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A decade on from the Malice in the Palace... here's how not to get in a fight with an athlete

Just shut up and watch the game.

TODAY MARKS THE 10-year anniversary of one of the most absurd moments in American sporting history:

Source: TheOfficialNBAChanel/YouTube

What started as a fairly standard clash between players somehow turned into a showdown between fans and basketball stars.

Pure anarchy descended on The Palace of Auburn Hills, Michigan, and the match went down in history for reasons absolutely unrelated to basketball.

After a fight between the Pacers’ Ron Artest and Pistons forward Ben Wallace, Artest lay down on the scorer’s table. A fan in the stands hurled a plastic Diet Coke cup at the six foot seven inch forward.

Bad idea. Artest tore into the crowd and wrestled a spectator to the ground whom he mistakenly believed to have thrown the cup. One of Artest’s teammates, Stephen Jackson, punched a fan who had thrown another drink over Artest while other spectators were holding him back. The fight went on with other spectators and players even after Artest returned to the court.

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Nine players were suspended for a total of 146 games and five fans faced criminal charges. Ron Artest has since changed his name to Metta World Peace, which reflects a change of heart, I suppose.

Fans fighting with athletes is all the rage these days, so with the anniversary of the “Malice at the Palace” in mind, here’s five don’ts if you fancy leaving a match with all your teeth.

Lesson one: Don’t get too close

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Chris Falcone, a Philadelphia Flyers fan, broke the first rule of smack-talk when he leaned against the penalty box  to heckle Toronto Maple Leafs’ Tie Domi. Domi had squirted his water bottle at taunting opposition fans. Irritated, Falcone got up close and personal to make his anger felt.

The glass gave way and Falcone probably realised very quickly that he’d bitten off more than he could chew with the rival hockey player. Doni was fined $1,000 by the NHL.

Lesson two: Don’t cross that line of abuse

Source: SHIFTY POWERS/YouTube

Matthew Simmons’ name might not ring a bell, but he’s probably the most famous Crystal Palace fan in the world. He was on the receiving end of that infamous kung-fu kick delivered by everyone’s favourite crazy Frenchman, Eric Cantona.

Cantona had been shown red for a kick on a Palace player, after a game riddled with calls against the Manchester United man. When Simmons started abusing him from the stands, Eric went for him.

Simmons claims he merely said something to the effect of “it’s an early bath for you, Mr Cantona.” Other, perhaps more reliable, reports suggest he swore and made reference to Cantona’s nationality. He was later revealed to have an assault conviction and to have attended British National Party and National Front rallies.

Whatever he said, Cantona lost the rag in the heat of the moment, teaching us all that if you’re going to slag a footballer, you might not want to do it when tempers are already frayed.

Lesson three: Just don’t mess with hockey players. Ever

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For this lesson, we have to go all the way back to 1979, when the Boston Bruins took to the stands in Madison Square Garden.  All but one of the players on the team that day went over the glass.

New York Rangers fan John Kaptain had started the row, leaning over the glass himself and smacking the Bruins’ Stan Jonathan in the face with a rolled-up programme before making off with his hockey stick. One of his teammates thought Kaptain had punched Jonathan.

Mike Milbury, a Bruins defenseman pummelled Kaptain with Kaptain’s own shoe. After avenging his teammate, Milbury threw the shoe back onto the ice.

So, you know, best not to get on the wrong side of a hockey player. Next thing you know, the whole squad will be on top of you.

Lesson four: Don’t sit beside a heckler

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We’ve all been there – stuck at a match of some sort beside a know-it-all or just plain abusive fan who won’t keep their mouth shut. It’s not worth sticking around, especially when the abuse gets too much and a player takes matters into his own hands.

Especially when that player’s aim is a little off.

That’s what happened to an Oakland A’s fan, Jennifer Bueno, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time when Texas Rangers player Frank Francisco decided to hurl a plastic chair in the general direction of a heckler.

Bueno’s nose was broken in the fracas and she later settled a lawsuit against Francisco out of court.

In fairness, sitting beside Francisco’s abuser wasn’t really her fault – it just so happened to be her husband. Surely it goes without saying, but maybe you shouldn’t marry a heckler either.

First published at 13.47

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