Monday, November 22, 2004

When 'keepin it real' goes wrong

I am probably the last high profile basketball blogger to weigh in on the Pistons/Pacers brouhaha on Friday. Over at These Days is a nice roundup of reaction from around the web, and it gets pretty varied from slightly miffed (Shaddax himself) to the hellfire and brimstone that the mainstream has been pushing.

When I first saw the fight, I wasn't thinking about the thuggish players, the half-retarded fans, or the disappointed coaches. What I immediately thought of was how I'm going to have to have pounds and pounds of BS put on top of me by the ESPN empire. And the next time I sat at my computer (since Friday night was used for....recreational activities), I giggled in anticipation of reading what Jay Mariotti had to say. And I wasn't disappointed!

But eventually, of course, everyone will move on, the penalized players will return to their teams for those revenue-producing postseason runs and the sicko society of sports will survive the most chaotic incident I've seen this side of a European soccer stadium.

There's more gems like that in there. Now we will discuss the validity of the decrying the 'sicko society of sports' by someone who is on Around the Horn.

I'm not saying that this fight wasn't a big deal, I just hate the fact that I have to be told how its the second Pearl Harbor by dopes like Mariotti. As Shaddax said in his entry, less moralizing and more morals makes everything a lot easier, and on the plus side it doesn't make my brain and eyes bleed from being subjected to the sad sack tales of the sports media.

Now that I've gotten my pot-shots in, I'll try to do the same thing without being so annoying, starting out with quoting a fantastic article by My Man Sam(TM) on Ron Artest, who has rightfully become the poster boy of this incident:

 This is what we all were afraid of--what the Bulls feared when they traded Artest to the Indiana Pacers despite believing he could become an elite player--the rage, the uncontrollable anger that frightened everyone.

Now would be a good time for Sam to write a book like "the Artest rules", because I'm sure in addition to the stories he lists in the article there are many more. I have said the same thing before to many friends and here on the blog regarding Artest: The man is crazy. He is not misunderstood or oddly eccentric like Dennis Rodman. The man has serious mental problems that he has been advised to receive treatment for, but has refused any help from the Bulls or Pacers. Smith concludes his piece with this:

Perhaps we all should have seen this coming.

It never quite got there with Dennis Rodman, but the pleas for help seemed obvious. It's just that when the guy can get a key rebound or score a big basket or win Defensive Player of the Year--and you're paying him millions--it's difficult to send him away for the treatment he might need.

Don't blame the Pacers. No team does it.

After all, these are professionals--mercenaries, really--and they assume the risks.

But Artest seemed to be crying out for help. He asked for time off, either because he was tired from working with his new music company or to promote its new release this week. The Pacers gave him a few games off and everyone wrung their hands and asked how he could do that, or maybe this was a ploy to get attention for his label or what the heck, it's just Artest. It's not that the Pacers didn't know something was wrong.

Artest was a handful throughout last spring's playoffs, missing flights and challenging coach Rick Carlisle. He has tried to drive the team to trade him since. Teams were curious about the talent, but fearful.

Stories continued about Artest, and the team even put him off limits to questioners last week. Teammate O'Neal lashed out when an ESPN crew came in last week to ask more questions about Artest. The boiling point was nearing, but there's that thing about a watched pot. Then everyone turned their heads, and the pot exploded.

There will be plenty of time now for Artest to get help. We all hope he does this time.

The suspension to Artest perhaps wasn't the most fair thing on the surface. After all Vernon 'mad max' Maxwell only got 10 games for jumping in the stands. But given Artest's prior history I think this was the best solution for both him and the league. And commissioner David Stern himself has said that Artest's past played a role in the severity of the suspension. I'm guessing that deep down Stern hopes that Artest either gets help or goes away for good.

As far as the rest of the suspensions, they seem fair enough to me. While the aforementioned pundits decrying the event were simply annoying, there were others who tried to justify what the players did, or at least tried to place principal blame on the fans. And that stance is no less than completely wrong. I don't care to hear about 'street cred' or 'protecting yourself', or any similar garbage. There is no justifiable reason for going into the stands. None. Point them out to security and have them thrown out. The fans in Detroit who helped escalate the matter are reprehensible, and I hope that the video tape available gets them prosecuted. But controlling them is security's job, not the job of the player to have some brief moment of revenge for whatever 'disrespect' took place. If it gets to the point where the fans are throwing things, then get off the court. They should know that as a professional athlete, it has been long established that they are not on the same level as the fans. They need to be the professionals and walk away. Not try and seek out vengeance veiled as self-defense.

This would've been a normal NBA pseudo-fight if it had not spilled into the stands. A non-story, and certainly not a black eye for western civilization, or whatever hyperbole you or Jay Mariotti want to use. But that line was crossed and I feel sorry for the NBA, who has to deal with the PR ramifications. And I'm sure NBA is sorry that they let someone on the court who had the capabilities of snapping and crossing that line.