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Where Was I When…

March 2, 2012

I want to do a series of blog posts in which I tell stories of where I was when something significant happened. Kind of like how people older than me tell tales of where they were when: Kennedy was shot, Lennon was shot or Paul Henderson scored the winning goal in the Summit Series.

Okay, the Paul Henderson thing. That’s a Canadian thing. I’m not sure how many people outside Canada and Russia even knew that there was a hockey game between Canada and the USSR in 1972. But from what I’ve been told, in Canada, every single person in the country knew about that game and probably watched it on television.

What I’m going to do is write a series of blog posts about where I was when I heard about the significant moments since the Lennon assassination.

Where Was I When… the Malice at the Palace

I had been downtown with some friends visiting another friend. Columbia was living in Toronto at the time. It was pretty common for Bob and I to venture down into the city to meet up with Columbia for drinks.

The night began at Columbia’s condo for some “pre-drinking” before moving onto a bar. Well, usually we’d hit a bar. But this night, we went to a lounge.

For those old fuddy-duddies reading this who can’t quite understand the difference, I’ll elaborate. A lounge is a bar with no television and higher priced drinks.

But this was no ordinary lounge. This lounge offered a panoramic view of Toronto, hence the name Panorama. This lounge is located atop a tall building with balconies on two sides. The view, although trying to emulate something like you’d see in New York City, does not. Toronto isn’t that pretty to look at. At night, it looks like night time, you know, without the stars. In the day time, all you can see is Toronto’s concrete towers. For some reason, when Toronto grew up and started building tall things, many of them were built with concrete, all concrete. Not the prettiest substance to build a skyscraper.

We sat around a large round table and talked of many things. None of which were at all important. At one point, Jayna demonstrated how she could tie a cherry stem in a knot with her tongue. Upon seeing the knotted cherry stem, I leaned over to Zan and said “You are a very very very lucky man.”

Eventually the night was wound down. It was time to head home. Bob left the lounge first to retrieve his car. What a nice guy that Bob. He fetched his car and pulled it around to the front of the building so we could have a couple extra minutes lounging.

Slowly, I left and made my way down the elevator and through the lobby and out the building. I saw Bob, in his car, riveted by his radio, his sports talk radio.

“WIGSF, listen to this.”

“Huh, what? The Raptors lose again? That ain’t news.”

“Shhh! Listen.”

I quieted down and listened to the radio. What I heard was reports of a riot having broken out at a basketball game.

The long drive home, Bob and I were fixated on this. Slowly we heard report after report of what had happened.

When I got home I turned on my television and computer. I put the sports news on both devices. I saw the highlights and the lowlights from a basketball game gone horribly horribly wrong.

This early season match-up between bitter rivals the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers was supposed to be the rematch from the previous seasons playoff series in which the Pistons were ultimately victorious. Instead, the chippy game nearly turned into a blow-out by the visiting Pacers team. The play in the game got physical. The players did not like each other and had no bones about letting their hatred be known.

With mere seconds left on the game clock, one player fouled another player harder than the usual NBA foul. The fouled player took more offense than normal to the foul and retaliated. The two teams confronted each other with pushes and shoves and some punches and lots and lots of heated words. The referees failed to separate the now warring factions. Slowly, ever so slowly, cooler heads looked like they were making their way into the brawl. Ron Artest, the Pacers player who committed that incendiary hard-foul on Pistons forward Ben Wallace, was cleared away from the epicenter of the brawl and made his way to the court-side scorers table. He got up on the table and lied down. Maybe he was resting, maybe he was trying to calm himself down. Once he lied down though, he was hit with a beer that had been launched from the stands.

Hell unleashed.

Ron Artest immediately charged into the stands searching violently for the person who pelted him with a beer. As Ron charged into the stands, others followed. The fight that had began as Pacers versus Pistons turned into Pacers versus Detroit. Pacers players were in the stands fighting with the fans and the fans were down on the court fighting with the players.

Since the Malice at the Palice, I’ve been unable to shake an image from my mind. Indiana Pacers player Jermaine O’Neal, a tall, lean fellow with long arms, charged and threw a punch at a rotund fan who’d ran onto the court. O’Neal lunged into the punch with so much force and velocity that he himself lost his footing and fell forward onto the fan he attacked. Both men hit the hardwood floor of the NBA court.

This was not the first time a fight broke out at a major league sporting event that would spill out into the stands. This was not the first time a fan made his way onto the court. This, however, was an event I will never forget. I will never forget Ron Artest lying down on the scorer’s table only to be hit with a launched beverage and then charge into the stands to find the person who threw the beverage. I will never forget Jermaine O’Neal throwing a punch that was something akin to a one-sided medieval jousting match. I will never forget first learning about the brawl at the steps of the Manulife Centre at Bay and Bloor.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2012 11:48 am

    Wow, this is really interesting. I can’t wait to see what other significant events you relate to various points in your life. Should be interesting.

    Probably gonna do stuff on 9/11, the OJ trial, the Bin Laden take-down, Wrestlemania X8 and Y2K.

  2. March 2, 2012 12:45 pm

    I remember all of it too…. except for the cherry part. You have a better memory of what happened in the Panarama. I need to take Bobette to the Panarama, she has never been.

    If I were you, I wouldn’t take her to Panorama.

  3. March 2, 2012 3:43 pm

    I never heard about this particular riot. Well, it does make for a good story. I am especially impressed by the cherry-stem trick. I wonder if I could do that if I tried.

    Ken wishes you could too.

  4. March 5, 2012 1:53 am

    What a great idea for blogging! :)

    You know, I don’t recall hearing anything about that riot, but then, I don’t follow basketball. It sounds like a pretty serious one, like some of the ones they’ve had in downtown Chicago.

    I need some good blog fodder. Kinda running thin right now.

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