And then it breaks out the soapbox when the powderkeg goes off."

Good Article....and this quote sums it up.

TheSauceMaster
11-22-2004, 06:16 PM
Basically the way I feel is Stern is saying were desperate enough for your money , you can treat these superstars as you please.

I guess when you make a above average salary you no longer a human with feelings and should just turn the other cheek when people assault you verbally , with liquids , chairs etc.

The Prosecutor said the person throwing the beer and hitting Ron with it is "Assault" If someone is Assaulting you your allowed to defend yourself , I don't care what your wage is , it's your life your defending.

People may not agree with me but if were going to go by laws they the law allows if your being assaulted to defend yourself ..it doesn't say just because your a NBA superstar you should just turn the other cheek.

I don't care who you are in life and what you do you shouldn't have to take such abuse from the fans , going to a NBA is a privilage and that doesn't give you a all access pass to assault someone in any form.

waterjater
11-22-2004, 06:19 PM
Check out Bill SImmons article on ESPN page 2.

He's the first to suggest Ben Wallace needs a MUCH STIFFER PENALTY!! Finally!!!!!!!

ABADays
11-22-2004, 06:39 PM
Check out Bill SImmons article on ESPN page 2.

He's the first to suggest Ben Wallace needs a MUCH STIFFER PENALTY!! Finally!!!!!!!

Link please

MagicRat
11-22-2004, 06:44 PM
One of the aforementioned cretins hurled a cup of beer at Artest, causing him to jump off the table and rush into the seats, fists flailing.

I grow weary of reading this, or some variation of it, in all of the write-ups. Ron didn't "rush into the seats, fist flailing". He didn't punch anybody in the stands. He grabbed the guys face and shoved him backwards. People grabbed both of his arms. While he was being held, he got drenched with a beer, so Jackson pummeled that guy. Also while Ron is being held, the joker that threw the cup punches him in the side of the head. Fred Jones sees this and tries to grab that guy. In response to this, Wallace's overweight brother decides to cheap shot Freddie a few times.

Whatever happened, Ron didn't have his "fists flailing".........

TheSauceMaster
11-22-2004, 06:50 PM
Ask and ye shall Recieve ;)

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/cowbell/041122