Malice @ The Palace
For those who haven't heard about the out of control brawl that occured between the Pistons and the Pacers last night, here's a link to an article about it.
The NBA has apparently suspended Ben Wallace of the Pistons, along with Ron Artest, Steven Jackson, and Jermaine O'Neal of the Pacers indefinately, which is a justifiable move. Wallace shouldn't be suspended as long as the others though since, while he started everything off by shoving Artest, he never went into the stands and attacked fans.
The talking heads at ESPN are apparently blaming the fans who threw stuff at players for everything while coming to the defense of players like Artest by declaring that they'd do the same thing if they were in Artest's shoes and that it was just human nature to resort to self-defensive measures. While the fans who threw stuff were certainly jackasses who deserved to be thrown out of the arena and perhaps criminally charged for the more egregrious assaults, I think that Ron Artest is the one who deserves the most scorn. He flat out crossed the line with his response to the fans.
Ron Artest was not assaulted by a fist, or a rock, or a baseball bat, or a boxcutter, or anything else that could really pose a threat to his physical well-being -- it was a plastic cup with beer. I don't see how this is any more of a threat to one's health than a wedgie, or a noogie, or a tittie twister (although those do hurt like hell). Self defense is, in my opinion, a lame excuse for acting like a thug. Instead of employing the savage, neoconservative-esque thug response, he should have acted like a professional, rational human being by doing anything other than going into the stands to attack fans (he apparently didn't even target the guy who actually threw the beer).
While human nature may have elements of animalistic nature to it, what separates us humans from other critters is our advanced intellect and conscious, things that should have prevented Artest from letting the animal instincts take their destructive toll on the situation. I, for one, would not have responded the way he did. I would have responded by standing, facing the perpetrator and pointing him out to nearby employees, and engaging in some sort of verbal or nonverbal exchange (giving him the finger if I were pissed, or perhaps ridiculing/mindfucking him by either pointing and sucking my thumb to point out the childishness of the act or making kissing motions at him -- this response would have resulted from me being in a cooler state of mind). Since I don't consider self-defense to be a valid defense of Artest's actions (especially since other athletes have been in similar situations before and promptly blew if off in a professional manner), I'd say that the proper response for someone who lives non-aggressively and acts professionally would be to not attack, but instead look to the example of someone like David Carradine's character in the classic tv series Kung Fu. Kwai Chang Caine would not have acted in the unprofessional and uncool way that the thuggish Artest did. Besides, the fan would have been dealt with by security, and quickly if Artest would have pointed the guy out.
After looking at the situation from a cooler and more rational perspective, it could be said that the ESPN talking heads who defended Artest were out of line and displayed the type of logic I'd expect from the bloodthirsty war cheerleaders at Fox News, although Roger Cossack (ESPN's legal analyst) has separated himself from the other analysts by stating that the self-defense claim won't wash. Professional athletes have absolutely no business going into the stands, and Artest should face far stricter punishment for his actions than the other players involved. It'll be interesting to see how all of this plays out in terms of punishments and possible legal actions.
Regarding the oncourt fist-a-cuffs, I have no sympathy for the fans who were decked by Artest and O'Neal after walking onto the court. Those fans had no business going onto the court, and paid the price for doing so. Both of those fans were complete jackasses.
On a sidenote, Jim Henley at Unqualified Offerings has a unique take on the situation. He's suggesting that Artest set this up so that he could be suspended long enough to go out and promote his new r&b album, which is something that he wanted time off for but was denied the wish. Interesting...