Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Role Models - No Agent for Agent Zero

With all the hoopla over Wizard's star Gilbert Arenas, I figured it was time to take a break from recycling matters and weigh in with my own thoughts regarding Secret Agent Zero. The conflict over bringing unloaded firearms into the team's locker room, and using them as a prank against teammate Javaris Crittenton, and then going so far as to present a gunslinger pose in the pregame huddle for cameras in Philadelphia following the incident, is naturally, a serious violation of league rules, not to mention a breach of standard conduct for normal human beings. What made the superstar athlete commit such hasty, ill-advised "jokes" can be found in the impulsive, answer-to-no-one, goofball nature that is Gilbert Arenas. The fact that Agent Zero has no agent, no publicist, no one telling him what to do but himself, is probably the uttermost reason for why he went through with the act, and all the other obscure dramas that have dotted his career.

While substitute teaching a couple years ago, I couldn't help but feel hometown pride when I saw all the youts sporting Arenas jerseys. At the time, it seemed like Washington had a bright future ahead of them, but now it looks like the purchase of a Jamison or Butler jersey (yeah Sanchez) would have been more prudent. It disheartens me to think how those students are making sense of this situation now (as we all are), but those who worry about all the kids who looked up to Gil as a role model should sit back and contemplate the fact that Gil himself seemingly has no role models. His mother was a drug addict that left him and his father, Gil Sr., at a young age. While Senior-Junior nomenclature is usually a sign of strong family ties and affection, it can often leave the younger individual with a sense of abjection and a desire to be different. A "no heroes," "look what I can do" sentimentality seems to course through Gil's veins, a similar vein of thought attributed to feisty teenagers who make rash decisions, perhaps highlighting his appeal to youngsters and noncomformist ballers like myself. It's not quite immaturity, but rather a Clint Richie "everybody needs a gimmick" mixed with a Deshawn Stevenson/Magic Man "now you see me, now you don't" mentality. Combine this history and personality traits with the calculating will and talent to succeed at the game of basketball and you get Agent Zero.

There's no doubt in my mind that Arenas was, is, and will still be an amazing basketball player, despite this season's mishaps. I'd pick him up on my squad any day, and if the NBA/Wizards don't forgive him in time, then Europe will pay him to play. This is why this whole fiasco is so bittersweet; another Washington sports star taken down in his prime. And this time, it is all his fault, but this infraction is so minor compared to other crimes in the world. People seemed to forgive Dick Cheney for actually shooting somebody. Police get acquitted every year for shooting young black men in the back of the head. The NRA is a cherished American institution (I guess basketball players don't have the right to bear arms). Referees regularly gamble on NBA games, making calls that change the course of the game, yet only one has eve received punishment while the practice is still running rampant. People seem to forget Gil's appearances at street ball games in underserved neighborhoods across the area, his monetary donations to local schools in the 06-07 season, as well as his mentoring of a ten year-old D.C. orphan. It is in these acts that Arenas' redemption lies, not in the bragging rights of Hibachi and Agent Zero.

Unloaded gun pranks are forgivable in my book and the suspension at most should have been 10 games. The fact that this man spent the last two seasons benched with a horrendous knee injury/surgeries makes the cause for forgiveness and reconciliation even more arguable. I've run the whole gambit of the stages of grief for this episode: anger (at the league), denial (nothing's going to happen), bargaining (if he sits out, other Wizards will step up) depression (the Wizards are utterly hopeless), and hopefully this note will lead to acceptance, but at this point, the NBA is not very fun to watch anymore. Our sports teams could be a whole lot worse, but this does not comfort fans of such a fluke professional sports scene. Thank God for the Caps. Thank God for college basketball, although even colleges are seeing gun charges with the recent Tennessee scandal. Is stability and success such a hard thing to grasp for a city that transitions and leads so well?

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