THE AUTHOR

Ian Casselberry is a freelance writer, currently based in Asheville, NC. He is an editor at The Comeback and Awful Announcing

Previously, he has been a contributing writer for Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew, MLive.com and SB Nation. In addition, he was a lead baseball writer for Bleacher Report. 

You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook, where he craves your attention.

He still plans to write that novel someday. 

("Pearls Before Swine" © 2005 Stephan Pastis)
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Wednesday
Nov192014

The 10-year anniversary of 'Malice at the Palace'

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Today is Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. That makes it the 10th anniversary of "Malice at the Palace," the brawl between the Pistons and Pacers that spilled into the stands and became one of the infamous incidents of its kind in NBA (and professional sports) history.

The Pistons actually do have a home game tonight, hosting the Phoenix Suns. There's a good chance the occasion gets mentioned during the radio or TV broadcasts. As you might expect, 10th anniversary retrospectives are being written. Though it should be noted that nothing similar has happened in the NBA since, and the sport seems much less physical than it used to be. 

(I'll admit I don't watch as much NBA as I once did, however, so if anyone wants to take issue with that last sentence, please point out my error.) 

Rather than try and piece together my memories of watching that Pistons-Pacers game 10 years ago, I figured I would just re-post what I wrote about it as a fledgling blogger at the time. I had started a blog just one month earlier while studying at the University of Iowa and was home for Thanksgiving break. We got the whole week off at Iowa and “Malice at the Palace” occurred on the Friday I arrived back in Michigan. I was watching alone while my parents were sleeping and wasn’t sure if what I was watching was really happening, because it was total chaos.

I cringe at the writing now, of course. But I was young(er), looking for an outlet besides the creative writing and longform nonfiction I was writing mostly for my friends with faint hopes of reaching a larger audience. Just remember that and take pity if you actually take the time to read this. Here it is, after the jump.

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Panic in Detroit | Nov. 20, 2004

I thought it would be just a quiet night back home in Michigan. The parents went to bed, and I sank into my dad’s armchair to watch the end of the Detroit Pistons-Indiana Pacers game on ESPN. And that’s when everything went crazy on TV.

Professional basketball players running into the stands (which were virtually deserted because Detroit was getting their asses kicked) and punching fans. Beers getting tossed at the players from all directions. Fights breaking out on the court and in the courtside seats. More players punching fans (who have made their way onto the court), coaches holding their players back, players holding their teammates back, fans tangled up with each other while throwing punches, slaps, and elbows.

It was a near-riot situation at the Palace of Auburn Hills – easily the ugliest outbreak of violence I’ve ever seen at a sporting event. (No, I don’t watch European soccer.) And I’m horrified that it happened in Detroit. I can’t wait for the rest of the country to jump on the pile and throw the usual “Detroit is a hellhole full of hooligans” garbage.

You know what? Auburn Hills is 35 miles from Detroit. The fans involved in the fighting – the ones who were hurling beers at the players – were affluent, suburban white guys. This wasn’t some “urban” riot.

It started with Detroit’s Ben Wallace overreacting to a hard foul by Indiana’s Ron Artest, and shoving him in the neck. Apparently, there was a lot of rough play throughout the game, and it could be argued that in a game where the outcome was likely decided, a hard foul (with a little shove, seen on slow-motion replays) wasn’t necessary. So Wallace was sticking up for himself and playing tough guy. No idea what may have been said on the court, but Big Ben seems to have started the fight.

But Artest is hardly a choir boy. He has a healthy history of crazed, irrational behavior in his NBA career. (Just last week, his team suspended him because he asked to leave the team so he could promote a rap album.) The man has anger management problems. And after he got a beer thrown at him, Artest RAN INTO THE STANDS to go after the asshole who threw it. (TV reports say he likely punched the wrong guy, too.) That’s when things blew up.

It’s hard to blame Artest for wanting to attack the guy, but he’s a professional athlete. He cannot go after fans, no matter what they say or do. Let security escort the guy out of the building, press charges against him, etc. (Security was seemingly nowhere to be seen during this entire brawl, by the way. But those poor guys were probably lost in the melee.) There will be fines, suspensions, arrests, and most definitely lawsuits coming from all of this. It’s a total mess and a huge embarrassment.

Basketball games used to have cages around them, you know…

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Reader Comments (2)

Why are you cringing? This is good writing. Reminds me of the "Young Picasso" exhibit I saw in DC many years ago.

November 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNCDee

Well, that's nice of you to say, Dee. I appreciate it. I suppose I just look at that post and see every way in which I would've written it differently, tried to go deeper instead of just kind of skimming the surface. But blogging was new, I was young, social media was just a thing among college kids, etc.

November 20, 2014 | Registered CommenterIan Casselberry

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