For as long as I can remember, there have been a few undeniable basketball truths. The Kings will always need a rebounding big man. They will also always let a double digit lead shrink down to dangerous levels in the 4th quarter, even if they're playing the Grizzlies. The Jazz have the most ridiculous team name in relation to their city in all of sports. David Stern is pure evil. And Ron Artest is 86 different kinds of crazy. But after listening to Ron at length with Carmichael Dave for the past couple weeks I've come to a shocking conclusion. Ron Artest isn't crazy. Although I may be for thinking so.
I can't remember the moment I decided Ron Artest was crazy. Lots of people point to the brawl but I remember thinking he was insane long before then. So as a refresher I moseyed on over to Ron's Wikipedia page (and even refrained from adding a Peaches reference) to see what might have started the whole "Ron Artest is crazy" train of thought that's universally accepted as fact.
A quick scroll down to the "Controversy" section shows that maybe we're a bit too quick to judge a guy who appears to only really be guilty of not wanting to pay full price at Circuit City. (Oh, and that whole breaking the barrier between observer and participant at a game thing) The section lists the aforementioned employee discount attempt, that time he asked for time off because he was tired from his side job of music promoter, showing up to a Pacers practice in a bathrobe, destroying a TV camera, getting into a "confrontation" with Riles (the only "controversial" thing listed I can't immediately remember), all that stuff that happened here in Sac that I shouldn't have to rehash for you guys, and the fact that he likes to change his jersey number.
Maybe I'm just weird, but none of that screams "crazy" to me. Some of it screams "overly passionate". Some of it also screams (rather loudly too) "20 year old having fun". But almost all of it screams "We want Ron to be crazy." Let's break it down. (Using all circumstantial evidence since research isn't my forte.)
The biggie that most people refer to when putting him in the "definitely crazy" column is the brawl. I never really understood that. I understand that it's crazy when you stop and take a chance to think about all the reasons why he shouldn't have run into the crowd, but then I put myself in Ron's shoes. I'm playing a game and I'm fired up, adrenaline's flowing. I'm engaging in some quality shit talking from the comfort of a nearby table and then some jackass throws a beer at me. I'd have chased after and beaten the crap out of the guy I thought did it too. And that's before I even think about the fact that the guy wasted a whole beer! The brawl doesn't mean he's crazy, it just means he doesn't like drunken assholes throwing an entire cup of Coors at him. Neither do I.
The bathrobe and Circuit City thing really shouldn't count towards Ron being crazy because really they're just kind of funny. They also have questionable newsworthiness, yet somehow we still know about them.
The whole thing with his constantly changing jersey number isn't really that controversial either. It's his jersey, he can wear whatever number he wants as far as I'm concerned. Hell, have a different number each game. I doubt there's many parents who would be buying their kids the latest Ron Artest jersey in the first place.
And then we get to Ron in Sac. I don't fault him for the Socks thing because if memory serves me right (which probably isn't the best reference point) that happened during the season. So is it Ron's fault that the dogs didn't get fed or was it just his fault for picking the wrong people to do so? And as far as the domestic abuse thing, if I remember correctly (and again remember, puff puff pass) he actually came off as the sane person in that argument after his wife tried to tell the authorities that he was stealing her car...that he owned. So she responded as any sane woman (oxymoron, I know) would, by throwing a pot at her own car. Then Ron came back inside and stood right next to her while she completed her phone call. If he was crazy wouldn't he have tried to stop the phone call or something?
Neither of those things point to Ron being crazy. They point to a human being that makes mistakes. Just like you and me. (OK, mostly me.) Jim Rome once said that Charles Barkley once said "I'm not your role model, raise your own damn kids." And Chuck was right. I can't understand why we continue to put athletes on a pedestal. I'm not saying I don't do it myself, I just don't understand why. Whenever I'm having a spirited sports discussion at a bar (more often than not this bar) with a guy older than 50, the debate inevitably turns to how athletes were better and classier "back in my day". Racial overtones aside, I always disagree. The shit that's happening now is the same shit that's been going on for decades. You can probably already see where I'm going with this, and I promise I'll wrap up this rambling post in a minute, the problem lies with the way it's being reported. Ron loses his cool in probably the most public way possible, and after that he lost any benefit of the doubt. He was no longer Ron Artest "shutdown defender" he was Ron Artest "crazy asshole". It sucks, but it sells newspaper/commercials. But that doesn't justify it. The only argument I concede to the hypothetical old guy I referenced earlier is that athletes are different, but it's because they have to be different than back then. Everything they do is under a microscope. It's why guys like A-Rod, Kobe (Ah! How did I get into defending Kobe Bryant!?), and 90% of all athletes playing in Boston or New York seem like such standoffish assholes. They have to be or else any little thing they do, like showing up to practice in a bathrobe, helps label them as something the media can market to make money.
And that's why I (and apparently many others) find Ron's co-hosting stint on the late night shift so refreshing. My immediate reaction when I heard Ron on the radio was "holy crap, Ron's being himself" and then I waited for something he said to be blown out of proportion by ESPN, the Bee, or some blog (never here of course). Luckily it hasn't happened yet. After listening to him for a couple weeks I've come to two conclusions that really took me by surprise. First the whole Ron not being crazy thing. And second, Ron Artest is a likable guy. A really likable guy. Too bad nobody really gives the guy a chance because he got pissed when someone threw a beer at him. Now that I'm done making a point that I'm still not sure even I believe, time to point out all the actually crazy stuff I missed because I was going off of a smoke and booze addled memory and the bastion of journalistic integrity that is Wikipedia. Oh, and apologies for being absent the past month or so. Computer's broken.