Christmas, 2004. The Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons meet up at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis for a rematch following the so-called “Malice in the Palace,” the night of super-classy sportsmanship with riots and arrests with a soupçon of basketball as a pretext.
Greenwood Red was at the Christmas Day, post-riot rematch between the Pacers and Pistons in Indianapolis. Here, mostly in his own words, is what happened:
“It was the first time that the two teams had played since the riot and I wanted to be there and be supportive, so I got seats that were only thirteen rows away from the floor, underneath the basket. The place was full, even for a Christmas game, and Detroit was kicking our ass pretty early. Sometime in the second quarter, the game had hit a little bit of a lull. Player Ben Wallace went to the line. Wallace had been one of the major instigators of the brawl. So in my shy, demure voice [Editor’s note: Red has a voice that could fill ten cathedrals without amplification. Red has a rich voice, a voice made to be heard. It is also a voice that can’t not be heard. “Shy” and “demure” are two adjectives that run screaming when they see Red coming.], I shouted out ‘Ben Wallace is a thug.’ It was quiet and quite a bit of the lower part of the Fieldhouse heard me and there were laughs and giggles all around, probably because Ben Wallace was, in fact, a thug. Wallace hit the free throw and the game went on.
So about five minutes later, two green-coated Conseco ushers/members of the Fieldhouse nazi squad showed up by my seat and said ‘Sir, can you please come with us?’ I had no idea why; I thought maybe I’d won a contest or was getting an upgrade to the front row.
‘What’s this about?’ I kept asking. ‘What’s this about?’
‘Please follow us’ was the only response I could get.
I was taken deep in the bowels of Conseco Fieldhouse, more confused as to what was happening and where I was being taken. The usher-nazis open up a door and I see 15 or 20 IMPD officers and a few Marion County sheriff’s deputies huddled around a couple boxes of Long’s doughnuts and as soon as the door opens, everybody looks. There’s a lock-up cell in the corner with bars and a chair in it. The cop in charge looks over at all of us, me and the nazis, and asks ‘what’d this guy do?’
At which point I realized I was in Conseco Jail. The other stormtrooper told the doughnut squad ‘He said Ben Wallace is a fag.’
And that’s when all of the Indianapolis cops proceed to die laughing. There are sprinkles, and jelly, and cream filling everywhere. In the jail.
When the laughing stopped and the doughnuts were cleaned up, the same guy asks again ‘Is that what you said?’
‘No. I said Ben Wallace is a thug.’ More doughnuts and sprinkles and laughing.
‘Is that really what you said?’
The head cop said ‘Just go back to your seat.’
I got back to my seat right before half-time, where I had to explain to everyone what had happened and that I wasn’t intoxicated or belligerent. ‘I was in Pacers Jail. Oh, and by the way, there’s such a thing as Pacers Jail.’ As soon as I told the story, a nice lady a couple rows in front of me pointed out that four rows to the left and slightly in front of me sat Larry Bird and Donnie Walsh. The only conclusion I can draw at this point is that Larry Legend’s hearing is slightly flawed and I was ratted out to the Pacers Brain Trust. I guess the moral of the story is: Detroit fans can throw cars and babies and brawl without any retribution but yelling ‘Ben Wallace is a thug’ in Indianapolis will get you thrown straight into Pacers Jail. [It’s a morality play, Red. A Tale of Two Cities. It’s a Comedy of Manners.]”
And that’s the night Greenwood Red went to jail. On Christmas. Adds Red, “You haven’t really lived until you’ve been thrown in Pacers Jail.”
I asked if he was making it up, especially about the doughnuts. But Red swears it’s all true, inclusive of the doughnuts.
You can follow him on Twitter @GreenwoodRed. He chirps a lot but he does it well.