Why You Shouldn't Go To ESPN for Legal Advice
Like a moron I turned off the last few minutes of the Pacers-Pistons game and therefore missed seeing the brawl live. I did, however, catch much of the immediate post-riot commentary from the ESPN crew, and I was amazed to hear the normally sober and sensible John Saunders blaming the whole mess on Piston fans, who he said were the rudest and most abusive in the league. Be that as it may, and accepting the fact that there are a large number of Detroit fans who should be arrested and prosecuted and an even larger group who should have their season tickets revoked and/or be given lifetime bans from attending NBA games, the Pacer players who ran into the stands were completely in the wrong, there's no excuse for what they did, and whatever sanctions the NBA hands down will pale in comparison to the criminal and, more likely, civil actions that will be taken against them.
If you haven't seen the fight, it started when notorious hothead and would-be rapper Ron Artest fouled Ben Wallace from behind with only 45 seconds to go in a Pacer rout. A hard foul, and a pretty cheap one considering the circumstances, but hardly an outrage. Wallace turned around and gave Artest a two-handed shove to the face. Tempers flared, Wallace went after Artest some more, but the usually volatile Artest merely laid down on the scorer's table, hands folded behind his head, showing that he was unpeturbed by all the shouting and shoving going on around him. No doubt his insoucience enraged the Pistons and their fans, and no doubt that's exactly what Artest wanted to do. But, tough cookies, at that point all you can do is boo and yell and go home a loser for the night.
Then some fan threw a plastic glass full of Coke or something and hit Artest in the chest, and we were off and running. Artest jumped up, ran into the crowd, and started pummling this guy who was wearing a black shirt. One problem--the guy in the black shirt didn't throw the glass. And this is where I found what John Saunders said totally outrageous. He said something like, "If you're walking through Times Square, and someone throws a Coke at you and hits you, that's assault, and you have the right to defend yourself". OK...but it doesn't give you the right to run around Times Square whomping on people at random. You don't get a free pass to sucker punch an innocent bystander just because someone threw a pop at you. The guy in the black shirt? I bet his answering machine is full of messages from lawyers angling to file the papers in his lawsuit against Artest.
The guy ESPN said DID throw the glass grabbed Artest from behind and gave him a few uppercuts to the jaw, without much effect. A big, rotund dude punched Pacer guard Freddie Jones from behind, Pacer Stephen Jackson ran into the melee throwing punches, and Jermaine O'Neal got involved as well. Rasheed Wallace should get an Oscar nomination for playing the role of peacemaker, as he waded into the crowd trying to separate the players from the fans.
After Artest was dragged back to the court some complete moron ran onto the court and started waggling his shoulders like he was ready to rumble. Artest clipped him with a punch and then started duking it out with another idiot as a security guard grabbed the first dude--just as Jermaine O'Neal clocked the guy with a right across the jaw. By then most of the Pacer players started heading for the tunnel and their locker room, where they were doused with beer, Coke, popcorn, and anything else at hand. Someone chucked a chair into a mass of people including O'Neal, but it looked like it didn't connect with anyone directly. A ref got hit in the face with a plastic bottle full of beer, and I saw at least one other person who looked like he got hit in the face with a thrown object. Jamaal Tinsley tried to run back through the tunnel and hit the fans about with what looked like a broom or dustbin, but he was pushed back inside.
The NBA has suspended Artest, Jackson, O'Neal, and Ben Wallace indefinitely. This is a major black eye for the league, and especially for the teams involved. The three Pacer players deserve long suspensions, but will David Stern have the guts to sit them for 30 games, especially since O'Neal is one of the best players in the league and Artest, for all his past lunacy, is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year?
I don't think so. I hope that the league doesn't put its tail between its legs and excuse their actions, as the ESPN crew did, by blaming the fans for what happened. Look, Artest had every right to be livid after getting hit by that cup. He did NOT, repeat, DID NOT have the right to rush into the stands and start throwing punches. There was security there, there were cops there, they could have handled it. The only time players have the right to run into the crowd is when the ball heads out of bounds. They never, EVER, have the right to run into the stands and start throwing punches. And what happened last night illustrates why. The innocent get hurt as well as the guilty, and that's not acceptable. And do I even need to bring up the fact that when Artest, Jackson and O'Neal were making like Mike Tyson they were outnumbered like 5000-1? What if the guy Artest had taken a swing at was there with 15 buddies? Who had been drinking all night? And didn't like Artest much in the first place? How long would it have taken someone to land a punch that really hurt, or stomp on an arm or a knee and end his career. The three Pacers should be hit with huge suspensions just to nip that macho garbage in the bud forever.
Conversely, the fans who ran onto the court were fair game and deserved everything they got. I have no problem with Artest belting the guy who ran toward him, and if the second punch he took from O'Neal happened after security grabbed him, that's tough. If players can't go into the stands, spectators can't go onto the court. I see a fan on the field of an NFL game running toward the players, I think it's totally within the player's rights to hit the fan as hard as they want, helmet to head if need be. You don't know if they guy has a gun, or a knife, or is on drugs, and on the field players have the right to defend themselves.
The Detroit cops are gonna have a fun time sorting out who in the stands did what to whom and what charges should be filed. Likewise the Pistons will have to go through the video and their seating charts and strip those people of their tickets. I'm sure you'll see other security measures taken, especially moving fans away from the tunnels leading to the locker rooms. I'm sure a lot of people will criticize the security people at the game, and to be sure they didn't distinguish themselves, but those folks aren't dressed in riot gear. They aren't a SWAT team. They're there to make sure individual drunks don't get out of hand, step in if two people start pushing and shoving. They aren't equipped to handle a brawl involving 200 people. They probably should have done a better job securing the area around the tunnel to the Pacers' locker room, but the whole incident took only 3 minutes, and that's not a lot of time to coordinate things.
Without a doubt, the next time Indiana plays in Detroit the game should be played in an empty arena. They've done that after soccer riots in Europe, and this was a bad as any Roma-Lazio derby. The Pistons should also be forced to lock their fans out until they have time to identify and eliminate as many of the morons who took part in the melee as possible.
Will any of these steps be taken? Probably not. Ray Ratto at ESPN has a pretty good column
about this, and he's spot-on about one thing--someday, someone is going to be maimed, crippled, or killed in a brawl like this. Maybe that's what it'll take for the powers that be to get serious. Or, if David Stern acts now rather than later, maybe not.
It's Hard Keeping a Poker Blog Going When You Aren't Playing Poker
Haven't posted in a long, long time, and I've felt rather guilty about it. I've started and stopped a half-dozen posts, some I may post eventually, some I'll just send into the eternal void with a click of the DELETE button. I just don't have much to write about, poker-wise, since I've only played once in the last 2 months. Do I miss playing? Oh, dear God, yes. But not to the point where I feel that if I DON'T play I might curl up and die.
But a night like tonight would have been perfect for a hand or two. Get home, eat dinner, scream at the cats, put the wife to bed around 10PM, and fire up Party. Put the NBA games on (I find watching the NBA on Friday nights incredibly soothing) and win myself some money with wit and verve. Sitting in a comfy chair, wearing flannel sweats, watching a little hoops, and playing some poker? Nirvana.
Alas, tis not to be. In true degenerate fashion, every few days or so I log on to Party or Empire to see if they've dumped a few bucks in my account in an attempt to lure me back. They have not. Which is just as well, because I stopped playing because I wanted to spend more time writing and, more urgently, looking for a job. I just learned my temp position will now last through the end of January, giving me more time to find that "real" job that will allow me to get back into the game. Now is not the best time to be looking, but with the election behind us, and the holidays and the New Year ready to zoom by, I'm optimistic that will come to pass.
The writing continues as well, though it does not zoom. I posted previously that I was participating the NaNoWriMo, a nationwide to-do where people try to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I was gung-ho to do it, but the real world intruded. I couldn't justify writing 2 hours a night when I should be using that time to job-hunt. Plus I play volleyball 2 nights a week and I didn't want to quit that. And need I say that my Sunday's are taken up by the Steelers, who are running over the NFL like the Red Army did through central Germany in 1945?
But I have been writing, just not at a pace to finish in 30 days. I've actually been doing a lot of research of it too, though I am facing some problems. Like, to do the ending part of the book properly, I'm gonna have to go to the Bellagio and walk around and take some pictures. I know, life is hard, but as I don't have plans to go to Vegas this month, that rather precludes me finishing the book by the 30th. I pretty much have the whole thing in my head and outlined out, though I leave myself open to any flashes of inspiration. Some of it, I have to say, is pretty funny. There's a scene in a strip bar I'm especially proud of. Come to think of it, I may need to visit a strip bar to get some material. Haven't been to one in awhile. Hmm, my wife's going out of town for Thanksgiving, I'm staying here...boys night out! Or, at least, boy night out! And if I use it for my book, I can write it off on my taxes...
So I will still be posting here, I haven't hung it up just yet. I've thought about starting a new blog for stuff other than poker, but that's something I'll think over first. Boy, I miss poker. Here in Pittsburgh there are 2 groups who put on charity poker tournaments, and they've exploded in the last few months. I mean, it used to be there was maybe 1 event each weekend--now both groups sponsor at least three or four. Plus there are places that have semi-permanent games, including one place not very far from where I live. "Isn't that illegal?" my mom asked. Well, maybe a little--but when I saw that a local Fraternal Order of Police lodge was having a game, I felt a bit better. And when I saw the small Catholic college where my mom used to work and go to school was having a poker tournament, I felt a lot better. So poker is hunky-dory both in the eyes of the Law and the eyes of the Lord. Part of my book is also set during one of these tournaments, so, again, I need to do some research. Maybe I should include in my book a section where the narrator gets sentenced to 15 months at the Playboy Mansion. Hmm...that would seem a rich narrative vein to mine...
I am profoundly disappointed that I will not be defending my Grublog title this Sunday night. I may have to log on and observe the talking of trash. I feel like a NCAA team who won the title but didn't even make the Big Dance the following year. I wish all of you the best of luck, you filthy, filthy bastards.
Proud to be an American, blah blah blah
Went to bed last night, once again not knowing who the President would be, and waking up it felt a little bit like Christmas morning. You know, something was going to be under the tree, you just didn't know what. The big difference being, of course, that instead of brightly wrapped presents you were going to end up with either coal or ashes in your stocking. No presents to be had, not this chilly October morn.
After each election people talk about how proud they are about the electoral process. And in this election, isn't it wonderful how many more people voted than in recent elections? Yeah, guess that's nice. Thing is, they picked the wrong guy. It's hard to get too giddy and congratulatory about Democracy in Action when the voters re-elect a guy whose previous term leaves so very, very much to be desired.
That is, after all, one of democracy's greatest strengths. The incumbent did a lousy job? He didn't live up to expectations? Then instead of waiting for him to die, or for a coup or some other messy but probably fun insurrection, you just cast your vote four years later and move someone else into the job. That didn't happen this time, and I'm disappointed and disillusioned. I may not have been a card-carrying Kerry fan, but after four years of the Bush Administration he was clearly the preferable choice.
I would be somewhat mollified if I thought Bush would look at how close this election was, how he nearly lost despite his incumbancy, despite the fact that were at war (one or two wars, depending on your interpretation) and maybe learn from this and appreciate how many Americans oppose his policies. Of course nothing of the sort is going to happen--even the most die-hard Bush booster will concede the President is not an introspective man (he may not even know what the word means), nor is he likely to learn from his previous mistakes since, as he stated so memorably in one of the debates, he doesn't feel he's made any.
I'm curious to see what a second Bush Administration will be like. Wait, curious isn't the word. Terrified? Maybe too strong. Apprehensive? Ah, the mot juste. Without the challenge of re-election to check him, how far to the right will Bush move? He has majorities in the Senate and House, he should be able to pass tax cuts for the rich and friendly corporations to his heart's content.
More appalling than re-electing an incompetent President is the gruesome fact that only about 60% of eligible Americans voted. And the media is treating this number like it's a high point in our electoral history. Folks, sixty percent is A DISGRACE. We had war declared on us, with over 3,000 people murdered. Then we initiated another war, 1,000 soldiers dead. The economy lost jobs for the first time since the Depression. A budget surplus turned into a $7 trillion deficit. The Justice Department was granted sweeping powers to invade your privacy. And yet 40% of the populace COULDN'T BE BOTHERED TO VOTE? All the networks made such a big deal about these courageous college kids waiting in line for 10 hours just to cast their ballots, and wasn't that wonderful? Sure, I guess. What isn't so wonderful is that, at least this is what I heard on NPR this morning, among voters age 18-24, only ONE IN TEN voted. I saw another stat that put the number at 17%.
That, dear readers, is news that should be right below the BUSH WINS headlines. If people between the ages of 18-24, who are the ones fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and beyond, who face a future without Social Security, who will have to pay off the massive deficit we've run up the last few years, who are probably suffering more than any other group from the lack of job creation, if these people aren't willing to get off their collected asses and make their political presence known, then what future does our nation have?
When the Great American Experiment in particpatory democracy comes to an end, it won't be an outside force that snuffs it out. It won't be the Trilateral Commission, or the United Nations swooping down in black helicopters. It'll be self-inflicted. Someday we'll elect to have no more elections, we'll vote to disenfranchise ourselves. If you don't vote anyway, what's the big deal about surrendering your electoral rights?
Soon Kerry will give his concession speech, and Bush his statement of victory, and both will speak eloquently about the majesty of the American democracy, about how we are all one nation, united in our fight for freedom and liberty, and against our intractable and evil enemies. It will all be true, and it will all be bullshit. Because both parties were perfectly willing to lie, cheat, steal, libel, slander, bully, intimidate, threaten, and all but wipe their ass with the Constitution in order to get elected. And as the 2004 campaign was worse than the one in 2000, come 2008, when John Edwards and Jeb Bush run, it'll be even worse. Can't wait.