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What kind of a girl is Gilbert Arenas?

July 8, 2008

Seldom do athletes occupy our imaginations with their quirky off the court behaviours as much as they do with their on the court feats. Gilbert Arenas is an exception. Gilbert Arenas is the Falstaff of the NBA, the Fool from Twelfth Night and Puck from A Midsummer Night's Dream all rolled into one. If these plays suffered weaknesses in plot and theme, then we would somehow still find them interesting and watchable based solely on the endearing characteristics of Falstaff, the Fool, and Puck. We watch as much to see what these characters will do as much as we watch to see how the plot might develop. (There actually is more after the jump.)

When Gilbert Arenas is healthy, we watch the Wizards as much to see what Gilbert will do as we do to see how the team will fare. In fact, Gilbert's online gambling at halftime, his living in a hyperbolic chamber at home and on the road, his claim that shark attacks are the result of humans trespassing in the ocean, his admitting that he stole the shark jokes for his blog, his defense of his theft as a favor to the joke's originator, and his connection to the number zero might make Gilbert more intriguing as a psychological study than as a basketball player. One could probably write a whole chapter of a book on how having the name "Gilbert" has shaped Gilbert's personality.

In the sense of being a lovable personality, Gilbert Arenas is like Will Ferrill in Old School. Frank the Tank is hopelessly flawed and so is Gilbert. Frank will always regift bread slicers, show up at awkward times with a blow up doll, streak the quad, shoot himself with a dart gun, and light himself on fire, while dressed as his school's mascot. Gilbert, too, will always be Gilbert. He will always feel underappreciated and have a tendency for sulking, as shown by his picking the number zero. He's not shaking his past or moving on with his life. Gilbert lives with the constant reminder everytime he goes on the court that people in his past thought he wasn't good enough. He was told he would get zero minutes at Arizona and he was drafted in the second round. In both of those instances, he proved his critics and doubters wrong, but at what point, does the posse catch up with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?

Gilbert always wears a zero. Superman always wears an S, but there is a difference in why they wear these symbols. The psychology of Gilbert's symbol is based around the idea of "I'm different because no one has ever thought I'm good enough." Superman's symbol represents the heights of Superman's origins; it is his connection to Krypton, a planet that reached heights far beyond Earth's. When Superman wears the "S", people know he's different, but it's not because he's not good enough. Superman is better than good enough. His "S" is a sign of strength, courage, sacrifice, and a belief that all will be achieved.

Gilbert's zero shows an inability to think outside of himself. In terms of comic book folklore, he is headed down a path that has him on his way to being something other than Superman. He's more Wolverine than Superman, and Wolverine battles so much with his own doubts and troubled psyche that he often hinders his own team. Gilbert is more likely to ride off on a motorcycle to confront his past, or a knee injury, at an inopportune time, as he is to say, "Hey, guys, I know I'm Superman, but I could use your help with this one. Will you join the Justice League and take on the evils of the Eastern Conference with me?"

Basketball is a team sport. Wolverine struggles with the team game. Frank the Tank doesn't. He's actually more enjoyable as part of an ensemble cast, but Frank the Tank doesn't win Oscars. Can Gilbert Arenas win the NBA equivalent of an Oscar? Can he lead the Wizards to a championship?

If Gilbert Arenas is indeed Frank the Tank, then Antawn Jamison would play Vince Vaughn's Bernard Campbell, consistently funny throughout the film, no matter what, leaving Caron Butler to play Luke Wilson's Mitch Martin. One could make the argument that Luke Wilson's greatest strenghts, like being an "awww shucks" leading man, are displayed better when he's not sharing the screen with Vaughn's Bernard and Ferrill's Frank at the same time. He's the only one present of the three when he walks in on his wife cheating on him, and he's the only one present of the three when he spills coffee on Ellen Pompeo's Nicole. His hilariously inept attempt at a best man's speech qualifies as a monologue. When the three are all together, the funniest lines and moments all go to Ferril and Vaughn's characters. Wilson becomes as much of a bystander as the audience. In Old School, if one wants to see Luke Wilson at his best, then the director has to put the spotlight on him.

If the Wizards want to see the best Caron Butler has to offer, then they will need to put the spotlight on him, as they did when Gilbert missed fifty-five games this past season with a knee injury. During that span, Butler and Jamison led the Wizards to a 33-22 record. The team also played better defense while Arenas was out, holding their opponents under eighty-five points six times, which only happened once the previous year. The Wizards are a playoff team with or without Gilbert Arenas, which begs the question, Abe Pollin and Ernie Grunfeld, what kind of Homecoming Dance experience are you expecting with Gilbert Arenas as your date?

One of my last year's at James Madison University, I was making out with a girl who was not a good kisser, which caused my mind to wander. I started thinking about the relationship that Eddie Jordan must have with Gilbert Arenas, and I decided it must be similar to making out with a girl, who isn't a very good kisser. Eddie Jordan, I figured, had two choices on how to approach his predicament with Gilbert Arenas.

First, he could give Gilbert suggestions on how to be a better kisser, like play better defense, work the ball to one's teammates, and use better shot selection, which would probably lead to Gilbert deciding that he could probably go give sloppy dog kisses to some other NBA-city without having to deal with structural criticism. Eddie Jordan did not make this choice a few years ago. Eddie Jordan, on behalf of the Wizards, decided that they would rather be making out with anyone, as opposed to no one, even if that person kissed like a cocker-spaniel.

I can't blame Eddie Jordan. I made the same decision with the girl whose horrendous kissing ability led to the epiphany: that if Eddie Jordan couldn't give Gilbert advice on how to be a better player in 2006, then Eddie Jordan is never going to make Gilbert a better player, and now, that the Wizards have signed their head coach and star player to contract extensions we know what kind of Homecoming Dance the Wizards are looking forward to.

The Wizards have definitely opted to attend the dance. With Eddie Jordan as their coach and a core of Arenas, Butler, and Jamison, the team will definitely be in the playoffs, but that's about it.

The Wizards, afterall, decided to take someone who they knew would be a lot of fun to the dance. They'll arrive at their date's house with no pressure about how to pin the corsage on because they won't really be concerned about being romantic. They'll laugh a lot at dinner, and they can take their date anywhere in town because it really isn't a "date." They'll dance a lot that night, but it won't really matter if it's with the girl they brought or with anyone else who happens to be out on the floor. There's really no pressure. The slow dances will feel perfectly comfortable, no question of where to put one's hands. They'll be fine, and they'll take great pictures, and probably wind up going dutch at either IHOP or Denny's with a group of friends afterwards; and at school on Monday, all will return to normal.This experience is the future of the Washington Wizards.

The other option for the Wizards was more adventerous. The Wizards could have not asked Gilbert to be their date. The Wizards could have held out for someone they knew they liked and that really liked them. The Wizards could have held out for the girl they'd been thinking about asking to the dance for the last few months. Picking out the corsage would have been more difficult; they would have had to make sure it matched her dress. Also, when getting ready, they would have had to retie their tie another twenty times or so, and shaving would have been more difficult. Shaving would have been more like iceskating. Dinner would cost a lot more because one would be trying to make an impression, meaning one couldn't order anything that might come with ketchup or any other red sauce. Getting in and out of the car would require more thought because one would wonder is she the kind of girl who wants me to open and shut her car door. The dance would have added to the mental fatigue with questions like:

am I on rhythm? is she on rhythm? am I dancing too close? am I sweating a normal amount or an abnormal amount? what's my breathe smell like? were there any onions in what I had for dinner? did I just step on her foot or did she step on mine? can I not feel my feet anymore? oh, man, did the song just change just as I got the rhythm down? am I not giving her enough space? should I let her dance with her friends? does it make me sexist that my last questions used the verb let, implying I have ownership over her? would it be better for her or me to have ownership of our relationship? do we have a relationship? what is a relationship? have I been in a relationship before? does when I kissed that girl in kindergarten count? should I get her something to drink? do they only serve water and punch? what if the punch has too much sugar and she's diabetic? how does one figure out their blood sugar level? do you need to know the periodic table? what would be my favorite element? is it a bad sign if my favorite element's properties are not compatible with her favorite elements? would that mean if I kiss her, then my head's going to explode? is that what made Superman's planet Krypton explode? were Jor-el and Lara-el's favorite elements combustible when combined? am I more Batman than Superman? can I be Batman with such a crappy car? maybe I'm more Wolverine? do Wolverine's claws come out when he gets aroused? if that's true, then won't I kill her? maybe, i should ask her if she wants to take a break until I'm sure I'm not Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Logan, or some Weapon-X experiment? maybe, I should just ask her if she wants to go on another date? was this a date? what comes first the date, hanging out, the chicken, or the egg? where does life begin? is it in my zipper? is it in my sweaty palms? is it in the orange juice they're going to bring us at IHOP? is it in the number zero or the letter s? s's have a beginning and an end? is a zero a circle with neither? which shape is more like a relationship? which shape wins championships? why am i thinking about championships at a high school dance? in the future, why will i think of Gilbert Arenas and his conversations with Eddie Jordan when I'm making out with a beautiful girl? why? why am i asking these questions? my head hurts....I think I like this girl.

The Wizards aren't going to ask any of these questions, and by not doing so, they're vowing not to win a championship because they are not taking the risks that get one to the top. Winning a championship is a mental, emotional, and physical triumph. Not being successful at winning hurts; it's like going through all those moments that raise insane questions, only to hear, "I think we should just be friends," yet there is no other route to take.

There is no safe and easy way in love or basketball as the Wizards seem to believe there is. They had their chance to roll the dice for a championship by not resigning Gilbert Arenas, which would have allowed them to spend the money on the one girl who might bring them a championship. There is no mystery to why the Bulls, the Celtics, the Spurs, the Lakers, the Pistons, and the Rockets are the only teams to win multiple championships since 1980; they're the only teams that waited on the right girl as a Homecoming date. These teams placed their bets on King Henry V when everyone else in the audience was falling over themselves laughing at Falstaff because it was easy to do so.

Of course, King Henry V was first introduced by Shakespeare as Hal, a drunken, womanizing prince, and maybe, Gilbert Arenas isn't Falstaff, but Prince Hal, making it premature on my part to say it's impossible for him to win a championship. Perhaps, when Gilbert looks in the mirror, thinking about zero's, he realizes how a zero is shaped like a crown and that a crown is shaped like the sun and he whispers to himself:

I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humor of your idleness.
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted he may be more wondered at
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as work;
But when they seldom come, they wished-for come,
And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.
So when this loose behavior I throw off
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word am I,
By so much shall I falsify men's hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reforemation, glitt'ring o'er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I'll so offend to make offense a skill,
Redeeming time when men think least I will.
(The First Part of King Henry IV: 1.2, 189-211)

Prince Hal winds up asking Katharine to the dance after the Battle of Agincourt; it's through their relationship that he might actually get to rule France successfully. None of Falstaff's beer wenches offered that kind of power after a night of fun. Does Gilbert? Or is he still the girl that Eddie Jordan can't teach how to kiss ? Is Gilbert Arenas still the girl that one takes to the dance, has fun with, and then doesn't see again? Or is there something more to Agent Zero? Is there something kingly about him?

Whatever his future is in the League, the Wizards are paying to be a part of it, so perhaps, they have taken the biggest risk of all--they've asked Gilbert to keep dancing, not knowing what he is.

1 comments:

Langston said...

Gilbert is like the least hot girl in the hot soroity, shes hot but compared to her friends she just doesn't match up. If she was in some troll soroity (maybe the Euro League or USBL) she would be crowned Homecoming Queen, but now shes just the ugly chick that has a good personality.

July 8, 2008 at 5:54 PM

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