It could be argued the worst behavior at any World Series by fans was during the Tigers/Cardinals 1934 battle where Joe Medwick slid hard into a Detroit Tiger third baseman, despite being up by a 9-0 score. When Medwick came out to left field the next inning, he faced an onslaught of bottles and garbage thrown at him by the Detroit fans. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was at the game, ordered Medwick to be replaced by another Cardinal, so the game could be finished.
I bring this past instance up to address last Friday night’s debacle at the Palace in Auburn Hills. Once again, the terrible actions of some Detroit fans were seemingly vindicated by directly helping their team. Many people have lauded NBA Commissioner David Stern for the way he handled the ugliness that occurred last Friday, but I’m not one of these people.
Let’s not start with the suspensions, but how Stern at his press conference ignored the issue of how these suspensions decimated a potential championship team and has destroyed the hopes of Pacers fans. As knowledgeable as any in the NBA, Pacer fans are known as some of the classiest in the NBA. Now they get to watch a squad that’s just a shadow of it’s actual roster, while it’s biggest rivals, the Pistons, will find it just that much easier to repeat as NBA champs.
Yes, Ron Artest was wrong and yes I do think that his past indiscretions should be factored in, but I believe a 41 game suspension, with the league mandating that he receive counseling, would have been a more fair judgement.
Stephen Jackson initially appeared to be chasing into the stands to keep Artest out of trouble, until another fan threw a drink in his face. 20 games seem more appropriate to me.
The worst of the sentences to me was the one given to Jermaine O’Neal. I believe that when a fan steps onto the playing field and is not just looking for an autograph, the player has the right to sign his name across the idiot’s face. In football, when a fan runs on the field, there’s a tradition of the players leveling the trespasser. After what has occurred at US Cellular Field, don?t think that the next fan who makes a move at a baseball player isn’t going to receive a communal ass-kicking by both teams.
Sure, O’Neal ran at the guy to deliver a punch, but he had just seen the same guy try to go toe to toe with Artest and probably felt that in a barroom brawl, you sometimes have to fight your way out. I would have leveled a 10 game fine on O’Neal, but considering he hit a fat guy wearing a replica jersey, I chop that down by half, to 5 games, as nothing annoys me worse than some wannabe athlete who thinks he somehow is part of the team he roots for, because he’s wearing a jersey.
Stern should also have asked the Pacers front office how they wanted to serve the fines he was doling out, as by staggering the O’Neal and Jackson suspensions, the Pacers would have a better chance to put a half-way quality product on the floor for their fans.
Obviously, the fight between the Pacers and Pistons was scary and holds repercussions for all other sports in general, so a strong action against the players was necessary. Unfortunately, Stern went way over the top and failed to even address how his decision would affect one organization, the Pacers, while giving a pass to the co-conspirators in the brawl, the Pistons players, fans, and organization.
To me it does seem ironic that the team who brought the awful, brutal style of play, which controls the current NBA, was the Detroit Pistons of the 1980’s. The history of Detroit has teams known for going past the edge of physical; Pistons, Red Wings, the Cobb-led Tigers. Only the Lions have escaped this stereotype and maybe that’s why they have been the most pathetic football team in the NFL for the last 50 years.
David Stern said it was a unanimous decision, as his was the only vote. As much as I think Stern has done a great job marketing the league, this time his instincts were wrong, as the players in the league must now wonder what they are going to have to deal with from out of control fans. This was too complicated of a decision to just hand down the death penalty on one team, without at least addressing how the Pistons organization should be heavily fined for lacking proper security and how certain fans should not be allowed to attend NBA games in the future.