Any sports fan remembers where they were the night of November 19, 2004. It started with some simple shoving and included a Ron Artest interview while lying on the scorers table. For those watching it at home, it was impossible to turn away from what happened next. It took what seemed like a lifetime to comprehend all of the punches thrown, the fans trampled in the crowd, the anger that we saw unfolding before us.
July 22, 2008 will not come near the spectacle of that cold November night at the Palace. There won’t be the ensuing lawsuits or the memories from that incredible moment. What we saw were women’s basketball players fighting in the closing moments of a tough battle between the Detroit Shock and the Los Angeles Sparks. Unlike in some of their previous battles, Bill Laimbeer and Michael Cooper watched these “professional” athletes fight like spoiled children just feet from where it all went down those four years ago.
The lasting images this time will not be of Jermaine O’Neal or Ron Artest throwing haymakers in the crowd. We will go on YouTube or other online sites and remember that Cheryl Ford reaggravated her knee in a rare peacemaking role for a member of the Malone family. We will see that the one cog that remained consistent between 2004 and now was Rick Mahorn – this time pushing Lisa Leslie to the Palace floor. Yet again, Detroit sports have a black eye due to unnecessary roughness at the Palace. Maybe the larger issue is why we find these actions acceptable in baseball or hockey, but not in basketball.
For the struggling WNBA I would find it hard to believe that this event could drive more fans to the league.