RE: Pistons/Pacers Hoedown. What they didn't tell you after broadcasting the riot video 10,000 times.
It was black players and white fans.
And it was an ongoing fight.
When Pacers Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson ran into the stands they were intent on handing out a beating. Surprisingly, fans didn't bolt; in fact, some of them stuck around wanting more and others walked onto the floor wanting more. Neither side was in a hurry to end the melée, to get their one punch in and leave.
There is an enormous disconnect, a growing separation, between the athletes who play NBA basketball and the people who pay to watch them work. Too many, on each side, don't like each other.
Most personhoods who attend NBA games are white. Most personhoods who play pro basketball are black. The average NBA salary is a tad under $4 million per year. Ron Artest (suspended for 73 games) was scheduled to earn $6,157,895 this year. Stephen Jackson (suspended for 30 games) was due $4,900,000. Jermaine O'Neal (suspended for 25 games) expected $14,782,500. The average NBA customer is living paycheck to paycheck.
Somewhere in the mix of generations and race and class is a disconnect between those who think that a 250-pound professional athlete going into the stands to throw a punch was overkill, no matter what the provocation, and those who see that act as a natural consequence of being disrespected.
There is a disconnect between those who see NBA basketball as a degraded form of "all about me" -- all about dunks and three-point shots, all about Kobe Bryant complaining that the free corporate jet the Lakers put at his disposal, so he could attend court hearings in Colorado, was not up to his standards of luxury. Or Ron Artest asking to spend a month away from his team to either promote, or recover from promoting, a music CD. Versus those who enjoy watching Kobe Bryant performing a brilliant solo ballet, those who admire an authentic in-your-face attitude, of staying real, of understanding the fact that history started in 1970 and all the shit in adults' heads is their problem.
There is a disconnect between those who see the bloated entourages, the bling-bling, the flaunting of money as fun to watch, as something to participate in vicariously and those who see it as an insult to some poor bastard busting his gut on a ten-buck-an-hour job, with a wife and three kids to worry about, waking up in the middle of the night, sweat running down his chest, terrified he'll be laid off and lose his family's health insurance.
There are some facts in this mountain range of emotion, the most important fact being that NBA basketball has been appearing less and less frequently on broadcast television over the past nine years. The NBA has been dealing with this decline and the arrival of the hip-hop generation in petty, lame ways, typical whenever adults deal with youth, made infinitely more difficult in this case because this is rich, old, white guys dealing with rich, young, black men.
So, we have the NBA fining players for wearing their shorts too long. The NBA house rag Hoop Magazine had Allen Iverson on its cover. Well, most of Allen Iverson was on the cover; his tattoos were airbrushed off.
One of life's hard lessons is that the world is still run by rich white men and this Pistons/Pacers/Fans rumble frightened them. This one got way too real. A few more black-players-beating-on-white-fans-in-the-stands rodeos and the NBA will join roller derby as America's 28th most popular sport. That's their fear.
The fact is that many fans are sick of the NBA, sick of players' arrogance, the endless ticket-price increases, the $100 million-plus player contracts and the disdain many NBA players show their fans. Another fact is that many fans see black players as finally getting their due -- finally getting to be the star, the undisputable ruler of what they see as their game -- and they enjoy watching them rub it in, act it out, play it big, be who they are, refuse to bow down in the face of power.
NBA owners will protect their money. In the short run it means swift, sure, and severe punishment for fighting. In the long run, we're all going to get used to hearing this giant sucking sound as foreign players are drafted into the NBA.
Or not. Maybe this big, fat goose of an NBA will keep waddling along. Maybe players, owners, and fans will reach an accommodation, agree to get along at least well enough to keep the gravy train on its tracks. Maybe the NBA will moderate beer sales. Maybe fans will curb their filthy mouths. Maybe players will learn how to pass instead of shoot.