Have you dunked on anyone today?

Well, the sports media have gotten their 9/11. As offensive as that may sound, it’s still true nonetheless.
Since the Indiana Pacers-Detroit Pistons brawl, sports media outlets and “real news” networks have competed like so many out-of-control Ron Artests to convince the world that IT HAS ENDED!
I wonder, are we telling people what they want to believe? Or are people overreacting because we in the media are? Or do the video images simply speak—or scream—for themselves?
Of the 1,267 times I’ve seen the riot video, I believe six or seven even were on The Weather Network. That’s because the video is considered “great television” by TV producers, who themselves couldn’t have scripted a better scene.
It’s a fast, furious flurry of eye-bites that shocks and amazes viewers, who are desperate to be shocked and amazed.
The initial altercation was a highlight in itself when Ben Wallace of the Pistons unleashed the greatest two-handed shove in basketball history. But his palms were open and he didn’t aim at Artest’s face.
But Artest, who occasionally shows signs of maturity after a scrupulous past, backpedaled to the scorer’s table.
Artest’s Pacers were just 45.9 seconds away from humiliating the defending champion Pistons on their home court and he didn’t feel a need to further escalate the situation.
Well, at least he thought that way for about eight seconds as he began to grandstand by lying back on the scorer’s table with his hands clasped behind his head, his legs crossed, and his body language saying: “I’m just going to chill here for a minute while you sorry refs try to calm down that chump Wallace.”
With his actions, Artest not only was taunting Wallace, he was taunting every beer-wielding, weapon-concealing, on-probation Detroit fan in the building (I’ve been to Detroit a number of times and it is the scariest place in the world).
He essentially turned himself into a wrestling villain, and did well in provoking every nut in the stands. If Artest had merely sauntered back to his bench, it’s highly unlikely the WORLD WOULD HAVE ENDED, but . . .
. . . some guy sitting a section away from a “chilling” Artest pulled off the night’s greatest athletic achievement and a near-miraculous feat. From around 70 feet away, this guy underhanded a cup that landed smack dab in the middle of Artest’s chest.
Whaaaaaaaaat? If you give that guy 100 cups from that distance, he couldn’t hit Artest more than two or three times, if that.
If he had missed, it’s highly unlikely that SPORTS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. But he didn’t miss and Artest charged into the stands to go after the guy who had disrespected (the most powerful word in sports these day) him.
But get this, he went after the wrong fan.
The real culprit was three rows back (I saw this after the 567th review of the video), but Artest didn’t care. He wanted redemption. He wanted payback. His manhood had just been tested on national TV and he was going to do whatever it took to get it back.
The melee quickly spiraled even further out of control in the stands. Stephen Jackson came rushing to his teammate’s rescue and quickly landed a haymaker on an unlucky bystander (and future millionaire).
But after the 825th review, you saw that Artest mostly pushed and shoved and THREW ONLY ONE PUNCH in the stands when a fan fell to the ground after grabbing Artest from behind.
Moments later, Artest was safely back on the court. Or so he thought. As he walked toward the bench, here came another overweight fan in a Pistons’ jersey.
The guy did a little Ali shuffle and appeared READY TO RUMBLE. Artest fired and landed a hard, straight hand, but the guy amazingly didn’t flinch or teeter.
I don’t blame Artest for blasting (or trying to blast) the fan who challenged him. I can’t blame Jermaine O’Neal, either. In the night’s most sensational clip, the seven-foot O’Neal got a running start and tried to deliver a blow that could have rivaled the near “kill shot” with which Kermit Washington once struck Rudy Tomjanovich.
Fortunately, O’Neal lost his footing and leverage as he landed a shot upside the head of the fan who had tackled Artest.
Under the near-riot circumstances, any fan who crosses the lines and enters the court should have been fair game for the players; the same is true when a player enters the stands.
Through this all, I couldn’t see a single security guard or policeman during the brawl, which cost the key players involved more than just their dignity.
Artest is suspended for the season (the harshest in league history) and will cost him around $5 million (U.S.); Jackson was suspended for 30 games ($1.7 million in lost salary); and O’Neal will sit out for 25 games ($4.1 million in lost salary).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not tired of watching it because it’s great theatre, though that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with what happened. But I’m a realist and the more I watch it, the less I see.
The death toll was zero. Not one player or fan was seriously injured. Yes, this was a black eye for the NBA, but I couldn’t see a single split lip or a single drop of spilt blood.
THE DARKEST DAY for this wonderful league could have been so much darker, and thank God it wasn’t.

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