Saturday, November 20, 2004

Throwing Punches

We flipped the channel to catch the last 5 minutes of the Pacers game, and caught more than an eyeful of action. Having seen the whole thing play out live, and then multiple times in replay, I have no hesitation placing a great deal of the blame on the unruly Pistons fans. This doesn't mean I justify or approve of the Pacers actions, but the actions of the fans were not only immature and unnecessary, they were also dangerous.

When it first started, I was actually impressed with how Artest took himself out of the situation by laying down on the scorer's bench, and how Reggie seemed to be sitting on top of him to make sure he behaved himself. Then it turned ugly and Artest and others were in the stands. That part of the incident I can sympathize with, especially as it seemed the players took more of a beating than any of the fans. As the ESPN guys pointed out, there are only 12 players and coaches and there are 20,000 plus fans, and you've got to expect a player to defend himself.

The part where I think the Pacers stepped over the line is when Artest punched a fan on the floor, and then O'Neal followed. Up till that point, their actions had been in response to physical action taken against them. Those final punches seemed to only be provoked by verbalizations. [It's interesting to me that while watching Sportscenter, the commentators actually think this is the least controversial part of the incident. One actually said that the fans who came onto the court deserve what they got. Presumably their argument is that if you enter the floor, it's players' territory, and to confront a player who already a victim of his emotions is just plain stupidity.]

While I'm no sports analyst, at the end of the night I think those fans should be ashamed of themselves for behaving so poorly. I mean, throwing chairs at players and into crowds of other fans. Grow up. And the players, lets keep our hands and fists to ourselves. It will be interesting to see how the criminal investigation (and let's face it, civil ones) play out.