Just like a video game marked "M" for mature, Friday's National Basketball Association matchup between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons became fan interactive at the Palace in Auburn Hills.

What started out as a shoving match, not that uncommon an occurrence in the NBA, between "Afro-head" Ben Wallace of the Pistons and Ron Artest from the Pacers after a flagrant foul under the Detroit basket, quickly dissolved into what the WWF's Gorilla Monsoon used to call a "Pier-6 Brawl" in the stands replete with chairs and food flying.

As coaches and officials attempted to restore order, Artest sprawled out on the scorer's table for whatever reason and some "fan" showered him with a large soda. After that, it was like someone had dropped the flag at the Indianapolis 500.

Artest, Jermaine O'Neal, (who undoubtedly was tutored in the art of being a jerk as a former member of the Trail Blazers) and Stephan Jackson went into the stands to randomly exchange blows with the hometown Detroit crowd.

Wallace, Artest, O'Neal and Jackson were ejected from the game, which was called to an early halt with less than a minute remaining.

I can guarantee if players had pulled a stunt like that on a basketball court in Grant County, their playing days would be over and coach Brown at Long Creek, coach Fast from Prairie City, coach Inscore at Monument/Dayville and coach Smith at Grant Union would probably have had the player drop his uniform on the bench and march his stupid self right out of the gym wearing only his shorts and sneakers.

On Sunday, league president David Stern came down hard on those involved in the brawl and for my way of thinking, it's way past time.

Artest is suspended for the remainder of the season, Jackson is gone for 30 games, O'Neal for 25 and Wallace for six - all without pay.

In Monday's sports section, several players and coaches remarked how they were "surprised" by the harshness of the penalties handed down.

Harsh! Give me a break!

For my money, it's about doggone time somebody set a few of those NBA prima donnas down a peg or two and reminded them that even though they are overpaid and undertalented, the league runs the show.

I thought Pistons' coach Larry Brown made a good comment when he said how is anybody going to explain what happened to some child they'd brought to the game.

A fan was short and sweet when he gave his opinion.

"This stuff is playground ball and should be left on the playground. These guys are supposed to be professionals," he said.

By the way, Indiana won the game 97-82, if anybody cares.

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On a more pleasant note, congratulations on excellent seasons to the Prairie City football and volleyball teams which captured the TriCo League championships and to the Grant Union football and boys soccer teams for their second-place finishes in the Wapiti League and Mountain West Conference.

Also noteworthy was the Mt. Vernon Middle School's 8th-grade football team finishing the 2004 season undefeated.

Folks from this part of the state can be mighty proud of the efforts of our young men and women during the fall sports season.

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