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I think this article will be the conventional wisdom. These types of incident take on a life of their own, and it takes a few days for things to set in. I guarantee Ron Artest will be crucified for this by the media, the fans and the NBA.
I know I said earlier that Artest will get 10 games, but now that I think about it a little more he might get 20 games. This incident also will have ramifications for this Pacer team for the next couple of seasons in more ways then I can imagine right now.
Get ready to see a lot of John Edwards and James Jones
No one was killed. But next time, someone might be. I can't be any more blunt about the escalating crisis of violence in sports, which turned frightening and ugly Friday night in one of the most chaotic scenes ever in a U.S. sports arena.
When players are throwing punches at fans, fans are throwing beer at players, chairs and metal posts are being flung into mobs of scuffling people and security is sparse, you know we've hit rock bottom in the sicko society of sport in America. What happened at the Palace of Auburn Hills, in the final seconds of an NBA game between the Pacers and Pistons, left me with such a horrible feeling that I'm left to wonder if steel cages soon will be necessary.
There was Ron Artest, who should be banned from the league, charging into the stands and throwing a punch at a Pistons fan after Artest was hit by a plastic cup holding a drink. Following close behind was Indiana teammate Stephen Jackson, wildly throwing his own punches at fans. Suddenly, this was the closest thing we've seen in these parts to a European soccer riot, and in the middle of it all, you noticed a young child crying and rushing to the exit with his parents as madness unfurled a few rows in front of him.
''I'm embarrassed for our league and disgusted to be a part of it,'' said Pistons coach Larry Brown, who had tried to calm the crowd by grabbing the house microphone, only to fling it angrily when the power couldn't be turned on.
The lightning rod was Artest, who only a week earlier had threatened to quit the NBA to promote his hip-hop group. Please do us all a favor, Ron, and leave. He started the melee, as is his way, with an unnecessarily hard foul on Detroit's Ben Wallace with 45 seconds left and the Pacers leading by 15 points. From there, all hell broke loose, although Artest temporarily tried to remain cool in a bizarre way by laying across the scorer's table while Wallace, Jackson and others pushed and shoved. The incident appeared to be calming down until Wallace winged a towel in Artest's direction. Seconds later, the cup hit Artest, who bounded into the stands and started wailing away at anyone in his path.
The biggest psycho in sports was out of control. After he had pursued his first punching victim, he found another fan on the court, a guy in a Pistons uniform. Beer was flying everywhere as Artest swung and knocked the guy onto the court. Meanwhile, teammate Jermaine O'Neal was flying in hurling another punch at the same fan. Finally, security guards entered the fray and directed the Pacers off the court, but not before they were pelted with more beer, hard objects and other debris.
Here we thought we'd seen it all, from the runaway drunks at White Sox games to the Dodgers riot at Wrigley Field to the Frank Francisco incident in Oakland a couple of months ago. But this was the worst I've seen because the fracas wouldn't end. It lasted about five minutes and underscored the alarming lack of in-house security. How can any arena allow so many fans to throw so much beer and so many players to throw so many punches?
But all we ever hear from sports leagues and teams is not to fear, that they'll take care of the problem. ''There was plenty of security in the building,'' team CEO Tom Wilson said. ''Security is supposed to wait off the floor until the officials wave them on.''
The NBA had no comment until it reviews the episode. If I'm commissioner David Stern, I am taking swift, firm action and tossing the book at Artest, Jackson and Pistons management for the lack of security and arena mood.
Bill Walton, covering the game for ESPN, said he never has been more humiliated in 30 years in the league. ''A tragedy,'' he called it. An overstatement, it was not.