(It’s never the wrong time to quote Airplane.)
Well, I had hoped to get a post in before blowing town for a long weekend in Michigan, but travel prep consumed every spare moment. The bowling outing at work was a great time, though I didn’t get the results I’d hoped for. The first two games followed last year’s script, with a 175 and 200 with just one open frame in the first game. Like last year there was a sense (for me) that I’d either put it all together or collapse utterly. But instead of running off a bunch of strikes my game went out the window. First two frames were both good pocket shots that left solid 10s, which I promptly missed (choked). Then a split. A strike. Another missed 10-pin. Another split. Ended up with a 139, followed by a 155. Ouch. Still a fun time, though and that’s all that mattered.
On Thursday we bounded up to Michigan for our last trip to see our various families before our second kid arrives (due May 9th). We also had a date with the Pistons/Pacers game on Friday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills. If you watch ESPN or read the sports page you probably already know that it was quite an unusual evening. The game was slated to tip off at 8:00. At around 7:30 they announced the game would be delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. So, in our perches in the second to last row in the building (there’s no such thing as a bad seat at the Palace) we waited. And waited. Then we waited some more.
After about 45 minutes they put the Michigan St/Duke game up on the jumbotron, which made a lot of people happy. (Congrats Spartans!) I took this as a sign we weren’t going to see any live basketball anytime soon, so I dug out my cell phone and called my dad to find out what was up. Shouldn’t have been much of a shock that the game was delayed because some asshat phoned in a bomb threat. Despite the lack of an announcement, it was probably the worst kept secret in the building given that I was surely not the only one to phone for answers from the outside. I also learned that even when you whisper “bomb threat?” into your cell phone everyone within three feet turns to look at you. And I doubt everyone else with a cell was that discrete. By the time the game got started a lot of the air had gone out of the place, which matched the Pistons game pretty well. Wow, were they bad.
This is one of those teams that you know pretty quickly if you’re in for a long night. When they start jacking up a lot of perimeter shots, don’t pass the ball around, and don’t shut down the paint on the defensive end, you know it’s going to be a struggle. At one point in the 3rd (4th?) quarter the Pacers took them to the paint on three straight layups that were all but uncontested. Ugly, ugly, ugly. Almost as ugly as Reggie Miller’s postgame comments:
“We’ve been penalized so much this year, and our team, and nothing has ever happened to the Pistons or The Palace or even the city of Detroit. It’s almost like it’s always our fault. The league knows it, and the league ought to be ashamed of themselves to let security be as lax as it is around here… David Stern has to take a hard look in the mirror every morning when he wakes up on his decision, the way he penalized us and the way he penalized the Pistons.”
Seriously, as an Indiana resident I feel compelled to pull for the Pacers whenever they don’t play the Pistons. I’ve gone to several of their game and pulled for them wire to wire and I was tuned in when they reached the Finals a few years ago against the Lakers. But this has been a tough year to root for them to do well. Ever since the brawl, not just the team but a whole lot of the fans in this city have taken on this defeatist, it’s all their fault, we’re the real victims attitude. Ben Wallace may just be public enemy number one around here.
And it’s absolutely insane.
Did Ben Wallace charge into the stands and attack a fan? No. Ron Artest did. And Stephen Jackson did. And they weren’t even attacking the guy who threw the cup. You want to talk about victims? Talk to the fans in the stands who got pummeled because they happened to be on the olympic standing there team when these two dopes decided to pick a few people out of the crowd to vent their righteous indignation. And somehow we’re supposed to overlook the fact that Artest was able to shrug off a shove in the face from Ben Wallace, but had too much pride to be disrespected by a nameless, faceless drunken fan who clipped him with a plastic up?
And don’t tell me the Pistons and Detroit haven’t been penalized. Last I checked, it wasn’t Indianapolis that once again became a national punchline just when it was starting to improve its image. Somehow I don’t think some dickhead phoning in a bomb threat is going to do wonders for the team’s or the city’s image either. Lax security? You’re a great player Reggie, a hall of famer, but if you think security was lax on Friday night you’re a bigger idiot than I ever thought possible. The threat was made specifically to the Pacers locker room. According to the press reports, that room had already been screened and secured well before the game as part of routine security measures. They got a threat less than an hour from tip-off and rather than say, “We already checked it out,” Palace officials decided to be cautious and they double-checked everything. That’s what you’re supposed to do. It was anything but “lax.” As the Detroit News’s Chris McCosky wrote, “That building was sealed tightly enough for a presidential visit.”
Reggie – Your team isn’t fighting for an 8th seed in the playoffs right now because of the brawl or the bomb threat. It’s fighting for it because until recently it hasn’t been playing good basketball and too many of your guys won’t shut up about the frigg’n brawl. The Jackson and O’Neal suspensions ended months ago. You didn’t start winning when they stepped back on the floor. Or am I supposed to believe that just having Artest in the lineup would suddenly turn your guys into the Heat or Spurs?
Yeah, it was easier for the Pistons to move on with their season. Guess what? The Pistons players weren’t the ones attacking paying customers in the stands. Artest and Jackson got what they deserved. Yeah, O’Neal’s suspension was harsh, in my opinion. Any fan traipsing onto the court is free meat as far as I’m concerned. Was the fat f-er O’Neal laid out a threat to the players? Maybe. Maybe not. But it was pandemonium in the building and in a world where Monica Seles gets stabbed in the back in the middle of a tennis match I’ve got no truck with O’Neal knocking the snot out of any idiot fan who thinks he can take advantage of a distracted arena security force to go for a stroll on the hardwood.
When we were in the stands all of the folks I sat near concluded it had to be a Pacers fan who phoned in the bomb threat. I mean, really, what kind of Pistons fan threatens to blow up his own team’s building? We probably should’ve known better. But then, so should Reggie before making those kinds of ignorant, asinine comments to the press. While I’ve had my share of beefs with some of Jermaine O’Neal’s public comments in the past few months I have to at least give him some props. Despite being injured he made the trip to Detroit and spoke up in defense of the city and its fans. After talking about how plenty of Pistons fans had wished him luck and a fast recovery from his shoulder injury, he went on to say, “For somebody to do that, I think that is extremely unfair, not only to our team, but it’s unfair to the city. There’s a lot of good fans out here in Detroit. For some stupid person to call and do that, the people in Detroit should be mad at that person.”
Well, put. And speaking as a Pistons fan who was at the game, I am mad. I hope the bastard who made the call is found and hung up for a public flogging. But I also hope somebody throws a muzzle over Reggie Miller. A great player who too often doesn’t know when to just shut the hell up. If he wants to whine so much, he should do what the rest of us do: Start a blog.