Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Michael Wilbon's Argument Collapses


This seems passionate enough, and I can certainly find myself in agreement with Michael Wilbon of the Washington Post more often than not, but I think that when he tries to make this case:
We've gone too far now, the way we always go too far these days. We've made Gilbert Arenas Public Enemy No. 1, which is absurd. Look, Arenas has, by himself, brought about the trouble he's in. And in short time it could be deemed criminal behavior, having those guns in the District of Columbia.

Still, is Arenas so evil that all the merchandise bearing his name and number has to be pulled from Verizon Center? And from the NBA Store in New York? And from NBAStore.com, where you couldn't even customize a jersey and have Arenas's name on it? Is what he did so heinous his likeness has to be scrubbed off of every building in downtown Washington, like he's Al Capone?

I'm not about to back away from my earlier position, that if I ran the Wizards I'd try to have the remainder of his $111 million contract voided, and that I understand the league-ordered suspension for that ridiculous pregame pantomime in Philadelphia of firing pistols and his overall cavalier attitude about the offense. But don't tell me we have to go as far as Sethi saying in "The Ten Commandments": "Let the name of Moses be stricken from every book and tablet. Stricken from every pylon and obelisk of Egypt. Let the name of Moses be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of man, for all time."

Is that really what we want to do with Gilbert Arenas, which is the direction in which the ridicule seems to be taking us?

Having those guns in his locker is inexcusable and apparently unlawful, and Arenas may have to pay dearly for it. But is it the worst thing we've ever heard? Please. It isn't close. I looked up some, let's say, transgressions today of some recent NBA players. And while a stupid act can't be justified by a doubly stupid act, we still need some perspective when judging these things. I passed right over all the "possession of a firearm" charges against various players over the years, figuring they weren't fired in the actual locker room.

It falls flat because of this fact:
As a grand jury continues to hear the details of the gun incident involving Gilbert Arenas, WTOP has learned the Washington Wizards' star has -- at times -- owned several hundred guns.

Multiple sources tell WTOP that Arenas moved those weapons out of his Virginia home within the past year, long before the incident at the Verizon Center.

By all accounts, the guns in Arenas' collection were legally owned, yet it's unclear how many he actually owned or still owns.

Arenas has told investigators and the NBA about the collection, sources say.

Arenas said he brought four guns to the Verizon Center because he wanted them out of his house after his daughter was born. But two officials within the league who have been briefed on the investigation have said he incident stemmed from a dispute over card-playing gambling debts and a heated discussion in the locker room with teammate Javaris Crittenton.

Arenas said in a statement on Jan. 4 that he took unloaded guns from his locker in a "misguided effort to play a joke" on a teammate.

The guns turned over to police include a so-called 'Dirty Harry Revolver' and a gold-plated Desert Eagle -- which is so big and has such a powerful recoil -- no law enforcement agency uses them.

Now, you can defend the young man, and claim that he should be given a second chance, but, for right now, no.

As in, no, you don't get to play basketball. I'm sorry, but there are things that are way more important than sports at this point. There's a mental health issue here, a maturity issue, and a public safety issue.

To those who might say, well, he didn't shoot anyone.

Yes, but he owned hundreds of guns.

Hundreds.

Where are they? Because I don't know about you, but if you own hundreds of guns, and you can't find anywhere to put them, so you bring them to the locker room, you have judgement issues well beyond anything a professional basketball franchise is going to be able to assist you with. They don't have gun wrangling flunkies in track suits, ready to help you out in the locker room (and if they do, wow, what a country).

It sort of makes the case that Gilbert Arenas has issues that playing basketball isn't going to help him solve when you can point to a fetish for guns and an inability to handle them responsibly.

Is there anything wrong with owning hundreds of guns? No. Of course not. But, being an immature young man who poops in shoes and sticks a gun in someones face is a problem, especially when he jokes about it later and treats it as if it's just another episode of the Gilbert Arenas show.

This is not what you want a young man with 111 million dollars doing in your community, it really isn't.

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