Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Arenas Suspended

I'm a gun control guy. Gilbert Arenas very obviously should not have brought guns into the locker room. He shouldn't have playfully shot a finger gun at his teammates Tuesday night. He had to be suspended.

If you're anything like most talking heads, that's probably where our agreement on the subject ends. Even if David Stern was one of those people who thought the finger gun thing was nothing more than a bit of humor, a rebellious act against the establishment, he'd have to suspend Arenas. Perception is very important to the success of the NBA, and for reasons that I won't go into here, the league is unfairly perceived as filled with thugs.

I tend to think that it was a funny act of rebellion against a culture that can take things, particularly the actions of sports stars, way too seriously. He's in trouble with the law for the real guns in the locker room, but the finger gun motion was nothing more than a defense mechanism. It was Arenas's contribution to discussion over his actions and it was a poignant one, "Don't take my actions as a sports star too seriously."

Arenas's problem is that he misjudged what is important in our culture. Arenas didn't hurt anyone. He was simply making light of his own troubles. But that doesn't matter. He should have realized that it was going to be taken seriously. It would be treated as if he had hurt someone. Outrage at over-privileged athletes is as American as the Fourth of July. Any excuse to get on a high horse and preach about how today's athletes are overpaid, spoiled, and out of touch (though it's never mentioned that we pay to see them and then hang our dreams on the backs of their athletic prowess). Arenas missed the mood of those covering him. And because of it, he will likely miss the rest of the Twenty Ten season.

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