Nov. 17, 2004 | ESPN.com's NBA coverage
I was stunned and appalled watching the replays of Friday night's Indiana Pacers-Detroit Pistons melee at The Palace of Auburn Hills. I was working at the Syracuse-Memphis game when we showed a cut-in of the incident -- it was totally shocking to see that happen.
The rules for players are simple: Thou shalt not ever, ever, ever leave the court and go into the stands or into the crowd after fans. There is no rhyme or reason to justify that action. Nothing good can be gained by those actions, and that's why commissioner David Stern administered such a harsh penalty.
I support Stern and praise him, because there was a need to send a loud and clear message that players can't go into the crowd. It's an explosive and possibly even deadly situation when fans and players clash in the stands like that.
The rules for players are simple: Thou shalt not ever, ever, ever go into the stands.
Pacers All-Star Ron Artest has been a walking time bomb lately. I hope that if something good comes out of this, Artest will get some help as he serves his season-long suspension, because he needs counseling in the worst way. Anger management is important for Artest, especially when you consider some of his past indiscretions. No more excuses or alibis for him, but I know the Players Association will come out and defend these guys.
Personally, I thought Pacers guard Stephen Jackson got off too easy. I feel that any player who goes into the crowd should be automatically suspended for the rest of that season, and if he does it a second time, he should be banned for life.
Pistons big man Ben Wallace was wrong in his actions, but he didn't leave the court and go into the stands. That's a whole different ballgame, my friends.
While the players have been penalized, the fans cannot be let off the hook in any way, shape or form. The police are looking at videotapes, and any fans identified should be punished to the full extent of the law. If they are season-ticket holders, they should have their privileges revoked and not allowed back into the arena.
I still have to wonder where security was -- those involved in the unruly behavior should have been arrested immediately. Charges should have been filed immediately.
This was just a bad scene, one of the worst I can ever remember. I hate to think that you can't go to a sporting event and feel safe. Fans have the right to cheer for their teams and root against the opponent, but some simply cross the line. When you start talking trash about player's families, getting abusive and name-calling, it gets crazy. Just because you pay for a ticket, that doesn't mean you have the right to throw things or act in an abusive manner.
What else contributed to this incident? Alcohol. Some people get frustrated and things build up on the job, and a sporting event is the place to let it all hang out. Now they go there and they feel they have the license and freedom to explode. Then they leave the arena and go to the bar and they think they're cool. Some fans were quoted as saying this brawl was awesome.
Awesome? Are you kidding me? It was a nightmare. That's like people who attend auto races and are disappointed if there's no crash. What kind of mentality is out there for today's sports fans? I know just a few ruin it for the whole group, but it's alarming.
Having coached in Detroit on a collegiate and professional level, I've always been proud to be associated with the city because the fans have been phenomenal and supportive.
Pacers guard Stephen Jackson got off too easy ... any player who goes into the crowd should be automatically suspended for the rest of that season.
They're basically blue-collar people who know and understand sports. Having said that, there are a few punks, drunks and idiots out there, and those wackos destroy the image of the entire fan base because of their actions.
I feel bad for all the good people in Detroit who are getting a bad rap now.
Sometimes I go to games and fans ask for autographs, and I can smell the alcohol on their breath and they're spitting all over the place. You walk away and shake your head, wondering if they're going to drive their car right after the game.
I love the game so much, and a situation like this is so aggravating. I have watched a lot of these players grow up from their teenage years and develop as people, getting the big money. I have seen so many of them move into the big time and forget where they came from, forgetting the important principles of life. Some don't remember how to extend a hand, to say thank you, to say I love you or I care about you. Dollars and fame make some people feel invincible.
No one should have felt invincible on Friday night.
I again salute commissioner Stern for his swift handling of this matter. In other sports, commissioners sometimes procrastinate. I've said it before and I will say it again, David Stern is the best sports leader over the past two decades because of his marketing savvy and ability to handle difficult situations.
The memory of this will linger. It's a sad one, indeed.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.