Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ron Artest's latest thuggery

Yeah, I know. He changed his name to Metta World Peace a while back, but it just doesn't come off the same as a few other guys -- like Lew Alcindor becoming Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Cassius Clay being universally accepted as Mohammed Ali. It just seems -- I don't know -- hokey -- or something.

Regardless, it wouldn't have mattered if he'd changed his name to Mother Teresa, given what he did to Okla City Thunder guard James Harden. Namely, knocking Harden into nowhere land with an elbow that looked like something straight out of a mixed martial arts cage match. It happened on the court, in the middle of a game, in front of the crowd, cheerleaders, other players, refs, coaches, and probably a dozen or so TV cameras that were rolling -- and taping.

Some of the LA Laker faithful have said it was an accident. MWP was merely being over-exuberant by swinging his arms over a dunk he had just made, and didn't realize the proximity of Harden. To which I say -- baloney, hogwash, balderdash, and get real. Every NBA player, much less a seasoned vet like Artest, is acutely tuned in to where the other players are on the court. All those "no-look" or seemingly "blind" passes don't happen by coincidence. If that's not enough, consider Harden had his hands on Artest less than a second before the elbow was thrown. Ron-Ron HAD to know he was standing next to him.

Yet there are those that claim MWP has been a model citizen since he arrived in LA, and perhaps he has, so he should be cut a little slack. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he'd "seen the light" and changed his ways after the Malice at the Palace a few years back. Given what he did to Harden -- it doesn't matter. There's a lot of people in the world that have been law-abiding and model citizens for their entire lives, not so much as a parking ticket -- but if they commit a violent act for whatever reason -- they're still going to jail. Depending on the severity of the injuries inflicted, sometimes just through negligence, years behind bars can result.

This is not to say WMP should be shipped off to the "big house" for what he did, but punishment was certainly in order. The NBA handed him a 7 game suspension. That will cost him a few hundred thousand dollars, which to most people is a lot of money, but not to an NBA guy. Monetarily, it's a slap on the wrist. Those who have purely basketball agendas are already debating what effect his absence will have on the Lakers during the upcoming first round of the playoffs.

Reality check. After the elbow happened, the refs called WMP for a "flagrant 2" foul, which means a deliberate attempt to injure, results in immediate ejection from the game, and the incident will be subject to league review for further disciplinary action. Evidently, the league was convinced it was deliberate, hence the suspension. Does anyone who's seen the tape and is not a Laker fan dispute that?

In the meantime, other than in Okla City, Harden doesn't seem to matter. He damn well should. Not only is he every bit as valuable to the Thunder as Artest is to the Lakers, let's not lose sight of the much more important fact that he's the guy that got hurt. A concussion, severity unknown. As is the nature of such injuries, Harden's timetable to return to action perfectly healthy is also unknown. No pun intended, but even in this age of modern medical science, concussions remain somewhat of a grey area. Nobody knows for sure how long the symtoms may linger. It could be a few days, or it could be a very long time.

Artest will be back for the second round of the playoffs, if the Lakers get that far, and likely they will. Harden may or may not be ready to play by then.

Over the years, be it the NBA, NHL, NFL, and perhaps even some preps and college sports, many have debated what sort of punishment should be handed down to the perpetrator when an opposing player is injured. I submit there are two different scenarios, and how they should be treated.

First, sometimes accidents just happen. Given the speed and contact of some sports, injuries are inevitable. Sometimes they can be career-ending, or even tragic. The guy that inflicted the damage was just playing hard, Murphy's Law popped up, and something went horribly wrong. He had no desire or intent for things to turn out like they did. Given the same play to do over, he wouldn't do what he did. While we can sympathize with the injured player, that's just part of the game, and let whatever the officials call at the time be good enough.

Then there's the deliberate ones. I dare say most sports fans have seen a few of those as well. They knew full what they were doing, with malice and aforethought, as they say, and it was no accident when they caused an injury to an opponent. A different set of rules should apply to these people.

Here's my suggestion. When the evidence is overwhelming that the injury was intentional, then let the appropriate league officials take a long look at it and a hefty fine. Suspensions are another matter.

Artest got 7 games. Having been found guilty of "intent" by the league, in my opinion he should be suspended without pay until Harden is healthy enough to return to action, and then 7 MORE games. However long it takes -- it takes.

Some guys that are still playing have ended other guys' careers with intentional thuggery. When that happens, why not give them a lifetime ban as well? To let them stay out there and continue to draw obscene paychecks only gives them an opportunity, and perhaps the motive, to do it again to somebody else.

Championships, trophies, and parades are terrific things for their fans and communities. Many times not only the teams, but their followers, get caught up in  a "win at all cost" philosophy. They're quick to forget, if they ever cared at all, about some very bad things their heroes might have done to others along the way to get them there. While they celebrate their team's success, there might be a couple guys that are quietly re-habbing, with the hope of ever just playing again at the high level they once enjoyed.

And if their injuries were intentionally inflicted? Most have heard of Deuteronomy, Chapter 20, verse 21. Life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Why not games missed for games missed?  And THEN the additional suspension? If it's forever -- well -- they shouldn't have done that. Mine eye shalt not pity. Go get a real job now, if anybody will hire you.

THAT would stop the thuggery.


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