Ted Leonsis wants bloggers to “generate those pixels,” and “feed the algorithm.” And I guess that can be a good thing and a bad thing … because when it comes to Gilbert Arenas, we can’t help ourselves. So here goes…
Too bad Gilbert. People are going to nitpick everything you say (and not just because you got in trouble, as you alluded), but because you are Gilbert Arenas. You made yourself. Well, your past self. And the media helped.
You played the media. The media played back.
Fair and unfair, it comes with the territory of calling you the Man of Millions (the exact amount which shall not be mentioned because of your sensitivity to it — you never liked the strings that came attached to a contract worth nine figures, this we know).
Fair and unfair, it comes with the marketing behind your priceless persona that attracted fans to you in the first place — because you were unique, like no other. That’s what people remember. That’s what they’re holding on to.
Some people believe Arenas should be more “in touch” … past the media and directly to the fans. They are looking for a more sincere Arenas. And maybe this comes in the form of an apology, or maybe their angst could be resolved by Arenas finding a happy medium with his personality. Not being the sad man and not being the prankster, just a regular guy with flair and swagger. I know, seems hard to ask.
Of course, maybe that’s not Gilbert. Maybe he can only maneuver between extremes. Because if he can’t please everyone, he’ll please no one — but he’ll still be nit-picked — and I guess that’s the double-edged or double-headed sword Arenas always talks about (hope he doesn’t bring one of those into the locker room).
Others are fine with leaving the past in the past, true contrition or not, and just want Arenas to play basketball.
Guess what? Both groups are right. So what’s the resolution? Well, there is none. It’s Gilbert’s life.
But it’s also Ted Leonsis’ team, which is an extension of the community of Wizards fans. It’s only the preseason and I can’t really envision the relationship between Areanas, the media, and the fans clearing up any time soon.
Gilbert’s life must feel like his life is a play. And I feel bad for him because the script is tossing and turning like a greenhorn on Deadliest Catch.
But hey, Gilbert wrote the play in the first place. Too bad it’s taken a life of its own, but not without heavy red-pen editing from the one formerly known as Zero.
So let’s move on to Arenas’ “moving on” comments that he made after the Wizards’ first preseason game in Dallas. When asked about his role, he said:
“Right now I’m out there to hit open shots, teach John the ins and the outs of the game, and then eventually go on and move on. I’m on my way.”
He said that part at the end with a subtle smile (video via Washington Post). Arenas was then asked what he meant by that. He said:
“This is the NBA. There’s few players that stay in the same city, so right now the city is John’s. I’m not here to fight anybody. I’m here to play alongside of him.”
My initial reaction was not to really care about what Arenas says at this point. He’s been known to contradict himself in the same day, and hasn’t always displayed the capability to understand that he contradicts himself. That’s Gil for ya.
But mentioning moving on now, in the preseason when he has four years left on his contract, was grossly unnecessary … and because I believe Arenas knew what he was saying, kinda. Overall, I agree with Mike Prada of Bullets Forever in that people overreacted to the quotes. And if Gilbert wants to be an emo child for the unforeseen future, so be it. I’m just happy to see him on the basketball court.
But therein lies the problem. It’s about more than basketball. Always is. It’s about the future of a franchise. And once again, Gil put his foot in his mouth by contradicting messages put out by the higher-ups in the organization.
Leonsis has said that he wants the Washington, D.C. area to “re-embrace” Gilbert. He hasn’t exactly made himself re-embraceable.
Ernie Grunfeld has often uttered that Arenas is part of his operational basketball team. Of course, that’s mostly been profiling to quell trade winds. We get it. And Gilbert didn’t help that.
League sources have always seemed to indicate, or “believe” that the Wizards would be willing to trade Arenas, but league sources have also conceded that there just aren’t any options out there … for now.
So, in the meantime, directed by Leonsis, the team and Gilbert have been encouraged to play nice, be a happy basketball family, help each other out and have fun on the court. And by all indication, that is happening.
But Gilbert still can’t win because he won’t allow himself to win. Again, he has not displayed that he wants D.C. to re-embrace him, and maybe that doesn’t matter … but it certainly doesn’t jibe with what Leonsis has asked.
And Arenas potentially moving on doesn’t matter right now because he can’t. But then again, whoops, his mouth got him in trouble because he wasn’t towing the company line when he needs to be, for everyone’s sake.
Then, Gilbert, one who hasn’t cared to speak with the media this year, made a point in Cleveland to call over the Washington Post’s Michael Lee, a member of the media, so he could clear up comments he made to the media.
“I’ve got four years left and that’s it. That’s all I was saying,” Arenas said to Lee.
Still not clear, unless it’s best to concentrate on four years down the road instead of earning your contract in the present. Oh the tangled web we weave.
Comcast’s Ivan Carter, a former Wizards beat reporter for the Post, knows Gilbert well. He writes:
“…this could (could) be a big, big problem for this Wizards team. If you think Gilbert is going to be “moving aside so he can become a star” I have some confederate money I’d like to sell you. I ain’t buying it. Keep an eye on it is all I’m saying.”
I’m inclined to disagree here because I do think the time off, due to knee surgeries and felony charges, has forced Arenas to come to grips with his basketball mortality. Then again, trying to predict what Arenas will do is like trying to ride a roller coaster with a glass of milk in each hand.
Some think Arenas might be depressed (Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie), and that’s an admirable theory in a ‘this is a serious thing socially’ kind of manner. But I don’t consider the idea that Arenas’ “darkness needs to be addressed” to be a completely valid, by means of the interaction between Arenas and his teammates I’ve witnessed, and the fact that the team (Leonsis) is allowing him to be around.
Others (Michael Wilbon, Washington Post) seem to believe that Arenas is incapable of achieving redemption and success in Washington, and that he must be traded post-haste. Prada aptly addresses Wilbon’s column on SB Nation:
“…this isn’t particularly insightful. Wilbon’s basic point is that the Wizards should trade Arenas as soon as possible, but he’s reached that conclusion far later than the people that matter.”
From columns to blogs to tweets and other matters of opinion, there are a lot of pixels feeding the algorithm beast … complicating the surroundings of a complicated man.
Big picture, Leonsis has a simple request, “Celebrate and smile.”
That’d be a lot easier if Arenas weren’t so checked out.
[image via DC Sports Bog, February 2009]