Made some time to watch “Malice at the Palace,” a short (about an hour) documentary about the infamous brawl between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. It was Nov. 19, 2003, and I remember it mainly because Alan had a job interview in Detroit that day, and they’d made him an offer. We were moving to Detroit. Then I came downstairs that Saturday morning, turned on the TV and found it looping on almost every channel.
We laughed and laughed – hey, it’s our new home! What a crazy place! And beyond the usual anniversary pieces, the tiresome Albomesque chin-scratching about Our Violent Society and Won’t Someone Think of the Children, I haven’t thought much about it since.
So I’m glad I watched. And I came away feeling bad for laughing. I hadn’t thought enough about what it meant to the players who were suspended, losing millions of dollars and being derailed for an entire season. And I certainly hadn’t given enough consideration to the jerkoff fans who started the thing, in particular the guy who threw the cup that set things off. His name is John Green and while he expressed regret, I can’t say I felt much of it coming through the screen.
The players, though – that was rough. Ron Artest, who appeared to have a few mental health issues. Jermaine O’Neal, all sweetness and regret. Stephen Jackson, still pissed. And so on.
Of the woefully unprepared security team, we will say little, other than to echo O’Neal’s contempt that one of the cops didn’t recognize Reggie Miller and came close to giving him a mace facial. True, he wasn’t dressed in his uniform – he had a broken finger – but he was in a very nice suit and trying to break things up; you’d think even a suburban cop would realize a 6-foot-7-inch black man in a suit with courtside access was not just another rioter.
(I once stumbled across a stray piece of video from a couple years back. Miller, who has moved on to sports broadcasting, was walking across a court in an empty arena, hours before a NCAA championship game was to start. A few balls are scattered around the floor. Miller is, again, in a nicely tailored suit. He picks up a ball, dribbles twice, shoots and drains it, from well into the three-point zone. Does it again, does it again, does it five times, each time nothing but net, outside the line. All of this is captured by a photographer he doesn’t see. After he’s shot all the balls within reach, he walks off to wherever he was headed. It’s such a pleasure to watch someone who is that good at what he does, doing what he does. And I’m not even a sports fan.)
The worst offenders, of course, are the media. The word “thug” comes up again and again in the coverage, while people in suits sit in front of cameras and opine straight out their asses. Having been an out-the-ass opiner myself, I know the job often requires you to have opinions about shit you know little to nothing about. Still. Man, I’m glad I don’t have that job anymore.
Anyway, it’s on Netflix, and well worth an hour of your time, sports fan or not.
And with that, we await the weekend. The sunrise was lovely this morning, but it’s gonna be a hot one. Stay cool.