War and Metta World Peace
3:00 AM EDT on April 25, 2012
"He's been making such great strides..."
~ Every pundit in response to Metta World Peace's flagrant foul that gave James Harden a concussion
The man currently known as Metta World Peace sets a standard for low standards. Prior to changing his name from Ron Artest, World Peace (a misnomer of historic precedence) set the record for longest suspension in NBA history when he missed 86 games for charging into the stands in Detroit to beat down a nerdy white guy. Prior to the vicious swing--a swing so nasty that it is illegal to use in mixed martial arts--that connected with James Harden cerebral cortex, he was starting to be considered a pillar of society.
Almost one year ago to the date of this ugly scene, Ron Artest was presented with the "J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award." This award, presented by the NBA to an individual member of the game time personnel who shows "outstanding service and dedication to the community," has been presented in the two season prior to Samuel Dalembert for organization Haitian relief in the wake of an earthquake and Dikembe Mutombo for a plethora of charitable institutions he created in Africa. Artest won the award simply for, you know, not beating up fans anymore.
This is along the lines of Sally Kern winning an award from GLAAD for not saying anything biggoted in an address to a Girl Scout troop. Yet, somehow in changing his name to Metta World Peace, people actually did seem to forget that he was still physically the same person who had spent his basketball career creating moments that got himself likened to Hannibal Lecter.
Two weeks after receiving the award for good citizenship, Artest did this:
Despite his theatrical efforts to play it off as an accident, there is no question this was a malicious act. Don't get me wrong, I've wanted to clothesline J.J. Barea in the face myself. On the other hand, I don't have a laundry list of priors and a complete lack of respect to human decency. Again, with Artest/World Peace, these antics completely fade into the background. This is primarily because they are not that different from his behavior on a day-to-day basis.
World Peace spends every moment on the floor vacillating between being simply a dirty basketball player and being a common criminal. He plays more like a boxer than a small forward. When he guards Kevin Durant while playing the Thunder, the referees swallow the whistle as he performs acts that should get him registered as a sex offended because if they didn't, they would spend all of their time calling fouls on him.
That leads us up to what transpired on Sunday. After a huge dunk that drew his team within one point, Metta World Peace was elated. In front of his home fans, the dunk that was contested by the league's best shot blocker (Serge Ibaka) and had a potential MVP (Kevin Durant) close enough to be in the picture, Metta had every reason to celebrate. Of course, when James Harden bumped into him while trying to make himself available for the ensuing inbound pass, the flailing elbow that knocked him unconscious was not part of the celebration...unless he celebrates by punching people--a scenario that cannot be ruled out.
Honestly, I do believe that World Peace did not consciously decide to deck Harden, even though it was convenient that James was the only Thunder scorer who was performing well up to that point. My conclusion is that the adulation of the fans and the excitement of the moment caused an adrenaline surge that is certainly hard to process by a man who can generously be described as having difficulty processing emotion. As a result of this circumstance, my hypothesis is that Metta World Peace was in the same state of mind as if he were in a street brawl. When Harden wound up in his personal space, World Peace behaved the same way he would if he were in a melee on the streets of his native Queensbridge.
Of course, if I have surmised correctly, this does not excuse the action. In fact, I believe it makes the transgression more serious. If a man cannot control his behavior in the event of adrenaline spikes--something pretty common in sports--he simply cannot control his behavior.
After taking plenty of time to make a decision, the NBA has decided to suspend World Peace for seven games. My hope had been that, given the delay in making a decision, that the process involved psychiatric testing. Instead, the league chose just to punish him as if he were any other player. This needed to be a situation where World Peace was given a minimum sentence that would only end after achieving some sort of understanding about how future incidents would be averted.
On the bright side, the slap on the wrist could lead to the ban ending on or around the beginning of the second round of the playoffs. Assuming both the Lakers and Thunder hold serve, World Peace's return could very possibly be in a game at Chesapeake Energy Arena. That would be must see television.
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