Maybe it's just me, but if the defining moment of my professional career was an appalling brawl that got me sued and thought of as a thug, just maybe I'd try to show some contrition, and use basic PR skills to let fans know I made a mistake, I overreacted, and in the heat of the moment, I had lost it. What I wouldn't want to do was say I wasn't sorry, and that it just might happen again.
I guess that's part of why I'm here typing this, and why Ron Artest is on the cover of ESPN the Magazine - because his uniqueness is in itself a story. This evening, my mailbox delivered me the cold stare of a shirtless, tattooed Artest, daring me to challenge his individualistic view of the world. The magazine's cover story, titled "Tru Believer", starts off:
Apparently, ESPN the Magazine has merged with the Journal of Psychotherapy. Somehow, I missed that press release.
The article repeats much of what we already know about Artest. He's tremendously skilled defensively. In fact, the Kings give up 6 fewer points per game with him on the floor than without, the article says. The article says any time there are problems with the team Artest is on, somehow he gets blamed for it.
But that's not the end. In fact, Artest thinks we're nuts to blame him for everything. That fight in Detroit? That happened from "a human reaction", and he won't apologize, because he thinks it wasn't any more his fault than Ben Wallace or the infamous beer chucker fan.
Ron-Ron's mistakes are said to come from acting too much in the moment, but he thinks he was a model citizen before and after the Auburn Hills melee. The more recent issues here in Sacramento? As TZ hinted to earlier in the week, winning solves everything. The potshots between him and Bibby will go down if the Kings victories go up. And while you won't ever take the 'hood out of Artest, he's gained respect from his teammates and coaches for the job he does now.
So why has the reputation stuck? I'd say it's the unwillingness to play the PR game. To protect your reputation, whether famous or small, you need to know what to say to whom when. Even if Ron-Ron feels like the right thing to do in Detroit was beat the booze out of the inebriated fans, it's time to be a "Tru Warrior" and a "Model Citizen" by saying he was wrong then, and wrong now.