Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gilbert Arenas’s Op-Ed; Quick note on the Mickelson-McCarron controversy

Gilbert Arenas just doesn’t get it—which hardly makes him unusual in jock-world.

This morning, on the op-ed page of The Washington Post, there’s a column with his name on it (I say that because it was so clearly written by a lawyer) in which he expresses his sorrow about all that he’s done wrong in the last couple of months. He knows now—or so he says—that it was wrong to illegally bring guns into The District of Columbia and into The Verizon Center and that his response to the incident was also wrong.

Right there though, in the second paragraph of his “apology,” is this sentence: “I reacted badly to the aftermath and made fun of inaccurate media reports, which looked as though I was making light of a serious situation.”

Inaccurate media reports? This is still the media’s fault? The guy has pleaded guilty to a felony in a desperate attempt to stay out of jail and this is about inaccurate media reports?

Let’s see, the media reported that he brought guns into the locker room because of a gambling dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton.

Is that true? Yes.

The media reported that he was twittering about the incident after it became public and joking about it.

True? Yes.

Arenas said ON CAMERA that he was going to be “myself,” and continue to joke about what had happened and not taking it seriously. Was that an imposter, ala Tiger Woods at the sex clinic, saying those things?

And then there was the now infamous photo of Arenas making shooting gestures with his fingers during pre-game introductions that forced NBA Commissioner David Stern to finally say, “enough,” and suspend Arenas. Another inaccurate media report?

Arenas can go on and on—as he does in the piece—about how sorry he is for letting people down, especially the kids who have been fans of his in the past. I don’t think anyone questions Arenas’s desire to help kids; he’s gone out of his way to do so in the past. In fact, almost no one who knows Arenas or has been around him even a little bit thinks he’s a bad guy or a mean guy or a malicious guy.

He simply doesn’t get it. Apparently, neither do his lawyers. If they did, that sentence would never have appeared in the piece. If you say, “I’m sorry,” to someone you do NOT say, “I’m sorry BUT…” You just say you’re sorry.

Regardless of what Arenas said today, many people, if not most people, would see the op-ed as an attempt to mollify the judge who will sentence him on March 26th and, perhaps, a last ditch attempt to convince the Wizards that they shouldn’t terminate the remaining $80 million they will owe on his contract once his suspension is over at the end of the season.

But that one sentence is SO revealing about his true feelings. You see, deep down, it’s still not his fault. That’s the way it is with most athletes and coaches in jock-world. They’re never wrong. The media’s wrong or out to get them. Or people don’t really understand them. I’ve said this before: To this day Bob Knight doesn’t think he did a thing wrong the day he threw that chair at Indiana. I’ve heard him go on about how lousy the refereeing was that day and how “no one was hurt,” when he threw the chair. Remember, he threatened to quit when Indiana President John Ryan had the nerve to bring up the idea that the school should suspend him. When Knight said he might quit, Ryan backed down so quickly I think he may still be back-pedaling.

Right now, as we speak, I guarantee you Tiger Woods thinks he’s been hammered unfairly by the media. If you read Jaime Diaz’s recent piece in Golf Digest on Woods, there’s a quote from Woods in which he tells Diaz that he’s really sick and tired of the media hounding him and treating him unfairly.

The conversation took place WEEKS before his post-Thanksgiving dinner car crash. I’ve been around Tiger and the golf media. The way he’s treated is so reverential I once asked a PR guy who was reciting the “rules,” of a Tiger press conference if we were all supposed to stand when he entered the room. And yet, Tiger has always thought most of the media has been unfair to him. When he was talking to Diaz, he must have been referring to those “inaccurate,” reports that he didn’t win a major in 2009.

What’s also remarkable is how much sports fans want to defend their heroes. Right now there are people out there who think Woods has somehow been wronged in all this. This morning on sports-talk radio shows in Washington there are callers saying today’s Op-ed is proof that Arenas is genuinely remorseful, truly sorry for what he did. He’s sorry—that he got caught.

One caller to a radio show opened with this comment: “I don’t think people should be judged by what they say or by what they do. Gilbert’s no different than the rest of us.”

First: What else should we judge people by if not their actions or their words? Second: Gilbert IS different than the rest of us. Putting aside how much money he makes, most of us don’t illegally carry four guns across a state line and then act as if the whole thing was a joke.

That said, the biggest idiot in all of this may have been Crittenton’s lawyer, who claimed after his client’s plea bargain that Crittenton carried his gun into the locker room because he “feared for his life.” Please. Maybe there was an inaccurate media report that made him fear for his life. Some of the things these guys say would be laugh out loud funny if they weren’t so sad.


One note on the Phil Mickelson-Scott McCarron square grooves controversy over the weekend. For those not into golf minutia, the U.S. Golf Association banned square grooved clubs this year (because they allow pros to spin the ball too easily from the rough) with the exception of one old wedge—the PingEye2. The reason for that was a lawsuit 20 years ago in which the USGA agreed as part of a settlement to never ban that one club.

Mickelson—and a few other players including John Daly—dug out old PingEye2’s they had and brought them to their first tournament, in Mickelson’s case San Diego. McCarron, a 16-year tour veteran who is a smart guy said that using the PingEye2 “cheated,” the spirit of the new rule—which it does. Technically, it isn’t cheating because the club isn’t banned, but clearly it violates the spirit of the rule.

Mickelson isn’t used to being publicly criticized by another player. He reacted angrily saying that McCarron had “publicly slandered,” him. For the record, you can’t privately slander someone but that’s another story.

The tour needs to make this go away and it appears likely that it will, perhaps as early as today. It was not part of the Ping law suit and can pass a rule banning the club. It isn’t likely that Ping will turn around and take the tour to court over a golf club it doesn’t make anymore. Even if it does, the tour needs to get this one in its rear view mirror so everyone can focus on when Tiger is going to come back to the tour and tell us everything that happened was caused by inaccurate media reports.


Anonymous said...

Hey Feinstein, Why the silence on Marcus Curry, the pothead on the USNA football team? Is this another example of your "situational outrage" when it comes to "student-athletes" at so-called elite institutions of lower learning?

Vin said...

Why wasn't this a Post column?

cd1515 said...

totally agree on Arenas; that sentence jumped off the page at me too.
he's not sorry.

Anonymous said...

From the Washington Post (Sports Bog):
"NBA all-star Gilbert Arenas and his Washington Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton drew guns on each other in the team's locker room during a Christmas Eve dispute over a gambling debt."

"The pistol-packing point guards had heaters at the ready."

* "It was the three- time all-star Arenas, 27, who went for his gun first."

* "The feds have been investigating gambling within the NBA since disgraced ex-referee Tim Donaghy admitted betting on games and feeding information to bookies. It was not clear whether the gambling debt that sparked the Arenas-Crittenton duel had anything to do with league games."

So he got the date of the confrontation wrong, the fact that they drew weapons on each other wrong, the entire tenor of the episode wrong, while bringing up a complete red herring about gambling on league games."
~ Washington Post, Sports Bog, 1/26/09

Looks like the initial media reports (Peter's was the first) were wrong.

Anonymous said...

I agree that this could be a Post column, but so could most of the daily musings....

That said, John, I have to disagree on your overall assessment of Arenas's Op-Ed today. While I do think he and his lawyers should have left out the 'inaccuracy' bit, but there are very few high profile people who would actually write the letter, no matter what they felt or what was on the line.

I know you make a point to emphasize that all accounts are Gilbert isn't malicious, he does treat fans well and all in all (even considering this mess) is a decent guy, but to wholly dismiss this reaching out based on one line is nit-picky.

Hey, maybe he's like Tiger in another way (and actually wrote most of the Op-Ed) -- maybe Arenas does what we wants despite what his legal/PR team says is best!

Tim said...

Did Ari Fleischer take Arenas's case too? He seems to have cornered the market on defensing stupidity with more stupidity.....maybe he's the one that put in the poke on the media?

Anonymous said...

Why are all the old washed up white sports columnists in DC (Feinheiser and Kornstein) ridiculing this op-ed by making fun of the notion that Arenas himself wrote it?

If that practice is so appalling to you geezers, I trust that you are similarly offended by...oh, just about EVERY op-ed that has ever run on those pages under the name of a senator or congressman. You think those guys are writing their own stuff?

Come on.

Anonymous said...

John, I can't believe a golf guru like you agrees with McCarron. Golfers use the rules to their advantage all the time. Remember Tiger and the huge rock or Ernie Els 40 yards in teh woods at the Masters?

Anonymous said...

"For those not into golf minutia, the U.S. Golf Association banned square grooved clubs this year (because they allow pros to spin the ball too easily from the rough) with the exception of one old wedge—the PingEye2."

Those not into golf minutia must include you - the USGA didn't ban square grooves.

And what "spirit of the rule." Look up the spirit of the game in the rulebook. If anything, McCarron is guilty more than Phil. And I'm not a Phil fan either.

Anonymous said...

Was I the only one that found it ironic that McCarron, (he of the long putter with fist planted firmly in chest) was calling out Phil for violating the spirit of the rules?