How Friday Night Fights Impacts the MLB and other sports
by Scott Long
I know how some who lurk here get disappointed when any post not about baseball is written. The fight between the Pacers/Pistons should not fall under this category.
Wrong or Real F-ing Wrong, Ron Artest is now a folk hero to other athletes, as he stood up to out of control fans. In Indianapolis, Colts player's have been wearing Artest jerseys around as protest to the amount of his suspension. After being kicked out of tonight's game, Rasheed Wallace made comments that he's now the NBA's whipping boy, since Artest is out for the year.
Sure Artest is an IDIOT. His appearance on Tuesday morning's Today show demonstrated the bizarre reality the guy lives in, but the death sentence he received by the NBA has actually made it seem to a large percentage of the population that he's been treated unfairly.
By David Stern focusing almost all of his scorn on players, he's created an atmosphere where fans have special rights that the players do not have. I'm sure Stern's actions were predicated on not wanting to say anything on the subject of how the Detroit Pistons organization was negligent in it's security or that the NBA's officials had little control over the later portions of the 4th quarter. Put all the blame on the players.
This attitude will create a more militant point of view among professional athletes in all sports. When a suspension is delivered which dwarfs anything prior ever put down by any other major sport, the players have to feel like they are targets.
Lost in the discussion I've heard about Artest and O'Neal's suspensions is that they are 2 of the best 15 players in the NBA. Playing in Indianapolis has kept their abilities from being fully recognized, but taking down talents like these is not much different than taking Shaq and Kobe away from the Lakers in past years. Did you know the Pacers won 61 games last year? Did you know J. O'Neal was the best player in the Eastern Conference in 2003-04? Did you know Artest was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year and so far this year was averaging 25 points on 50% FG, 41% 3 pt, and 92% FT shooting?
I suspect that one of the major bargaining issues for players versus owners will now be their safety and what side the league will fall on when issues with violent fans arise. Stern's severe player punishments and staying virtually quiet on the league and fan's culpability, has made Ron Artest a martyr to most professional athletes. Stern has also created a wedge between the NBA union and the league, which always had a great relationship in the past. MLB and the NFL I'm sure will be visiting this issue soon, as well.
In regards to the comment about Jermaine O'Neal possibly punching a Pistons security guard, I have my doubts, as I never saw any security until the players were being whisked into the beverage and chair throwing gauntlet, better known as the Palace at Auburn Hills locker room tunnel. I saw no example of any Pistons security doing anything to protect Pacer players on the court.
If you missed this, the Piston fan who threw the initial drink on Artest, has in his past served time, been convicted of drunk driving 3 times and also has been caught printing counterfeit money. I agree that Artest's past indescretions should be held against him, but then the same should go for this loser. On this subject, Jermaine O'Neal is known for his charitable work in the community and is known around the league for being a classy guy and a good interview. 25 GAMES!!!!???????