Insane Recognizes Insane
Last Thursday night after Myles Garrett swung a helmet at Myles Rudolph, I’m sure others thought of it. I know I did. Because any time in sports things spiral out of control, and reporters throw around words like “legal action,” I remember.
Nevertheless, as crazy as the Myles Garrett attack was, it wasn’t even close in my mind to what happened in Detroit on November 19, 2004. That night, the literal line that separates fan from player was crossed. Repeatedly. As a result, things happened that you never see in a pro sporting event.
Man, These Fouls Are Getting Harder and Harder
If you clicked on this you probably know the details. Even still, here are the crucial ones: The Pacers and Pistons were in the last minute of an already-decided game at the Palace in Auburn Hills. Ron Artest fouled Ben Wallace aggressively from behind. So Wallace pushed him. Hard. A fiery yet seemingly typical NBA melee ensued, as both teams began jawing and shoving. Artest, trying to maintain his composure, laid down on the scorer’s table. A fan pelted him with a cup of Diet Coke. And that’s when all absurdity broke loose.
Ron Artest entered the stands to fight back. Several players, including teammates Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson, followed him. They landed punches on fans. Other people threw more beverages. Security had to intervene. It took several long pandemonium-filled minutes to get everything and everyone sorted out. And even then, the game never did finish and the referees had to call it due to the sheer chaos of it all.
This is a disgrace.Bill Walton, color analyst calling the November 19, 2004 Detroit-Indiana Brawl
After the smoke cleared, nine spectators suffered injuries, two had to go the hospital and Pacers radio broadcaster Mark Boyle suffered five fractured vertebrae and a gash to the head when he tried to prevent Artest from going into the stands. To this day, many believe (including those involved in the incident) that if Jermaine O’Neal hadn’t slipped on something wet before he landed his punch, he would have killed fan Charlie Haddad.
Also, beyond the event itself, the NBA leveled out unprecedented punishments. All told, nine players received suspensions for a total of 146 games. They kicked Artest out for the rest of the season. The description of the NBA’s reaction was simple: “Shocking, Repulsive and Inexcusable”.
I do not like overusing words, but to watch it, there is one word that keeps coming to mind: surreal. And what really blows my mind is that when Grantland did an oral history of this spectacle in 2012, O’Neal confessed that “As bad as it was on TV, it was at least 20 times worse in person.” I cannot even fathom seeing it live.
Social Media Makes Everything Better…And Worse
There is no doubt the reason why it still strikes a chord even today with fans like me. Because as alluded to above, professional athletes in our most popular sports are extremely muscular. And enormous in size. Once, I stood near Jadaveon Clowney after a bowl game when he was at Carolina, and it took my breath away. So when a 6’11, 250 pound, well-chiseled NBA player takes a run at a fan to level him, it’s frightening.
So yes, what Myles Garrett did last Thursday was terrifying. But nothing in my lifetime has topped the Pistons-Pacers brawl from 15 years ago. And if social media had been around, it may have set records for hashtags.
And since we didn’t get to discuss it in real-time over the internet back then, I ask you now: What was your reaction to that night?
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