OT: Comprehensive Grantland Article on Malice at the Palace

Submitted by StephenRKass on February 29th, 2012 at 7:32 PM

There is a very long and comprehensive account at Grantland on the (Link:)  Malice at the Palace. (emphasis:  very, very, very long. Don't go there if you use tl;dr a lot.) Because I am neither a Piston fan nor a Pacers fan, I have always seen this incident from a distance. However, it is a great account of perhaps the most terrifying incident ever in US professional sports. And since many of you are Detroit Pistons fans, you may find it interesting.

The account itself is fascinating, but almost in a Three and Out kind of way: you are reading about a disaster that is sickening, and you just can't stop. For me,  several things stood out.

  • There is an implicit contract or compact between fans and athletes. This incident broke the barriers in the unspoken contract. That agreement, when broken, can lead to terrifying consequences. I guess I think of that because while I am a Michigan fan, I am no more than a fan, and don't pretend to be. (i.e., I will never storm the floor.) Following Michigan sports from mgoblog is so very far from actually being on the field of play.
  • The size and strength of many athletes is beyond the understanding of most people. I am 6'4" and close to 300 pounds, but am small and weak compared to almost any pro athlete. I remember when I lived next to Butch Wade, Roy Tarpley, and Richard Rellford. They were huge, strong, and just in a different dimension.
  • The mentality of a mob that has lost its mind and control is very frightening. The closest I remember Michigan experiencing that was at the 1993 Wisconsin football game in Madison, where 6 Wisconsin fans were crushed to death as they went to rush the field. (Revisiting the Camp Randall 1993 Stampede.)
  • It is amazing how such a turn of events can have such lasting consequences. The Pacers probably had the best team in the NBA, but were destroyed, and still haven't come back fully.





March 1st, 2012 at 6:34 AM ^

Watching it all is mind-numbing. After that, I have to add Ben Wallace to those at blame. The article makes clear that he was personally distraught from the death of his brother the week before. Still, the NBA has plenty of hard fouls. There is some element of "losing face," and if you get a hard foul, you feel you have to respond.

Also, I will never fault an official for taking a hard line and ejecting a player or players. The officials let the game get out of hand, and should have dealt with the chippiness a lot earlier.

Lastly, just looking at the video, it does reflect poorly on the Palace and on Detroit fans. If you're a Detroit homer and think the article and the coverage is biased, watch the full video with and without audio, and then tell me you think the fans were fine.

I don't know what Stern has in place, but I have to believe they will do whatever they can to keep something like this from ever happening again. It also makes me wonder if any NBA teams will think twice before drafting anyone involved in the Cincinatti - Xavier brawl eariler this year.


March 1st, 2012 at 7:20 AM ^

Yes, Wallace over-recacted.  At the point Artest fouled him, the game was over, and according to Jackson, another Pacer was essentially telling him to get a payback foul in:

Stephen Jackson (guard/forward, Pacers): [Toward] the end of the game, I recall somebody on the team told Ron, "You can get one now." I heard it. I think somebody was shooting a free throw. Somebody said to Ron, "You can get one now," meaning you can lay a foul on somebody who he had beef with in the game.


And according to Wallace, before the foul Artest said he was going to hit him.  Still, Wallace could have walked away.  And if the officials had done a better job controlling the game before this point, it might never have gotten to this point.  After Wallace shoved Artest, you can see Jackson running around playing tough guy looking for a fight--most of the other players are trying to hold their guys back and help cool Wallace down.  Once the fan throws the beer in Artest's face, like I said in an earlier post, what Artest did was wrong, but I understand his instant reaction.  Jackson's the one who is completely out of control, though.  If he's jumping into the crowd too, his only reason should be to pull Artest back.  That's how you protect your guy: you pull him away from an escalating situation. 

As for the end when the players are going through the tunnel and the fans showering the players with debris, I honestly do think if the same level of rivalry and hard fouls and players going into the stands to fight happened nearly anywhere else, there would have been a similar reaction.  By that point all hell had already broken lose.

At the time, I thought Artest's punishment was too harsh, but I do see the wisdom of it: no player should go up into the stands to fight a fan.  Let someone else (the police, team officials, whoever) deal with the retaliation. The players are highly paid professionals.  They have a duty to their team, the league and their profession.  They shoould be held to a higher standard than some drunken fan in the stands.


March 1st, 2012 at 12:19 PM ^

A hard foul is "this game is tight and we're not giving up any easy baskets, and sure as hell aren't giving up an 'and 1', so make your FTs bitch".

That's a premeditated game no longer in doubt cheap shot from behind. Even Jackson says at the end of the article he doesn't blame Wallace at all. And blames Artest more.


March 1st, 2012 at 7:17 AM ^

The ESPN announcers assign basically zero blame to the Pacer players.  "And now we see a fan on the court and Artest punches him in the face.  Terrible showing by the fans."

Some of the fans behaved terribly indeed, but you know, that doesn't exactly justify charging after them and throwing haymakers, either.


February 29th, 2012 at 11:10 PM ^

Artest still comes across as a jackass, despite some of the excuses made for him.  We do know a bit more of the back story from this article: other Pacers were egging Artest on to commit a hard foul at the end of the game.  In addition to the flagrant foul, Artest taunted Wallace and Wallace reacted.  As someone else pointed out, Artest was showboating stretched out on the scorers table.  But the one who comes off worst for me is Jackson.  I can understand Artest flipping out about having beer thrown in his face.  He was wrong to react the way he did, but in the heat of the moment, I can understand the reaction.  Jackson's the one who comes across as completely unprofessional and unrepentent, not having the sense even in hindsight to realize he was making the situation worse and helping in the escalation. 


For those of you pissed at this story, you might want to take a few breaths before going to this link of youtube video of the incident.  The game commentator and especially the ESPN studio talking heads seem to think 95% of the blame goes to Ben Wallace and the Piston fans.



February 29th, 2012 at 11:39 PM ^

I thought it was a great read, and definitely showed how crazy the situation became in a matter of seconds.  One thing I kind of forgot, but which came clear during the oral history, is just how crazy that Pacers team was, with Captain Jack, Artest, and to a lesser extent O'Neal being somewhat loose cannons.  I'm not saying they wouldn't have been a heavy favorite to win the East (and the title) if the brawl didn't occur, but that team had the trappings of one that blows up on itself during a long season.  


February 29th, 2012 at 11:48 PM ^

Very interesting read.

O'Neil makes hardly any sense at all (the author kept correcting him in the footnotes) except for one of his last quotes about how the brawl effected the good people of Indy. That was a very poignant observation.


March 1st, 2012 at 12:04 AM ^

There really isn't any purpose for this article.  All it does is continue the media's infatuation with linking Detroit to violence.  Almost all national stories about Detroit, whether in the news, sports, or even financial section, have something to do with violence or mass exodus.  


March 1st, 2012 at 3:54 AM ^

I saw the replay in the tiny island nation of Palau! I was walking by a TV when I noticed Piston basketball highlights. I knew something major had happened because they did not show American sports there. It was international news. It was definitely insinuated that race/hip-hop culture was to blame at that time. Although in the not too distant past, hockey players have fought fans in the stands, and there were no racial overtones to those incidents.

As an aside, I was a big fan of Simmons for his earlier work, but I am not a fan of podcasts. I prefer written material. Also, Grantland is not as good as I hoped. I think the initial Page 2 of ESPN with Simmons, Hunter S Thompson and Ralph Wiley among others was more original and entertaining.

Frankly, I think that MGoBlog is the best the Internet has to offer in the way of deep, informative material, humor, snark and camaraderie. It has great original content and links and commentary to major sports and events. In less than 50 comments on this subject, we have discussions of sports, violence, race, society, art and international relations. To continue another theme around here, I am currently drinking a Bass ale, the original pale ale. Cheers.


March 1st, 2012 at 9:43 AM ^

A lot of data points led to what went down. The biggest miss was the Palace staff not removing the prick who threw the first beer at half time when they confronted him. Remove him and no brawl. Blame Artest all you want but the felon in the stands, who lived next door to the prosecutor!, was the worst bad actor. The guy had priors and had been banned from other venues as well.


March 1st, 2012 at 11:00 AM ^

You can point blame at anyone you want, but there are really only two people to blame.  Ron Artest and the fan who threw the drink.

Seeing as the drink was in a plastic cup and that Artest was not even minorly injured by it, his decision to charge into the stands stands as one of the worst in-game decisions by a pro athlete in decades.  Yeah, it sucks to get hit by something.  I'm sure it stung a bit.  But to charge into the stands like some crazy psychopath is just beyond any explanation.  It isn't like the guy was continuously firing stuff at Artest and he had to make him stop.  He was in no danger and had not been harmed.  He needed to get up, get security over there to deal with the fan, and get out of the situation.

The fan behavior that ensued was of course reprehensible, but once players are in the stands throwing haymakers, I don't think you can expect the fans to have any sense of decorum.


March 1st, 2012 at 12:55 PM ^

Having seen Artest in person in a Rockets uniform at media evets etc. I truly believe Ron has serious issues. That's why I can't fathom why no one on the Pacers staff led him off the court after the initial foul calls as the game was over etc. Add one more person failing to your list.

I remember a story Artest told once about seeing a guy killed with a table leg on a court in NYC, crazy stuff. On the other hand Artest has a huge charitable foundation that he started in Sac and has put alot of kids in college. Hell he majored in Math at St. Johns! The guy is some type of psycho-savant-Queensbridge Hood-prototype.



March 1st, 2012 at 4:00 PM ^

I don't think there was any way they could have known what was going to happen.  It was looking like a routine NBA shoving match at first, and seemed to be calming down when the fan hit him with the cup.  As crazy as Artest can be, he'd never charged into the stands before then, so they couldn't have expected anything like that. 

The one thing they could have done was tell him to get down from the scorer's table.  That seemed needlessly provocative.


March 1st, 2012 at 11:24 AM ^

I worked the game for the home broadcast. I ran the hand held camera under the basket, pistons bench side. It was crazy. There was 3 broadcast that night (home show, visit, and espn) So there was at least 20 to 25 cameras in the building. So many different looks or angles of the fight. ESPN being there live did not help. They could get info on sports center right away and give their view to the world right then and there. There were police in the truck looking at footage. I brought my camera out to the truck after the broadcast was over and then was locked out of the palace for 30 min. The back hallway to the locker rooms was on lock down.

Its funny that we are talking about this today, last night I worked the pistons game and stuckey got fouled hard and a there was a little pushing and words were said. I took 2 steps on to the floor and stoped. There is a rule in the NBA now that if a fight breaks out you can not go on to the floor. (not just players, camera guys too) It made me think of the brawl  On that night of the brawl there were at least 8 hand held cameras on the floor. and everyone went out on the floor. Because of the brawl, they made this rule. It was crazy! I was pushed by a pistons asst. coach and told to to get the hell out of here.(pistons bench) I also remember Mahorn trying to break it up. So many people to blame. It was crazy to be part of it, but it is sad too,my footage is part of history. I just wish it was for something good and not a negative moment in time.


March 1st, 2012 at 11:45 AM ^

Help me understand the "no camera" rule. You would think they would want as much footage as possible. For instance, in yesterday's Grantland article, one of the footnotes mentioned that it was only when watching supplementary footage that they were able to get a positive ID on the perp who threw the beer. Would they have been able to do that with the current no camera on the floor rule?


March 1st, 2012 at 1:36 PM ^

I think the basic idea is for us (camera guy) to not get hurt, or make the fight worse. You can shoot the fight from  your spot on the floor. (the spot you shoot game action from)

If all the HH guys go on to the floor(that night 8) and each camera guy has a ute(person that wraps the cable) Thats another 8 people on the floor, not counting audio tech, and ref's, trainers. You are looking at 20 or more people on the floor that should not be there.

I have been told in camera meetings, when a fight breaks out camera 1 (the game cam)go wide to see both benches. The NBA wants this, to be able to see who left the bench.(so they can fine or suspend them) 

The shots of the guy that threw the beer were caught by up cameras. The slash camera above the visit tunnel, and the camera on top of the basket. Did HH looks help, yes. but the NBA still thinks we can get the shots we need with out getting in the way.

So yes, the NBA wants as much footage that it can get. But they do not want us(camera guys) adding to the mess, and getting in the way or hurt because of the fight. And the fact that there was 3 broadcast that night helped with the extra footage.

It is in our nature(hand held guy) to get the best shot we can get. But if one guy goes out to get a shot, then everyone goes. and it is a mess.  But if everyone stays in their spot, then you can shot what you need with out getting blocked. This is only a rule when there is a fight, or game is in play.

Looking back at it now. was I dumb for running out there to get the shot...yes. It was crazy and dangerous. But at the time I did not think it was going to get that out of hand.

So it is a good rule. It stoped me last night from running out there when stuckey got fouled.

I hope this answered your question.

M - Flightsci

March 1st, 2012 at 5:27 PM ^

Jackson: I knew we had to get out of this arena before all these guys in the nosebleed seats got down to our section. That's the felons, the guys that really don't care about losing anything. If they come down there, somebody's going to really get hurt.




I'm a felon apparently