Who Is To Blame?At a home game against the Indianapolis Pacers, Detroit Pistons Center Ben Wallace reacted with fury against Pacer’s forward Ron Artest after a hard technical foul by Artest. An argument ensued followed by a shoving match between the two which got both teams involved. In a matter of minutes the brawl escalated into the seats of the fans, with some fans throwing fists and full cups of beer at the athlete, prompting what began as a simple altercation on the court into all out mayhem.
Ron Artest, Anthony Johnson, David Harrison, Jermaine O'Neal and Stephen Jackson of the pacers and Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons as a result missed a significant portion of the regular season from suspensions as a result. Ron Artest was suspended for the remainder of the season. Four fans were banned from the home arena of the Detroit Pistons and lost his season tickets for future home games. The five suspended players of the Indiana Pacers as well as the four fans with ticket bans face charges in August in a Michigan Courtroom (Corbin). When situations occur when the fans and the athletes get into confrontations, both the athlete and the fans involved must be held responsible. Too often fans get too rowdy and incite confrontations, by throwing cups of beer, chairs, fists and at times even screaming racial slurs.
In almost every case of player/fan altercations, the athlete is viewed as the perpetrator in the eye of public opinion. In the view of many major media outlets such as ESPN and various network and cable news segments, and as well as in those of sportswriters, the fans have leverage because their tickets, concessions, and their contributions in television ratings collectively pay for the salaries of these athletes. In other words, the fans pay the bills of the athlete, so it’s almost as if they can do no wrong. However the flaw in this logic is that too little blame is placed on the fan and management’s lack of control of their behavior.
In the case such as the one which the riot occurred in Detroit, fans should be held just as accountable as the athletes and justice should be served not only within the jurisdiction of the NBA, but also of the law. One detail which must not be lost is that fights occur in both levels of sport, fans among fans and athletes among athletes. These occurrences are not sport specific, as they occur across a broad plane of sports, from basketball to football to little league softball. Fans’ overexcitement at games is what leads to the confrontations.
The overexcitement is encouraged and in some cases triggered by sports organizations, to get the home team “pumped up.” The combination of stimulants such as music, alcohol, team rivalries and aggressive play on the field of play are a combination of methodical tactics used by teams and owners to get the most excitement out of fans. The end result is a mass of 12,000-plus inebriated fans who believe to be the “12th player.” This in turn makes the fans believe they must do whatever is possible to annoy and distract the opposing teams. As a result it is a commonplace tactic to sell alcohol to get the fans rowdier. However the results of those strategies are not always end well.
For example, during a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park against division rival New York Yankees, a fan in the stands made the decision to strike Gary Sheffield as he was making a routine catch in the outfield, near the bleachers. Sheffield showed restraint when he was hit by the fan and did not strike the fan back in the same manner, instead pushing him away, avoiding any further incidence. Had the players in the NBA done the same when confronted by fans, then the extended brawl involving players and fans could have been prevented.
However when violence occurs during games, it seems that in some cases, restraint is almost non-existent, as if fans and players get such an adrenaline rush that a part of their conscious is lost. These acts of violence occur mostly during rivalry or division games. The Pacers-Pistons brawl occurred I n a game which was widely viewed as a playoff preview, or at least a sign of the direction of the division as it was a game between the two top teams in the division. Same as in the Red Sox games against the Yankees.
In division games, the common perception is that an extra emphasis is placed on the game, resulting in extra effort by the players. However that extra effort could spill out into forms of violence when focus is turned away from the game by screaming, violent and verbally abusive fans. The behavior by those fans also happens to be the type of behavior which incites riots like the ones experienced by the campus of UMASS (University Of Massachusetts) Dartmouth following each of the Red Sox Playoff wins, culminating in an incident in which near 20 students were arrested (Standard Times). The previous examples.