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No love for Ron
by Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti / November 27, 2004

Seth M. Ferranti

Soul Man is the world's leading prison basketball journalist. He also writes for Don Diva, Elemental, Vice and Slam.
If you want the 411 on convicts, street legends, prison gangs, the mafia and life in the belly of the beast, check out gorillaconvict.com/blog
Check out Soul Man's first book Prison Stories and watch out for Prison Basketball, out in March 2007.
You can e-mail him at info@gorillaconvict.com.

It was a normal Friday night on the block. Dudes were chilling. Watching the games. NBA doubleheader on ESPN. The normal whaling, hating
and hollering going on. Dudes were all posted up in front of the TV. Hoping to hit that four-pick. Betting pushups on the games and shit. Then it happened. The drama jumped off. Shit got chaotic. Punches
were thrown.

But it wasn't on the block. It was on the TV. On ESPN. Broadcast live to the world. And live into FCI Gilmer, a medium-to-high federal prison in West Virginia. It was supposed to be the Pacers vs. the Pistons. A rematch of the two title contenders. Primetime entertainment. But it turned into Friday Night Fights and dudes on the unit were going crazy.

"That shit was vicious man," says Tennessee. "I mean you expect to see that type of drama in here, but that shit was on TV."

In the moment, the prisoner's reaction to what was happening on the TV must have seemed like a mini-riot to the guards.

"Dudes were jumping up and down and screaming like they was at a Mike Tyson fight," says Big Ock. "That shizzle was off the hizzle."

"Man, I seen the guard looking all scared and shit," says Blaze. "Ready to hit the deuces. He didn't know what the fuck was going on."

As the events escalated on the TV so did the prisoners frenzy. The already loud unit got even louder.

"I was chilling in my room reading, " Soulman says. “And I hear all this hollering. I looked out my cell and everybody is jumping up and down in front of the TV. I thought they was watching a boxing match or something. Pay-per-view, you know. But they don't got no pay-per-view in prison. I figured somebody was getting punished on the TV, but I didn't think it was no basketball game."

All the prisoners ran to the TV to see what was causing all the commotion. Usually that type of stampede is reserved for some fiend action. But it was the same on all the blocks. Nobody wanted to miss anything. And the aftermath was brutal as dudes did their best to imitate Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith.

"You don't throw no shit in no man's face," says Smoke defending Ron Artest's actions. "And Ben Wallace started it. I think the fans fucked up. There’s only so much a man can take. The fans should be happy Artest didn't do more. Fuck Detroit anyhow. They some bammas."

Another prisoner called Jason concurred.

"As being a man, it's hard when someone hits you. You want to hit back. If a man punches you, your natural reaction is to punch back."

But Jason’s bunkie Moneyball had a different view.

"I think it was unprofessional. Them dudes are supposed to be role models for kids. I think those dudes acted like thugs."

And surprisingly, a lot of other prisoners echoed this attitude.

"NBA players should have more tact and professionalism. A cup of water should never provoke a man where he's willing to lose his livelihood," says Ralo, a Pistons fan. "And the fans was wrong, they was mad cause we was losing. They made the Pistons organization look bad."

Barry from West Virginia brings up another angle. "Them dudes are a bunch of idiots. They need treatment for real," he says. "How could someone making millions of dollars be bothered by a cup of water? Dude needs psychological help. He’s got issues. He’s got plenty of time to work on his rap album now.”

My man Big Troy sums it all up: "Professional athletes need to control themselves on and off the court. It was an emotional game, but the fans were out of order. Spitting, throwing soda and shit was uncalled for."

For the whole weekend the "basketbrawl" was all dudes talked about in the prison. When the suspensions came down, dudes voiced their opinions too.

"The punishment was too harsh and severe," Jason says. "David Stern singled out Ron Artest for his past behavior. The fans should be held accountable."

Smoke agreed with Jason again.

"The suspension is some bullshit," he says. "Saying all that, I think Artest got what he deserved”.

But Petaway had a different view: "The suspensions were appropriate. All that tough-man act is through. They're NBA players not gangsta rappers. I mean, they’re in front of a national audience not in prison like us."

Ralo from Detroit thinks the punishment was swift and just. "Cats like Artest got too much to lose to get involved in shit like that," he says. And Moneyball agrees.

“Just walk away. It’s not gonna hurt to walk away. Look at all the negativity that happened because Artest couldn’t just walk away.”

"Yeah," Rasou says. "It’s gonna cost Artest a lot more then it’s gonna cost an idiot fan. Plus it cost two other players. He let idiot fan cost him his and his team’s season."

Big Troy brings up a different but very valid and real point.

"The suspension is appropriate because if you don't set an example for something like that, it could cost somebody's life. They got to be more professional. They had kids up in the stands very frightened and crying. That’s not right."

So there it is. The prisoner reaction on the basketbrawl from the heart of the federal prison system. Surprisingly, the attitude is a very sane one. But still like my man Petaway says, “It was exciting. I love how the Detroit fans, both black and white, came together to attack Artest.”

So like in all things, maybe adversity and controversy can promote unity on some level at least. Even in the harsh environments of prison.

Seth "Soul Man" Ferranti, federal prison number 18205-083, is housed at FCI Loretto. Previously he resided at FCI Fairton, FCI Fort Dix, FCI Beckley and FCI Manchester. He has been a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com since 2003

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