Friday, April 29, 2005
Now everyone and his momma has heard about the brawl that involved Ron Artest, a couple of his Indiana Pacer friends and some of the basketball fans at the Detroit Pistons Auburn Hills Palace Arena.
Artest was suspended from the NBA for the rest of the season for his part in this melee and his name has become synonymous with what's wrong with today's sports stars. He has been cast as a villain, who for no apparent reason went after a fan in the stands. Oh ok well he was not without provocation although some would want to think that he just blindly charged into the stands for no reason at all. Its my opinion that its simply he was attacked and he responded. Did he overreact? Maybe. But attack any high strung individual out of the blue in the heat of an adrenalin filled activity like basketball anywhere at anytime and tell me what happens.
Artest's problem was that earlier in the season he had been acting a fool; asking for time off to go promote the rnb group on his record label instead of focusing on his NBA career. The critics said a player making his type of cash should be more focused on his game and his teammates rather than his fledgling foray into the record business and I tend to agree with them.
Add to this that Artest was long perceived as a hothead and as my mother says "when a dog duz suck eggs anytime eggs missing he gine be the first body ya look fa". So add these things up throw in this brawl and bram, Artest must be evil, he's public enemy number 1 without the flavor flav style hype man, and he must be the scapegoat for all the ills of today's NBA basketball players who are overpaid and spoilt and don't respect fans. Hence the full weight of the book must be thrown at Artest and so far it seems to have been.
Ok so what about the fans?
Here is another recent incident in the same arena that wont get alot of publicity. I barely came across it tucked away on the ESPN page today but it shows the same type of fan behavior if not with the same disastrous results. Game 1 Pistons vs Philli in the first round of the playoffs; Pistons winning by quite a bit if I remember correctly, Allen Iverson is sitting on the Philli bench and some johnny in the stands hits him with a coin. Now should Iverson have run into the stands and bust his ass? Yes clearly he could have, he would have been justified but luckily he didn't or we wouldn't hear the end of the so-called thug behavior that has taken over the NBA.
But is the fan judged with the same harshness as the players? Has the North American sports fan taken a page out of the book of his European counterpart and decided to be more than a mere spectator and become an actual part of the game? Where are the endless rounds of criticism of such behavior or is the criticism not allowed for fans but only for black basketball players to be stereotyped?
Clearly fan behaviors is becoming out of place. Words may not harm a player but sticks and stones or in this case drinks and coins may indeed break his bones or cause some other physical damage so cheer, jeer, boo, curse or extol but please do not throw items at players. A line is being crossed. One where a athlete's actions in response to being targeted are being generalized but a fan's actions which generated the incident are seen as being out of the ordinary and not a reflection on his fellow fans.
Face it fans are more aggressive these days. These incidents may be indeed those of one fan getting carried away but how long before it becomes the norm and we have soccer style fans throwing flares at players as happened recently in an Italian Serie A game between AC Milan and Inter?
We are already seeing more and more cases of parents and fans in school, minor and peewee leagues accosting referees, each other and players and don't tell me that's because of alcohol sold at those games. Nope, there just seems to be more anger and intensity to win , more hatred of the opposition. Sports are no longer just a game.
So here' some criticism from me to the fans. Try and behave. You blame the athletes with their greed and their use of drugs and their criminal activities for ruining the purity of our sports but look yourselves in the mirror as well because frankly your hooligan style actions are ruining the game. You guys suck.