y now, I'm sure you heard about the brawl that took place at a Detroit Pistons NBA game. But in case you haven't, here's what happened ...
Late in the game, Ron Artest of the Indiana Pacers fouled Ben Wallace of the Pistons. Wallace took exception to the foul and shoved Artest after the play. Hard. The on-court altercation cooled down and Artest was off the court lying down on a table when a fan threw a cup that hit him around the chest/face area. Artest charged into the stands and went after the guy. Other Pacer players followed him, fans were fighting with players, coaches and security were trying to break it up, all kinds of debris was thrown, including a chair, and at least one young child was caught on film crying. The fans were getting socked in the jaw, mostly by Artest, Stephen Jackson, and Jermaine O'Neal. It was the worst case of fan/player interaction I've seen.
Well, at least the right player was involved in this melee. Artest looked like he could actually fight, actually throw a decent punch. All too often in sports fights, the athletes don't seem to have any idea how to throw a punch and look like little girls with arms flailing.
The NBA responded by suspending Artest for the rest of the season (72 games), suspending Jackson for 30 games, O'Neal for 25, and various other players for various other amounts of time. I think the NBA went about it the wrong way. Instead of punishing those players, they should encourage them. Let the fans know that if they cross the line, they get their asses kicked. If a fan throws something at a player, I've got to believe that fan deserves what he gets. If that means a knuckle sandwich, then so be it. As it is, now the fans know they have a blank check. They can do or say whatever they want because there's no real consequences other than getting kicked out of the arena.
Imagine three times a week some ass-clowns come to your job and stand over you, follow you around, heckling you. Insulting your wife or your mother, constantly trying to distract you and raise your ire, criticizing your work ethic. Let's say that goes on for a couple years, then one day one of those jerks dumps a beer on you out of nowhere. How would you respond? Good natured heckling is one thing. I get that. But some fans go too far.
I've heard some folks complain that fans nowadays don't want to just attend the game, they want to be part of it. Which is true. Fans take their team seriously and want to feel attached. But I wonder why that is? Let's see ... Sports franchises boast of having the best fans in their league. The "sixth man" at a basketball game is the fans. The "homecourt advantage" is attributed to the support of the fans. The players get pumped up when they hear they crowd cheering them on. Loud, boisterous fans can affect the visiting team's players and their ability to communicate with each other. Players routinely implore the crowds to get loud by waving their hands at critical points in the game. Sports-talk-radio hosts will ask fans to "get into the game early and be a factor" in support of the local team. Announcers on television will talk about how some team or another has the "best fans" or the "loudest arena", implying that passionate fans somehow help the team. Television productions include crowd noise as a critical element to their broadcast. And players complain in the newspaper when they feel the fans aren't supportive enough at the games, implying the player's performance is dependent on the participation of the fan. So ... why would a fan feel like they are PART of the game? I have no idea.
Here's the kicker. Artest's lawyers plan to fight the suspension on the grounds that the NHL lockout is responsible for the fight. In their words, "Without hockey, players and fans alike lack an outlet for their bloodlust. Naturally, if they can't abuse guys on the ice, their attention will be drawn to guys on the court."
They must be joking. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. It's impossible for that statement to be true because the NHL has no fans. So how could they be going to NBA games in Detroit? Nice try, rookies!