Jeoffroi's "spontaneous poetics"
Firstly, I watched the Detroit/Indiana melee about 30 times on ESPN. Wasn't it ironic to hear sportscasters decry the sad state of this game, then remind their audience that after some beer commercials, they'd see it again? Sports fans will argue about how drunk or thoughtless the fans or players were, but that usually the only reason there are sports fans interested with these things in the first place. It's why I watched--for once--isn't it? However, that's a whole 'nother post. But quickly: what do you think was worse for that child in the audience, the threat of one minute of violence, or that everyone in their school will see them crying repeatedly on national television?
Despite my interest in riots I'm in no danger of getting injured during, there were serious things that took place at the end of the game. People did get hurt, and a lot of cheap but highly priced beer was wasted in the process. Still, my favorite part of the debacle was that everyone I saw get hit--I'm sorry if there were others--deserved it. That first fan that got clocked in the stands didn't throw the drink in question but he taunted the player just the same. One time when I was 6, my brother got in big trouble and my father started spanking him right then and there. I pointed at my brother and pretended to laugh at him. My father looked up, pointed at me and said "Now you're next". That taught me two things: kicking a man when he's down is bad karma, and when violence is going down, you'd preferrably just not get involved.
That brings me to my main point. Neither fans nor players did those two things. I disagree with anyone that says fans have the right to taunt athletes, or that athletes are so egotistic and make so much money that they deserve a couple drinks in the face. It's still a rude thing to do as a societal norm. Some would say it inspires their team and intimidates their team's opponents to scream obscenities and racial epithets. How many times has a stadium screamed its united heads off to support a team only to see that team lose time after time? So the Pistons were going to score 16 points in the last 45 seconds and win the game last night? Spectators took the score personally (is it because fans train so hard to root professionally?) and tried to exact revenge. Generally, what a fan does or says in the game has no impact and no importance in that game, and some people will never get that into their heads. I focus on the people in the stands here because they fail to realize that they paid $40 a ticket NOT to heckle somebody but TO MAKE MONEY FOR THE NBA. It's about profit, so buy an overpriced hat and tee shirt, pick up a $4 hot dog and enjoy the entertainment/ligher wallet. Paradoxically, if fans wanted to impact the game even more, they could simply NOT show up. Player salaries and ticket prices would decrease in heartbeat.
Similarly, players ought to know that going into the stands can incite a riot. It doesn't matter if it's a rival team member punching a local fan, or a home team's running back getting celebratory hugs after a touchdown. When the line is crossed it ceases to be a spectator sport and instigates the mob mentality. Consider the free-for-alls after a foul ball goes into the stands during a baseball game; something psychological happens when the competition comes in contact with the viewer. Just as any drunk fan wandering onto the court has every right to be pummeled, so too the player in the stands. And if you see a teammate jump into the stands, don't go in defending him; there's nothing defensible about his act. The renegade player now poses a threat, and the mob he began should quelch him justly through mob rule.
Finally, since I'm ranting and it's late, I should mention that none of this is the fault of security. "Security" is more importantly a state of mind than an actual title. When police and others are stationed throughout an arena, they are there to be a physical reminder as to why people shouldn't start mobs: they could be punished as a result. Police on the highways only stop a few speeders, and most everyone drives above the speed limit daily. When a cop is nearby, however, you slow down just in case, if only for a minute. It's the same idea. Together, the players and spectators in Detroit collectively chose to interact outside their true spheres of influence and impose hegemonic influence in others' personal space, forgeting the imaginary "security" line that promised their safety. Cops can't contain real mobs; think of the L.A. riots of 1992 as a prime example. To a point, they can only make sure that a problem doesn't get worse.
In summation, persons on both sides of the line encouraged both their peers and those on the other side of the line to subvert the symbiotic crowd/player relationship. Even though mobs are temporal alleviations of civilized discourse, rioting is not outside civilization. Even during an insurrection, you are responsible for your own actions.