The Sports Guy is easily the best sportswriter in the business. On the Pacers-Pistons brouhaha:
Artest (season) — Given his past history, this seemed fair to me. The NBA wanted to make it clear that players aren’t allowed in the stands under any circumstances — you want situations where players are pointing out the culprits, not punching them. But do you really think the Players Association will allow one of their guys to lose an entire season of paychecks? Please. If he’s not back by March 15, I’ll be absolutely stunned.
(But here’s my compromise idea: For the rest of the season, before every game, Artest gets wheeled out to midcourt like Hannibal Lecter — you know, tied to one of those white stretchers and wearing a strait jacket and the metal facemask. Then, they untie him, and he gets to warm up with his team. I think this would get the message across to the fans — stay away from this guy.)
Jackson (30 games) — Should have been more. Even though Artest charged the stands, it still seemed like he was holding something back. Jackson came off like a bad guy in an action movie who just starts spraying his Uzi into a crowd of people for no reason. And if you watch the Wallace-Artest altercation, in the seconds leading up to Jackson challenging Lindsay Hunter and Derrick Coleman, those guys didn’t do anything that would have made him angry. He was like an enforcer in a hockey game who just wanted to drop the gloves with someone. What a nutjob.
O’Neal (25 games) — This was the one that bothered me. On one of the Detroit TV websites, they have a clip of Artest fighting those two guys in front of the Pistons bench — the situation was a little more dire than it seemed on the ESPN replays. When O’Neal landed his Kermit Washington punch, from the Detroit TV replay, it looked like that guy was getting up to charge Artest again before O’Neal belted him. More importantly, what were they doing on the floor? Doesn’t that make them fair game? By all accounts, O’Neal is one of the best guys in the league — he does a ton of stuff for his community, wins awards, all that stuff. The fact that O’Neal, out of anyone, was so upset out there shows how dangerous it was. I bet this suspension gets knocked down.
Wallace (6 games) — Seems a little low. Wallace kept escalating the incident by trying to get to Artest, leading to the blue cup getting thrown from the stands. If you’re making an example out of Artest, make one out of Wallace — none of this would have happened if he didn’t keep pouring gasoline on the fire.
(Intriguing note on Wallace: One of his posse members was the huge guy who attacked Fred Jones from behind. During the initial altercation, you can see the guy lurking behind Artest as Artest lies on the scorer’s table, almost like he’s ready to jump him. You can also see him consoling Wallace’s kids after the fact.)
And while Brian Murphy may not be in Bill Simmons’ class, he did produce the following gem from a reader, which had me in tears and almost unable to talk. Oh, sure, one could lament the decline of Western civilization and so forth, but considering the crowd at Veteran’s Stadium, it’s just too funny.
Seher recalls the halcyon days of the Vet, and remembers the “Fan-O-Vision” camera that would pan the crowd and match fans’ mugs with those of famous people. On this day, the look-alikes were matched with the cast from “The Wizard of Oz.” Writes Seher: “When they got to the Scarecrow, the look-alike was not too happy, and gave the camera a certain salute involving a certain finger. Later in the game, they show the Dorothy look-alike, and this girl was no older than 12. This time, the camera got a Double Salute. Needless to say, the Fan-O-Vision crew retired this idea.”
I hate fan-cam. Absolutely loathe it. It’s so condescending while simultaneously lifting off the lid on the ludicrous hunger for the limelight that lurks in far too many souls. That little girl deserves a medal.