- The Washington Times - Monday, November 22, 2004

Ron Artest warned the Indiana Pacers.The volatile forward told them he was burned out. He needed a rest. He needed vacation time, comp time, sick days, whatever they could spare.

They said no and look what happened: Artest is suspended for the season, and now the whole sports world is coming to an end.

It’s not Artest’s fault. Not this time. At least not entirely.

Artest, who has no trouble finding trouble on his own, not only can plead insanity but maybe self-defense in the Pacers players vs. Pistons fans incident Friday night in Detroit.

Find that soccer hooligan who threw the drink at Artest when he was resting comfortably on the TV broadcast table after his altercation with Pistons center Ben Wallace.

You saw what happened next: The NHL season finally began.

ESPN interrupted its basketball coverage for a showing of “Do the Right Thing.” The world didn’t make sense anymore: Rasheed Wallace and Rick Mahorn were peacemakers.

A chair was thrown, and an episode of “Jerry Springer” broke out.

Pacers point guard Jamaal Tinsley held a metal dust pan over his head — a truly apocalyptic image.

Only one thing was missing: Jeff Van Gundy clinging to someone’s ankle for dear life.

The scene has become this month’s Zapruder film — played on a loop, slowed down, diagrammed and analyzed, the latest evidence that sports in America is really finished this time.

Let the hyperventilating begin.

“That was the ugliest thing I’ve seen as a coach or a player” said Detroit coach Larry Brown, who once coached the Clippers.

“I felt like I was fighting for my life out there,” said Indiana coach Rick Carlisle, who was nearly animated.

“We’ve seen this stuff happen before with Monica Seles. … What can we do with this?” lamented Bobcats guard Steve Smith.

“Shocking, repulsive and inexcusable — a humiliation for everyone associated with the NBA,” commissioner David Stern said.

Take a deep breath, guys.

The Suns will come out tomorrow.

The NBA will go on.

There is a war going on, you know. Americans are fighting for the rights of privileged athletes and privileged fans to fight among themselves.

Maybe Grant Hill, after four seasons away from the nonsense, has it all figured out.

“I just think in the long run, no isolated incident is bigger than the game,” he said. “The NBA will survive.”

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