Hate Mail: Wicked witch
Once the Rev. Al Sharpton crawled out from under his rock to kick dirt onto the Washington Wizards' Gilbert Arenas for bringing guns to the arena, it was safe for anyone and everyone to pile on. And anyone and everyone did just that as they awaited NBA commissioner David Stern's choice of punishment, which he partially delivered Wednesday as an indefinite suspension that he said would "ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse."
According to anyone and everyone, "substantial" was a good place to start, but "perhaps worse" was more like it. Before Wednesday, some critics had said Arenas' suspension should last the rest of this season. Others said it should last the rest of Arenas' life.
To which I say: Has everyone lost their mind? Not Sharpton. He doesn't count. Of course that guy has lost his mind, assuming his was ever in working order in the first place.
But everyone else: Are you insane? You want to make an example of Gilbert Freaking Arenas?
Listen, I'm not here to minimize violence in the workplace. Nor am I here to minimize the image problem of the NBA or professional sports as a whole, which even the manipulative, insincere Sharpton noted has a "culture of violence."
"The NBA," Sharpton told the New York Daily News, "needs to stand up and send a strong message."
To this guy? For this incident?
Arenas isn't evil or even, if you ask me, dangerous. He's a dork, is what he is. He's immature and inappropriate. He's the class clown, the guy who will inch right up to that line in search of a laugh and then, if you're not laughing yet, will sprint willingly over it. We all know people like Arenas, people who hide behind corners and scream "boo!" and seem genuinely baffled that the victim of their prank was more irritated than amused. Arenas is annoying, not nefarious.
And don't, whatever you do, try to counter that position -- Arenas is annoying but not nefarious -- with the garbage reporting of the New York Post's Peter Vecsey, a longtime NBA writer who hasn't gotten a story right in years, including this one. Not a single witness has backed Vecsey's mind-blowing version from Jan. 1 that Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton had drawn guns on each other in the locker room less than two weeks earlier. That's because it didn't happen.
The problem is, first impressions are lasting. They're stubborn. The first thing most of us heard of this incident was the Post's version of events, and while that version was so fictional and over-the-top that it should have been co-authored by James Patterson, that's the version that sticks.
Arenas and Crittenton drew down! Did you hear?
Yeah. I heard. And it didn't happen. So where do we go from here?
We go to the actual crime committed, assuming a crime was committed -- and I'm assuming it was, given that Arenas has admitted to bringing his four guns to the Verizon Center and storing them in a locked container in his locker. That's a crime, considering his guns aren't licensed in Washington, D.C. That crime should be punished. No question.
Did you read what I just wrote? I wrote: That crime should be punished. No question.
Don't make me out to be soft on crime, because I'm not. The NBA has a rule against guns at the workplace, and for breaking that rule Arenas should be suspended. For how long? I don't know. Maybe 10 games. Maybe 20. Enough that he knows, and other NBA players know, never to do it again. But not so much where Stern will have cowed to the mania of public anger created by the shoddy reporting of the Post.
If you want to be angry, be angry with Vecsey. That clown, after screwing up the story from Day 1, has built upon his house of cards with a column advising Stern to give Arenas a lifetime suspension. You want to read that story? Find it yourself. I'm not linking to a malicious pissant like Vecsey.
|Suspend Gilbert Arenas from the NBA for life? You cannot be serious. (Getty Images)|
When Sebastian Telfair took a loaded gun onto the team plane in 2006, even if that was an innocent mistake, he should have been suspended a lot more than two games. Other than a school, an airport is just about the worst place to bring a gun. Telfair's two-game suspension was laughably soft.
When Golden State's Chris Mills fought with Portland's Bonzi Wells in 2002 and took the fight from the court to the parking lot, allegedly brandishing his gun at Portland's team bus, he should have been suspended a lot more than three games.
Delonte West was caught in September with three loaded guns, including a shotgun stashed in a guitar case. Stern hasn't acted on that, because Maryland police are still investigating and because West didn't -- as Arenas did -- bring the guns to work. But when Stern is ready to act, West should be suspended a long, long time. Longer than Arenas. West's guns were loaded. Arenas' guns were not. Major distinction.
It's not just Vecsey who wants Arenas' head on a platter. Media members everywhere are suggesting a suspension for the rest of the season, while the incredibly reasonable Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post says the Arenas incident warrants breaking up the entire damn team. Some say the Wizards could use this incident to invoke the "morals clause" in standard NBA contracts and have the bulk of Arenas' $111 million contract voided. Mitch Lawrence from the New York Daily News says Arenas should be suspended for life.
I repeat: Are people crazy?
Ron Artest went into the crowd and beat up a paying customer in 2004. Stephen Jackson did the same. Latrell Sprewell choked his coach. Tim Donaghy bet on games he refereed. Those were heinous offenses, and those miscreants deserved to have Stern throw the entire bookshelf at them. But a goofball like Arenas deserves one of the worst punishments in NBA history? For this?
No. Not this guy, who gives more than $100,000 annually to local schools (among other charitable acts), and not for this. I believe he brought his guns to work for the reason he said: to get them away from his three children, all under 5, including a baby born days before he brought the guns to the arena. I believe he used a gun as a prop in a joke gone bad directed at Crittenton. I believe Arenas, who just the other day mocked his own predicament by shooting imaginary pistols -- his fingers -- at teammates, is a misguided, but harmless, goofball. All of his teammates laughed at his finger-shooting joke, which apparently ticked off Stern but which tells me the other Wizards know the entire incident was just what Arenas says it was: a poorly conceived joke.
That said, it was a pretty damn awful joke. And bringing the guns to work was an awful mistake. And Arenas should pay a stiff penalty for those lapses in judgment.
But if we're talking about banning anyone from the NBA, for a year or even longer, Stern could do worse than to start the line at Peter Vecsey.