If you own a TV, by Monday you’ll probably have seen the clips a few hundred times. The one of Artest fouling Ben Wallace. Big Ben pushing/punching Artest in retaliation. The rumble in mid court. Artest and Jackson in the standings. The fan that came out onto the court. Debris pelting the Pacers as they leave the court. Regular speed. Slow motion. Reverse angle. Replayed again. And again. Different channel. Same clips.
The person that is going to get the worst of the fallout is Ron Artest. Had he not gone into the stands, it would have been another sports story. But once he crossed that invisible line between fans and athletes, he turned an ugly incident into a riot on the national news.
Stephen Jackson is just as to blame for his actions, and Ben Wallace was no saint. The difference is neither of these two have Artest’s combination of fame and “history.” Just last year he was an All Star and the defensive player of the year. Just a few weeks ago he was chastised by his team and the media for wanting to leave his team to play music promoter. His history is littered with outbursts, fines, shoves, confrontations, and fights
The players aren’t the only ones to blame here. The asshole fan that hit Artest in the face with a full beer, and the idiot that ran onto the court after bedlam erupted should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Except I won’t remember their names. I know the name of the baseball player that threw a chair in the stands (Frank Francisco), but I don’t know the name of the two animals that ran onto the field to attack a coach in Chicago. I remember Milton Bradley ran amok in Dodger Stadium last year, but I don’t know the name of the man arrested for throwing a ice ball onto the field at Giants Stadium.
I can’t pay money to see those repugnant fans in person, but I can plunk down my credit card to get within earshot of the Pacers. That’s why players have to be the better person in these cases. If not they’ll be reliving their mistakes. In slow motion. Reverse angle. Again and again.