Mark Richards


Monday, November 22, 2004

Sports Fight - Part 1: Pacers/Pistons Game

Friday evening, I was at a bar in Clemson when I saw one of the nastiest scenes I have ever seen anywhere, let alone at a sporting event. For those of you who have been living in a cave somewhere, a skirmish that began on the court between the Indiana Pacers’ Ron Artest and the Detroit Pistons’ Ben Wallace, turned into a riot situation between the players and the fans.

Late in the fourth quarter, with the result of the game a foregone conclusion, Ron Artest fouled Ben Wallace with a relatively hard hack to the arm. Wallace took exception and went after Artest. For a moment it seemed as if control would be regained. Regrettably, that never happened. An already ugly situation was about to be taken to the next level.

The fight spread to the stands when a fan tossed a beer at Pacers’ guard Ron Artest. Artest jumped into the stands and went after the man who he thought threw the beer. Unfortunately for Artest, the guy who he chased into the stands and attacked was not even the guy who threw the original beer……I smell a lawsuit coming. A few of the other Pacers players flowed into the stands, some to pull Artest off the fan and some to get in a couple of shots themselves. And that’s when the melee ensued.

Fists were flying, drinks were being tossed, chairs thrown, dustpans swung: I was witnessing the most deplorable fight between fans and players in American sports history. The fight lasted nearly twenty minutes and ranged from the stands, to the court, to the tunnel to the locker room. Fans were attacking players from the front, from the back, and from the side…and the players likewise. I found the entire scene extremely unnerving to watch on live television (the game was broadcast on ESPN). By the time the officials, security, and team representatives had regained control of the game, there was no choice but to cancel the game.

Since then, the NBA has come down swiftly, yet harshly, on the participants with the largest penalty being dealt to the Pacers’ Ron Artest: a 73 game suspension. In total, nine players were suspended by the NBA for a total of 143 games! That has to be some sort of record.

I have mixed emotions on the severity of Artest’s punishment. Let me start off by saying that there is virtually no reason for any athlete to jump into the stands and chase down a fan. Name calling, racial slurs, family insults, drink throwing, etc. by fans is unacceptable and should not be tolerated, but that is something that athletes must endure. It is one of the many prices of fame and fortune. But to say that I would be able to control my emotions and react appropriately beyond a shadow of a doubt would be a lie.

I am a relatively peaceful person. I do not believe in, or condone, violence of any nature. But sometimes it happens. If I had played an entire game of basketball, been in the middle of an on-the-court skirmish, and then had a beer thrown in my face, I do not know how I would have reacted. All I can say is that I have over-reacted to smaller situations and cannot truthfully predict how I would react. Having said that, the comment is in no way a justification for Artest’s or any of the players’ actions. Do you think you are a better person than Ron Artest? Let me come to your job and throw a beer in your face.

This is not the first time Ron Artest has been suspended for fighting. Unfortunately, he has a history of this. He had shown signs of controlling his temper in recent months, but obviously his attempts were not as successful as I wanted to believe. His history is why I feel that the suspension is justified. I do not think he needs to be taught a lesson though. I think he needs to get help, and hopefully some tough love can straighten him out.

What about the fans though? What responsibility do they have in this? Well, first off, they need to keep their mouths shut and not make all the inappropriate comments. I understand sports are a passion for many people, myself included. But fans should not think that they are better than the athletes or that they know “who” these athletes even are. Fans have no right to judge these people, which happens all too often.

To be honest, I think what bothers me the most is that the NBA players are going to get stuck twice for this. Yes, they were wrong. They deserved to be suspended and fined. But now, many of them are going to face legal action as well. In the case where Artest attacked the wrong fan, this legal action will be appropriate. But then there is the case where the fan has an unfair advantage. Fans who were not attacked by the players, but did attack them will never see any form of retribution. Charges will be pressed against the fans and very little will come from it, while some of the players will lose millions of dollars to undeserving fans. It seems a little unjust and unfair to me.

And to the fans that were on the court and got clocked, they deserved it. Once you put yourself on the playing field, you are fair game. You are obviously where you should not be, and the players, coaches, and referees do not know your intentions. Are you looking to attack someone? Cause harm with a weapon? Who knows, so why not just stay off the playing area and stay out of trouble.

All I know is that the fight was disgusting. It was a terrible display by Ron Artest, a bunch of other players, and the fans of Detroit. I have rambled on now for far too long and without saying all that I would like. But this needed to be said since the repercussions of this horrific event have played a role in a much more personal situation: the Clemson/South Carolina brawl.


  • Good post Mark. I wish that the television networks showed a little more restraint in showing the video of the fight. I have seen it about 25 times now.

    By Blogger Robert, at 12:23 AM  

  • this sucks honestly

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:47 PM  

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