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dannyboy
12-17-2004, 12:25 PM
http://www.suntimes.com/output/couch/cst-spt-greg17.html

Few changes a month after brawl

December 17, 2004

BY GREG COUCH SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST



The Indiana Pacers will be at the United Center on Saturday night to play the Bulls, and fans in the front row, feet on the court, will be drinking beer. Tensions will build during the game. At least one hard, cheap foul will set off fans, who feel they are part of the game, the sixth man, into heckling.



What's going to happen then?

Are the Pacers going to jump into the stands and start fighting, the way they did a month ago at the Palace of Auburn Hills? Ron Artest, the angriest Pacer, is suspended for the season. The guy with the police record who threw the beer won't be there. Do you think that's all it was? An idiot fan, a nutcase player, and things snowballing? Or maybe you think sports is just going all to hell, and we're going to see much more of this.

Sunday will mark a month since the Detroit disaster. We've had a chance to step back now and think about it. What have we learned?

"No, we haven't changed security here,'' Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh said Thursday. "We don't have a problem here. That happened in Detroit.''

We have a problem everywhere. But extra security guards, reduced beer sales and locking up Artest won't change that.

"People see this as sports doing something to society,'' Walsh said. "But sports follows the culture of the time and of society. Not the other way around.''

Plenty of blame to go around



What we have seen is NBA commissioner David Stern suspending Artest for the season, costing him $5.5 million. Five Pacers were suspended, including Stephen Jackson for 30 games and Jermaine O'Neal for 25. Artest's teammates followed him into the stands, and fans fought back.

The prosecutor handed out a bunch of misdemeanor charges to fans and players and a felony to the guy who threw a chair. He said nothing would have happened if it hadn't been for the guy throwing the beer.

Well, nothing would have happened, either, if Artest had just turned and walked away. Nothing would have happened if Ben Wallace hadn't shoved Artest. If Artest hadn't reclined on the scorer's table to taunt Wallace? Nothing.

You can't pick the first snowball and blame it for the avalanche.

We love our nice, neat solutions. But we're not going to come up with simple answers here. We've seen these things happening lately, like the baseball player who threw the folding chair at a heckler. And the Dodgers who jumped into the stands to attack Cubs fans who stole a cap.

That's not sports, but sociology. There is a street element to sport that we didn't used to have, and that's not about race, but about how we play the games. Nasty Boys and tough guys in the middle and enforcers.

Beer? Yes, Stern sent a strong message to players by suspending Artest. The thing is, though, that wouldn't have scared off Artest. Stern could have sent his message to fans by cutting off beer at halftime, if he were willing to forgo the profits.

So, greed is Stern's fault. But we seem to accept public drunkenness now, and he can't stop that. These player-fan things didn't happen much before, but today we don't have drunken fans removed. It didn't happen before, but sports didn't used to be about white fans watching black athletes. Don't think players don't feel a tension over that. It didn't happen before, but our athletes didn't used to come from single-parent homes. So many things are working here.

What has happened since the brawl? Jake Plummer, the Denver Broncos quarterback, flipped off a fan. In England, with laws in place, a fan pleaded guilty anyway to making racist taunts at a soccer player, complete with monkey chants. In the NBA, Latrell Sprewell, once suspended for choking his coach, yelled a sexual obscenity at a female heckler.

Maybe we can teach athletes how to react to unruly fans, then cut down the beer and have our sports stars make public-service announcements. It will help, but only some.

Pacers say Artest getting help



In Indiana, the Pacers are ruined. Their first game after the brawl, they had only six usable players. NBA officials had to brief the team on what happens when you're down to your final five and someone commits his sixth foul. They sell T-shirts saying "Free Artest.'' They won a few games but now can't beat anyone.

And what about Artest? You sign a guy like that, who once was held back from charging the stands in Indiana as a member of the Bulls, and you celebrate his fierceness on the court and hope he won't go nuts. That worked fine for the Bulls with Dennis Rodman.

I used to think Artest was a bad guy. Now I just think he needs help. Is he getting any?

"Absolutely, we've done that,'' Walsh said. "That's all I can say, but we've done it. When he first came from Chicago, he was doing a lot of things we didn't want him to do: flagrant fouls and suspensions.

"Last year, I think he only had one. I thought he was improving. Even in this incident, Ben Wallace shoved him, and he walked away. One thing he hadn't prepared for was getting hit in the face with a cup of beer. He snapped.''

What have we learned? That we can just put Band-Aids on, send out messages, re-enforce norms, and watch Saturday night's game.


Letters to our sports columnists appear Sunday. Send e-mail to inbox@suntimes.com. Include your full name, hometown and a daytime phone number.



Done what?

Los Angeles
12-17-2004, 12:34 PM
They won a few games but now can't beat anyone
Bold statement coming from Chicago of all places.

Ragnar
12-17-2004, 12:42 PM
Chicago is IMO far less likely to have this happen than Detroit/Philly/NY

Fool
12-17-2004, 01:07 PM
Yeah, Chicago fans would never run onto the feild and beat up third-base coaches or send death threats, destroy the property of, and terrorise a certain fan who interfered with a play in the playoffs till they run that fan out of town.

Suaveness
12-17-2004, 01:10 PM
Nope...they are too depressed and don't care about their own team anyway...

Los Angeles
12-17-2004, 01:14 PM
Yeah, Chicago fans would never run onto the feild and beat up third-base coaches or send death threats, destroy the property of, and terrorise a certain fan who interfered with a play in the playoffs till they run that fan out of town.They wouldn't steal the hat from a visiting team's pitcher's head, inciting a bigger brawl than the Palace (with much less attention and shorter suspensions).

They wouldn't throw explosives on the field on "Disco Sucks Night," either.

Los Angeles
12-17-2004, 01:18 PM
Nope...they are too depressed and don't care about their own team anyway...
Actually, I don't think this is true. I don't have facts to back this up, but Chicagoans stick with their teams. Cubs, Bears, Sox, Blackhawks, all famous losers. People still hang on to their season tickets from the Jordan years. Saturday night - I think there will be people there.

Arcadian
12-17-2004, 01:46 PM
I don't know if Chicago cares about the Bulls. But they did stick with their other losing teams when I was there. I beleive a lot of Fans were turned off by the way the championship team was dismantled. Compared to LA their fans are the greatest.

As far as the article I love how the incident has let all columnists speak with moral authority on Ron and the Pacers. It must feel so good for them.

Fool
12-17-2004, 01:50 PM
The Cubs, Bears, and Sox still do well as far as attendance. The Blackhawks however always play in empty arenas tho the Bulls crowds are still at the top of the league (last year #3 overall), which is incredible in itself.

In general you are correct tho as the core base stays for most of their teams (just not the Blackhawks, tho hockey is hockey).

Arcadian
12-17-2004, 02:03 PM
Yeah, I forgot about hockey. I guess it counts as a sport, huh?

ChicagoJ
12-17-2004, 06:53 PM
The Bulls are still sky-high in "attendance" because of season ticket sales. These folks were suckered into signing long-term season ticket contracts during the Jordan-era.

The NBA measures attendance in tickets sold, not bodies in seats.

And nobody has mentioned yet the fan abuse that was directed by the bozos in Soldier Field at *thier own quarterback*. That was even more revolting than the silly incidents at that sport with a diamond.

This is, first and foremost, a Bears town.

There is somewhat of a baseball rivalry, and everybody loves to go drinking at Wriggley so the seats are always sold and the beer is flowing but very few people are there to watch the games. Really, if baseball wasn't so easy to mock I'd make more of an effort to do so.

Los Angeles
12-17-2004, 07:21 PM
The Bulls are still sky-high in "attendance" because of season ticket sales. These folks were suckered into signing long-term season ticket contracts during the Jordan-era.

The NBA measures attendance in tickets sold, not bodies in seats.

And nobody has mentioned yet the fan abuse that was directed by the bozos in Soldier Field at *thier own quarterback*. That was even more revolting than the silly incidents at that sport with a diamond.

This is, first and foremost, a Bears town.

There is somewhat of a baseball rivalry, and everybody loves to go drinking at Wriggley so the seats are always sold and the beer is flowing but very few people are there to watch the games. Really, if baseball wasn't so easy to mock I'd make more of an effort to do so.
My moniker says LA, but I just lived the last 5 years in Chicago (Wicker Park). Sorry, but it is NOT primarily a bears town. And the fans at Wrigley are in the stands to watch the game AND drink, Cub nation is not as weak as you make it sound.

I worked with a ton of Bulls fanatics who were season ticket holders, many of whom did not care much either way about the bears.

For fan devotion, go see the Wolves play out at allstate arena. Not many people, but they are WAY into it.

What I'm trying to say is that Chicago supports its teams like no other city except maybe New York or Boston, and it does not matter much which sport we're talking about. Bulls fans spirits are bruised, and yeah, season ticket folks are missing a few more games (can't really blame them), but I'm never going to underestimate a Chicagoan's devotion to their teams, especially not in a Ukrainian Bar on Division Ave! :)

ChicagoJ
12-17-2004, 08:46 PM
Oh, I just like to make fun of Cubs fans...

But these folks are just nuts about Da Bears.


Did Mark Boyle just describe a Reggie Miller block as Chamberlin-esqe?? Wow.

PacerMan
12-18-2004, 12:20 AM
Damn, I'm starting to waver in my total disdain for Artest. But I still think he's too much of a liability to keep around.
Image is everything,($$$$$$$$$$$$$$$) and I don't see how ours can rebound as long as he's on the team.