Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Ugliness in Detroit and Thoughts About Madrid

Neither Ben Wallace nor Ron Artest acquitted themselves honorably in the initial on-court skirmish.

I condemn the coward who chucked his cup at the prone Artest. Though Artest had reason to upset about that incident, there was no legitimate reason for either him or Stephen Jackson to enter the stands. The presence of players in the stands should not be seen by fans as an invitation to begin throwing drinks, cups, and popcorn willy-nilly.

I have no sympathy for any pain absorbed by the fans who invaded the court once the Pacers were hauled out of the stands. If footage exists showing prone fans being hit, I would temper the previous sentence, but the idiots who entered the court and challenged the Pacers to fight must suffer the consequences of having their offer accepted. I wish the Pacers players could have restrained themselves from hitting the fans on the court, but a part of myself of which I'm less proud thinks the fans deserved to be hit.

As I write this, Artest, Jackson, Jermaine O'Neal, and Ben Wallace have been suspended indefinitely. All will likely be suspended for the skirmish between opposing players. Artest and Jackson will likely earn lengthy, deserved suspensions for entering the crowd. I don't feel O'Neal should be suspended for a significant period of time for hitting a fan who invaded the court.

The Pistons should be forced to play at least one home game in an empty arena. When fans are allowed to return to watch them play, beer sales should be suspended for a significant period of time. A shocking number of Pistons fans proved themselves incapable of handling the simple responsibilities of supporting their team. Beyond those who physically confronted players, many fans felt entitled to shower the Pacers with debris. I have no idea why they felt compelled to do so. Some committed serious offenses, more exhibited mob-like behavior, and every individual who can be identified as committing a crime should be prosecuted to fullest extent of the law.

I witnessed the melee in Detroit only days after both the Spain-England Under-21 and full international matches were marred by racist chants from Spanish fans directed toward England's black players. English players, officials, columnists, and citizens have rightly condemned the behavior of the Spanish fans. Shockingly, the Spanish federation and large segments of the Spanish press have attempted to minimize the seriousness or even question the existence of examples of racism from the matches held in Madrid.

Just last month, Spain's national team coach, Luis Aragones, was captured on film calling France and Arsenal start Thierry Henry a "black shit." Aragones defended his remark as a motivational tactic intended for Spanish forward Jose Antonio Reyes, Henry's Arsenal teammate. Aragones was unapologetic and was not reprimanded. Thus commenced the first example of wide-spread English outrage directed at someone who had slurred a Frenchman.

I hope that the condemnation of the chants heard in Madrid this week carries over to the remaining examples of racism in English football. Millwall, and, I'm ashamed to admit, Leeds United, still have fans capable of launching racist chants and English fans have little trouble expressing their least enlightened thoughts and feelings about opposing players and fans when England meets Turkey, Germany, or France in international competition.

The only encouraging thing to come out of Detroit last night is that no one (to my knowledge) has attempted to defend anyone's behavior or minimize the seriousness of what occurred. There seems to be a common resolve never to allow such a melee to occur again. I find that encouraging.

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