“Shocking, Repulsive and Inexcusable”: Myles Garrett Has Nothing on the Malice in the Palace

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?

Gowdy Cannon

I am currently the pastor of Bear Point FWB Church in Sesser, IL. I previously served for 17 years as the associate bilingual pastor at Northwest Community Church in Chicago. My wife, Kayla, and I have been married nearly seven years and have a 3-year-old son, Liam Erasmus. I have been a student at Welch College in Nashville and at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. I love The USC (the real one in SC, not the other one in CA), Seinfeld, John 3:30, Chic-Fil-A, Dumb and Dumber, the book of Job, preaching and teaching, and arguing about sports.

6 thoughts on ““Shocking, Repulsive and Inexcusable”: Myles Garrett Has Nothing on the Malice in the Palace

  • November 19, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    I thought then, and still believe now, that among the penalties assessed by the NBA in the aftermath should have included a requirement that the remaining rematch between the two teams at Auburn Hills that season be played in an empty arena. While it’s easy (and appropriate) to blame Artest and other players for what happened, this had a unique element in that it was instigated by the fan’s thrown soda cup, and it was perpetuated by the behavior of a lot of other fans; thus, there was also a shared responsibility and blame among those who were in the stands. Arena security obviously couldn’t have stopped every fan from all of their childish behavior once they took it upon themselves to act like a mindless mob, but they also didn’t seem to be doing much to minimize it, either. Between the fans’ idiocy and security’s inactivity, an annoying but largely controlled situation was allowed to open the floodgates into chaos, and the team organization and its fans, IMO, should have been part of the subsequent punishment. My plan would have the team still pay all of the parking lot attendants, food vendors, and ushers for their time as game staff, but let everyone stay home and watch it on TV as a reminder that off-the-court people have responsibilities too. (I’m sure that some other details would have been added to this plan had it come to reality, but that was and is my $0.02 worth.)

    • November 19, 2019 at 1:30 pm

      That’s actually a very good take to me. I agree with all of that. One thing that came out of Grantland’s oral history that stunned me was that the players said *they* were the ones who feared for their lives. My initial reaction was to scoff at that but with time and perspective I can definitely see it. I could have included that element but didn’t. Trying to keep word count down but that actually is a pretty important piece of information.

      Someone said there were 6 or so things that happened in order that, if any of them dont’ happen, none of this happens. If Artest doesn’t foul, if Wallace doesn’t push, if Artest doesn’t lay down, if the cup doesn’t come flying, etc. The cup flying was the most frustrating one of all. Just a stupid and unnecessary thing to do.

      • November 19, 2019 at 1:43 pm

        I read the Grantland article when it first ran, but I had forgotten about it until you linked to it above. Yes, that was an insight that confirmed my impressions when I first saw the footage of the game. I also remember (and agree) that Artest shouldn’t have been lying on the scorer’s table and someone should have gotten him to move, but I think it would have still blown over if the cup hadn’t been tossed.

    • November 19, 2019 at 10:32 pm

      I have to disagree with you all about the cup being tossed. Cups have been tossed on courts and fields hundreds of times. Of course it should not happen and there should be repercussions for fans. But that simply can’t be the key ingredient for what occurred at the Palace. And as for the players being in “fear of their lives” that is all utterly ridiculous. Then stay out of the stands!

  • November 19, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    I remember that incident. Very unpleasant.

  • November 19, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    At some point one of these people has to find some integrity and stop it. Walk away. This is true particularly when we are talking about people who are far larger and stronger than the average adult.

    Grow up and act like reasonable people.


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