Ron-Ron and Contemporary Fan-dom: This Ain't No Damn Game Here!

To say the least, Mr. Ron-Ron Artest is a complicated man.

He’s simultaneously one of the most beloved players in this league, and, one of the most hated. He embodies so much of what some of us love about the game of NBA basketball, and also, what many hate about it. He’s generally regarded as one of the most passionate players in the league (as illustrated by his emotional outbursts that rival those of a 5 year old who wants his cookies before dinner) and yet proclaims repeatedly that once he wins a championship, he’s done with basketball. He’s also regarded as one of the most hard-working players in the league who plays hard-nosed, physical, un-selfish basketball, yet he’s hated by a lot of old white folks who long for the days of hard-nose, physical, un-selfish basketball. He's a complicated enigma that embodies the entire spectrum of what's great and not-so-great about the Association.

Oh, and, of course, we can’t forget that he’s responsible for the NBA’s only Shot-Heard-Round-the-World/"Where were you when it happened?" moment.

For those completely in the dark, Ron Artest recently declared he wanted to be traded from the Indiana Pacers. His reasoning? In his own words, he says it’s because "I still think my past haunts me here," and "I think they will be a better team without me" and because of differences with Rick Carlisle’s coaching style.

What needs to be clarified immediately is that his reasons for why he wants a trade are patently ridiculous. Nobody wants to be traded because they think the team will be better off without them. That's bullshit. Likewise, he claims that he’s not getting enough shots and that he’s too selfish and, yet, in the same breath declares that ideally he’d be playing with the Knicks. That's bullshit. The idea that Coach Brown would somehow grant Artest free reign to shoot whenever he wants is ridiculous and I can’t imagine Artest really thinks that that’s a legitimate possibility. Suffice it to say that, while I’m sure Artest isn’t lying about the fact that he doesn’t like playing for Rick Carlisle and he'd rather be playing in his hometown, there’s something a bit deeper at play here that we aren’t being told. Likely, Artest just doesn’t like his teammates and/or living in Indiana or something, but this piece isn't gonna be too concerned with the reasons why Artest wants to leave the Pacers. But, whatever the reasons are for the trade, it’s still worth looking at the unstated implications of this demand.

Why? Well, of course, if it was any other player requesting the trade, I wouldn’t be writing about this right now. It’d certainly be "a story" in the sports-journalism sense of the word, but this is a story because of Artest’s recent history. Thus, Artest is right about the fact that his past haunts him. His past makes this demand for a trade worth examining more closely. And, his past makes this demand for a trade to be a very interesting and, yes, complicated one.

Let's back track a bit, though.

After last year’s brawl, I remember many players-turned-commentators loosely sticking-up for the actions of Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson, saying that NBA players were a fraternal bunch that had a unique bond. They claimed there was a certain unstated loyalty between all the players that created itself through the "shared experience" of playing in the NBA. You know how at the end of every season of the Real World the characters are all crying and wind-up proclaiming in the confessional how much they love each other and how much they’ve been through together and you’re all just like "Motherfucker, you did nothing but get drunk and hook-up with people for 6 months! What the hell are you talking about ‘all we’ve been through together’?"

Well, as fabricated as it all is, there’s obviously a certain truth behind the sentiment that sharing a unique set of experiences with a group of people (no matter what those experiences may be) will inevitably bring you closer. So, it’s not hard to buy the argument that the NBA is indeed just a huge fraternity where most of the players (ESPECIALLY players on the same team)—no matter how much they like and/or dislike each other on the court—have a certain loyalty and respect for each other. Therefore, when Ron Artest went out into the crowd to start throwing some punches at Detroit's unsuspecting beer drinkers who had just a twinge of "Yeah, I just threw a beer at you" guilt in their eyes, Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal said "Eff it, I’m riding for my teammate." Folks like my dad just accused them of being " bunch of thugs,"but anybody that’s played in a team sport seriously can you tell that it’s deeper than that. There IS a certain team unity and loyalty where you are willing to back-up your teammate in any situation. So, when Artest, Jackson, and O’Neal started smacking around the Detroit fans, it was an act of team loyalty and solidarity. They were defending their dude. It wasn’t even something they thought about. It was just the right thing to do.

What’s more, this loyalty and solidarity was contagious. The Pacers fans at home immediately followed suit, rallying around Artest. They supported him through his suspension and raised their fist in solidarity with the hard-working, hard-nosed player that they respected and grew to love. If anything, the adversity hardened their love and respect for him. Sure, he would sometimes get upset and do dumb stuff like destroy TVs in locker rooms and get silly technical fouls, but, hey, you’ve got to take the good with the bad, right? Sure, it was the biggest catastrophe in recent sports history (ever?), but Artest was "their guy" because he was a Pacer and the Pacers were/are "their team." So, the Pacers fans supported "their guy" and "their team" and were happy to do so.

All of this strikes me as pretty obvious up to this point.

But, what must be said about this huge show of support for Ron Artest after this debacle is that this huge show of support would’ve arisen literally wherever Artest was playing at the time (except for maybe Utah or something).

That's worth repeating.

The very genuine sense of loyalty and support that the city of Indianapolis showed to Ron Artest would've been mimicked in absolutely any other city in the United States.

This isn’t solely because of who or what Ron Artest is (though it helped that he played hard and was, despite his anger problems, fairly likable on the court). This is just the nature of American fan-dom. Just as O’Neal and Jackson defended their guy out of loyalty, the Pacers fans did the same. Rest assured, if Artest was in New York, there would have been thousands of New Yorkers rocking "Free Ron-Ron" shirts. Or, if he was playing in Seattle, you know Danny Fortson would’ve been in the crowd banging on fools just like Stephen Jacskon, and the Sonic fan Seattlites would’ve started drinking Ron-Ron lattes or something. The point is, the support for Artest after the brawl wasn’t a support that would’ve been unique to Indiana. It was only unique to Indiana because of the somewhat coincidental fact that Mr. Ron Artest happened to be playing for Indiana when he smacked a couple fans around. Pacers fans sided with the man because they felt somehow connected to him, like they too were an integral part of the team and that it’d be an act of cowardice and disloyalty to NOT support the man. Just as Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal threw punches on Artest’s behalf, Pacers fans did what they could to throw their own “punches,” buying the man’s jersey, continuing to support the under-manned Pacer team, and anxiously awaiting Ron-Ron’s return. Again, there is nothing uniquely Indianapolis-ian about this show of support. This is the response that American sports asks of their fans, and this is the response that most fans are happy to give (I do realize that not everyone in Indianapolis supported Artest, but the overwhelming majority did).

But Ron-Ron wants to be traded, and that totally flips this dynamic on its head, doesn't it?

When Ron-Ron demanded a trade on Sunday, a whole legion of fans that sided with the man strictly out of faithful and fan-atical devotion felt betrayed. After hearing about the trade, a Pacer fan buddy of mine said in a public forum, "after supporting dude for a long while, this ‘asking to be traded’ shit without speaking with pacers management is seriously weak…. Anybody want to buy a couple of Artest jerseys?" In a private message to me he shared further thoughts saying, "Artest broke my heart, and I took it very personally after spending my dollars on tickets and jerseys and such." As fans, I think this is a state of heart-broken rejection that we can all empathize with. Sure it’s silly, but I don’t think it’s altogether unfair to say that, in sports, we give ourselves over to certain teams and certain players the same way we give ourselves over to lovers and/or friends in our interpersonal relationships. We make sacrifices for them, make investments in them, and expect certain things in return. When they don’t come through, it hurts. We feel betrayed.

But, it’s a much different situation for the players. The relationship that the fans have to the players is not even close to the same relationship that the players have to the fans. Artest demanding a trade did not and does not betray any unspoken rules of loyalty in contemporary sportsmanship in today’s NBA. Instead, Artest demanding a trade articulates clearly that the relationship between fans and players—and even between teammates—is not what we’ve thought it is. It's simply not what we've been taught it is.

Artest’s trade demand is a demand that is uniquely aware of the huge rift between fans and the players they depend on. I think Artest is aware of the fact that this overwhelming show of support from the Indiana fans could've and would've happened anywhere. In fact, I'm not altogether convinced it hasn't. I know people from all over the US who supported Mr. Artest after the brawl. The Indiana fans feel betrayed because they feel like they have a certain entitlement—like Artest owes them some give-back for the fact that they supported him through thick and thin. But, it seems to me that Artest is keenly aware of what this support actually is: just the Indiana fans going through the motions of being Indiana fans.

This isn't meant to be criticism of the Indiana fans. Just as I think Artest would've been supported equally if he was playing in almost any other city, I think every other city would respond the exact same way that Indianapolis has when Artest demanded this trade: with a resounding "Fuck that." But, this trade demand calls attention to the mythical "give-take" relationship between players and fans. This trade demand (coupled with last year's brawl and all of the support and criticism that came along with it) clearly articulates the rift between players and fans.

NBA players today are not like the fans. They're obscenely large and athletic men that are simply not like you and me. The fact is, they can do things that we can't and that's why we watch them. Of course, this is the case in every single professional sport, but in the NBA the gap is larger. In the NFL, you still have work-horse athletes that you and I and middle-class, blue-collar white folk can relate to. The very nature of the NFL is blue-collar. Likewise, in baseball, you've still got fat old guys who can still perform. In the NBA, the players are a markedly different breed of human. They're either extremely quick and crafty, or huge, over-powering, and incredibly athletic. It also doesn't help that, in a very literal sense, there's little-to-no separation between the fans in the stands and the players on the court: court-side tickets are literally on the court and, given a lapse in security, any old Joe can run out on the floor and catch a sliding right hook to the grill from Jermaine O'Neal.

So, I suppose this is all just a rather long-winded way of saying that, yes, it appears that Mr. Ron-Ron Artest has no loyalty to his fans that have showed him so much loyalty. And, yes, it appears that he has no loyalty to his teammates who have stuck up for him, too. But, I don't want to really comment on whether or not I think this is a good or a bad thing. The only thing we can really take away from this is that, while players and fans are obviously hugely dependent on each other in very obvious ways, this dependence manifests itself as resentment just as often as it manifests itself as fandom. Giving one's self over to a player and/or a team is what we've been taught to do by the sports nation, and we expect certain things from players without ever really thinking about these expectations and how fair they are to the players. Hell. They're rich, right? They can make a few sacrifices for me and my city, right? Hell. All they do is play basketball all do while I bust my ass at my shitty job, right? They can stick it out, right?

I don't mean to criticize these questions or expectations, but I wonder how valid they are in today's sports environment.

Is it really reasonable to have "loyalty" to certain players in contemporary, business-first sports world? Let's be clear about this, after all. David Stern has gone to great lengths to market the National Basketball Association as a professional business like any other, and it seems that, while the NBA has technically always been a business, that the dynamics are changing. As the NBA becomes more "business-first" and as it evolves, is it possible that we as fans are operating under an out-moded sense of what being a "fan" is all about? Perhaps that's why there's so much resentment for the players and the game these days. Perhaps the resentment is there, not because the actual way the game is being played has changed so much, but because the way the sport has operated has changed so much, while the way we as fans engage the game and the way we as fans relate to the players hasn't changed at a parallel place.

Or maybe not.

One thing's for sure. Artest won't be in Indiana long. I can't blame the Pacers fans for being happy about that. I'd respond the same way if he pulled this shenaningan's in Philly.

But, that being said, he didn't... and I hope he comes to the Sixers.



At 12/15/2005 10:42 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

count me among the fallen. as i've written numerous times before on here, i think that artest is everything that's right about basketball--perceived as crazy, unorthodox, and street, but actually cutting to the quick of everything that makes competitive hoops a valid human enterprise, both functionally and aesthetically. and while i do see the irony in the fact that artest's rabidity could be as circumstantial as the fans' support of him, what's fucked here is how unnecessary, how dispassionate, the trade request is. no one benefits, especially not the immortal entity that is basketball itself, and artest gets reduced to someone preoccupied with something other than the might of the game.

in short, this basically undermines TW's legitimacy as a basketball player and cultural bell-ringer (no, the brawl didn't), no matter how transcendent a figure he is. it's like, he survived the brawl—still had crazy respect from everyone in the league, and the grudging love of anyone with half a brain in the fan world–and now he goes and pulls a bitch move we've come to expect of a prima donna like vince.the aftermath of the brawl made ron ron larger than life, and now he's insisted on pulling the most petty shit imaginable.

i'm sure he could be the same player on another team, but will we ever be able to believe again that he means it?

At 12/15/2005 11:05 AM, Blogger emynd said...

I agree with everything you said, Shoals, but I didn't want this piece to criticize Artest. I obviously think it's a bitch move, but I felt like there was something more at play here since it was Ron-Ron doing this and not someone like Vince.

Perhaps something will be revealed within the next few weeks and/or months that will allow me to look at this in a different light, but suffice it to say that I had a lot of thoughts about this whole ordeal and found it to be (at least potentially) pretty complicated.

The danger, of course, is that it's really not that complicated and Ron is just being a terd.

I think I did a pretty good (unintentional) job of expressing how frustrating a situation it is though.

Maybe in the end that's all there is to take from it.


At 12/15/2005 11:26 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i can't remember when i did this, but at some point i wrote a post about how artest just wasn't that complicated a person. he's a total monolith, and that's what makes him so fascinating. this just forces us to tarnish said monolith a little.

At 12/15/2005 12:32 PM, Anonymous illwafer said...

"Oh, and, of course, we can’t forget that he’s responsible for the NBA’s only Shot-Heard-Round-the-World/"Where were you when it happened?" moment."

I thought Magic Johnson had that one sewn up.

At 12/15/2005 2:52 PM, Anonymous Josh Landon said...

The NBA must be the only sport where its most significant moments only tangentially involve the game itself (or at least the game in any sort of win/loss sense). The Brawl, Magic's AIDS confession, even Jordan seems to be more notable for his sheer excellence and iconography than any sort of defining moment.

There are counter-arguments to my point, but many of them, such as Isiah's sprained ankle game or Jordan's '84 moment at the Garden, were still moments in which the "hero" put forth a memorable effort during a loss.

This, I think, gets to what is surely one of the most interesting aspects of the NBA: In no other league does winning and losing matter less. Great teams that win multiple championships are barely notable (San Antonio) while athletes like Artest recieve year round coverage.

This isn't intended as a jab at the NBA, I generally prefer this over the boring, somewhat utilitarian approach of the NFL, but I do think that many people have a hard time accepting this approach to sports fandom.

At 12/15/2005 3:16 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

another timeless brick-ism, this one in the form of an exact quote (i am bored enough today to actually bother with google):

"[FreeDarko's] made sports--where the point is to crown objective winners through trophies and stats--completely subjective."

So while I'd obviously rather think of us as innovators on the prowl, I would also be mightily vindicated if you were right--if it turned out that not just FreeDarko, but history as it stands, thought of the nba that way. Twirly interpretation is great and all, but I'd rather be told I'm right.

At 12/15/2005 4:09 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

see, but i think the spurs are a pretty unique case here, since there really isn't another example of a small market team winning multiple championships (at least not one that came to my mind in the 10 secs i spent thinking about it). would people get really excited about the bucks, jazz, kings or bobcats winning titles every year?

moreover, if this same spurs team was winning in NY, LA, Chicago, Miami, you don't think they'd be rabidly embraced? tony parker would be a STAR in LA, miami would adore ginobili, and NY would admire Duncan's ability to lock down the paint and clean the glass in the same way they have always revered the staunch Giant D or the Yankee professionalism.

that's my rock and i'm sticking to it.

At 12/15/2005 11:00 PM, Anonymous Jimbo said...

I think the most interesting part of that post was the theory of the sources of fan resentment.

For me all that stuff about fans resenting players and the sport because the game isn't 'played the right way' reeks of BS. I think the idea that the resentment which exists toward the NBA (and to a degree the NFL and other sports) is a function of the replacement of loyalty with something like 'business sense' - and that the average fan feels a disconnection from the average player - is an interesting one.

But let me ask this - why doesn't that apply to sports like English Premier League soccer? The EPL has gone from success to success as the game has become more corporate and as an increasing fraction of players, coaches and even owners are not-English (black, white, continental European, African, Asian, Latin American, Australian and even the odd North American).

I think, if anything, the average EPL fan has even less in common with the average player than the NBA equivalents. Yet you don't hear anything about the game being played the right way, or about players being thugs, nor do I get any sense of a generalised resentment. (Except perhaps by a few lefties who see European soccer as the ultimate triumph of economic rationalism. Damned Pinkos.)

So I guess the questions are, 1, have I understood Mr Emynd's theory correctly; and 2, is it consistent with what I've said about the EPL?

At 12/16/2005 1:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as a side, has anybody had a good look at ron's lyrics? I tend to agree with the 11:26 post in that he seems to be completely bland. Was wondering if his lyrics might provide some insight a la Kobe and this doozy...
Think ya eyein' me, all along, I'm eyein' you
The hunter becomes the hunted, girl, I'm preying on you
Beautiful, the feelings we share are mutual
Passion that's telling me so for us is suitable
Un-controllable desire flows through me
When you say my name, such lust in your slang
No time for games, the games I play, all the same
Can't get witcha, when the door hitcha, when the Lord splitcha
I figure, hour-glass figures could be dangerous
Cuz if your time runs out, they frame you for your clout
And having a past, well, I stereotype glass
All dimes ain't money, ass, and feignin' for a brother's cash
Slash fame, slash power, slash respect
All the above, makes me a supreme threat to scrubs
Love but do you want? One more 'gain, let me know
The words flow, from the bottom of your soul

At 12/16/2005 10:00 AM, Blogger emynd said...

"1, have I understood Mr Emynd's theory correctly?"

I'd say so. I really don't know if the theory has any truth to it, but I too thought it was interesting which is why I brought it up. I agree that the fans resentment for the NBA has very little to do with how the game is actually played and has much more to do with something slightly harder to pin-point.

As for "2, is it consistent with what I've said about the EPL?"

I really don't know enough about Premier League soccer to say anything useful here, but I think your questions are totally valid. The one obvious thing I might suggest is that soccer is linked more closely with something like nationalism and/or a geographic identity than something like the NBA is (or really any American sport). Of course, since we're talking about the Premier League, we're only talking about different regions within Great Britian, so perhaps the word "nationalism" isn't exactly accurate, but I think the fact that the prevailing understanding of what it means to be "a football fan" is based, at least in part, on geographic identity lends a much different approach to the game in general.

I dunno though, really. Maybe someone who knows a bit more about this stuff can add some thoughts.

I do wonder though, are European football fans as obsessed with statistics and streaks and records as we are over here? Are there even "Hall of Fames" dedicated to preserving the history of the game, or do they just sort've let word-of-mouth oral history take care of the historicizing?

I wonder if that's at play here, too.

Thanks for reading and asking some interesting questions.


At 12/16/2005 10:03 AM, Blogger emynd said...

As for Kobe's lyrics, although they seem to be a bit on the oddly prophetic/revelatory side with regards to the rape scandal, it's worth mentioning that they were probably written by either "C. Jackson" and/or "N. Jones" (50 Cent or Nas respectively). I remember glancing at the credits on the K.O.B.E. 12" and saw that their names were listed as writers of the song.

Perhaps 50 or Nas, when writing those lyrics, noticed something about homeboy that was slightly off and wound up penning some hilariously prophetic ish in response.


At 12/16/2005 11:37 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

personally i don't believe that the racial/cultural issues are irrelevant when it comes to fan resentment. it goes something like this: players are always likely to bolt for free agency, demand trades, underperform, or take forever to develop, all the while often handcuffing teams with their contracts because of the cap. fans have less sympathy for this beacuse the nba'ers are so markedly different from a lot of their fanbase. baseball has many of the same issues (sure, there's no real cap, but money is still money), but there's certainly less of a reflexive condemnation of its players.

i would also suspect that soccer, like football, is so tied into national/regional pride that ultimately all players are secondary to the team, which is secondary to the land that houses it. and since i know you didn't forget that THIS IS A LEAGUE OF STARS, it's nearly impossible for this to occur in the nba. look at iverson--with regard to basketball identity, he hasn't become philadelphia, philadelphia has become iverson.

At 12/16/2005 12:46 PM, Blogger ForEvers Burns said...

An Artest hypothesis with virtually no proof to back it up:

In many ways, Artest seems to embody the stereotypical "bad boy who just wants to be loved." This mainly comes from his description in SI; the article seems to go out of its way to portray Artest gold-hearted and self-sacrificing, albeit immature, superstar in the making. Artest chats up the folks at the JCC, he hugs random children, he tips everyone big. For Artest, the brawl may have been a blessing in disguise as the entire city rallied behind him and supported him. When he talks about the city and the franchise, he said, "the way they treated me, I owe them a championship."

There’s definitely a profound difference in sports between being liked and loved by a fan-base. As a die-hard Baltimore Orioles fan, I always liked Rafiel Palimero (but felt no real loyalty towards him), and when he tested positive for steroids, I was furious with him. However, Miguel Tejada has been my favorite player in the league for years and when he requested a trade, I was positively crushed. I couldn’t get angry with a player I loved, I just felt betrayed.

By losing control in Detroit, Ron Artest became one the most loved players in Indiana (as emynd pointed out). I think getting what he always wanted may have led to this trade request. When he was just crazy Ron Artest, he could occasionally smash a television camera and people would just dismiss it. "It's just Ronnie being Ronnie." But that was before he became such a beloved figure. When someone you love and support messes up, you don't just dismiss it, you're disappointed with that person; you’re let down.

I think Artest felt that pressure. He knew, just as everyone knows, that sooner or later he’d lose control again. While before, his actions would either be ignored or met with anger and swift punishment. These were all things Ron could and has handled in the past without bothering him too much. Yet now, the next time he messes up in Indiana, every player on the team and fan in the city will be disappointed with him, and I think the pressure of that may have been too much for him.

I think he sees his choices as follows: wait for the inevitable incident and feel crushed that he let his city and his team down or get traded to another team where everyone will expect him play well and will look the other way when he loses his mind (which everyone seems to regard as part of the “package”).

At the risk of ending with a totally stupid analogy, it’s like the clichéd, typical fear-of-commitment break-up. A guy preemptively ends a relationship with a girl he thinks he’s in the process of falling in love with. They might be happy forever, but he also might end up totally crushed emotionally and so, in his mind, the risk is just not worth it.

At 12/16/2005 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why does Peter Jackson hate folks of color?

At 12/16/2005 1:13 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...


i reluctantly agree with you 100%, but you realize that you've made artest into a kobe-like figure, where there's no way of distinguishing between his obsession with basketball (which consumes his life) and his self-obsession (which underlies a deceptively "pure" devotion to the game).

for some reason, i still want to believe that for artest, the game ultimately conquers all, and that when he steps on the court or into the season, the whole world falls away (as opposed to kobe, who really wants you to believe that the world is falling away). i don't doubt that artest really, really cares about how people feel about him, but his competitive nature SHOULD take precedence.

i want artest to either win at all costs, or show he can be a chump. but i don't want to believe that his urge to assert himself on the court is just a function of his psychological foibles.

At 12/16/2005 1:38 PM, Blogger ForEvers Burns said...

"i want artest to either win at all costs, or show he can be a chump. but i don't want to believe that his urge to assert himself on the court is just a function of his psychological foibles."

I think we definitely have a difference of perspectives. It sounds heavy-handed, but I'm of the mentality that everything wonderful and terrible (and everything in between) that people do is basically a function of their psychological foibles.

Delving a little further into the idea that "Artest plays ball to be loved" theory, after reading an old ESPN Mag article on him, it makes things a little more clear. Lacking a father figure in his home (his parents divorced when he was a young teenager), coaches became the father figures. Is it a coincidence that his game is basically every coaches dream? He does all of the little things that would make a coach totally fall in love with him, and I think that's how his game took shape; he'd do whatever it took to get the affection of his coaches, who provide a kind of reinforcement that can't be gotten from teammates and peers his own age. So his game appears almost altruistic, but I think it happened on his way to trying to please his coaches. When it worked and took him places, he stuck with it.

Here's the most important part. Artest came from a broken home; his parents split as he was going through adolescence. Kids that age tend to internalize divorce in such a way that they blame themselves for it. The actual fault of the break-up seemed to be his father's temper, the very same that manifested itself in Ron. I'd be willing to believe that Ron is convinced that his anger (among other things) broke up his family.

So now, he's in Indiana and the whole city, along with his team, has become his family. They love him and he loves them. Of course, the last time he was in a situation like this, everything fell apart, and I think he believes it fell apart because of his anger. So now, rather than face (what he sees as) the inevitable disintigration of his new family at his own hands, he leaves before it can happen.

I wish this conversation wasn't so interesting because I have way too many exams I ought to be studying for.

At 12/16/2005 1:49 PM, Anonymous Days of Thunder said...

I liked your commentary on, as i understood it, the changing relationship between players and fans as the association becomes more business-oriented. With regard to the fans resentment of the NBA, you hit the nail right on the head with:
"They're rich, right? They can make a few sacrifices for me and my city, right? Hell. All they do is play basketball all do while I bust my ass at my shitty job, right? They can stick it out, right?"
In think, to a degree, many celebrities in America are people who, having "came up" leaving behind the blase, daily grind of everyday life, are exalted to an almost otherworldly level of privledge here on earth. The important part though, is that this pedestal is held up by the masses, and therefore subject to their whims. Look at Tom Cruise, who enjoyed an illustrious movie career following 'Risky Business" for two decades, only to be cast aside abruptly when he finally opened his mouth. Whether or not it is fair for Indiana fans to have certain behavioral expectations of Artest is irrelevant because they already do. It comes with the territory.
As far as Indy fans not caring personally about Artest, this is unimportant because, as you said, that personal apathy is mutual. Charles Barkley summed this attitude up best when confronted with a photo of a fan holding a poster critical of him, (to paraphrase) 'He knows my name, but I have no idea who he is, so who's the loser?' To an extent, I can sympathize with fans who are fed up with NBA players who are/appear to be unappreciative of their exalted positions. Yet, are the fans just poor schmucks who shell out their hard-earn dollars to support spoiled, malcontent millionaires, or are they the thirsty audience calling for the blood of slaves on the sword of some gladiator, spectators of a modern minstrel show? Maybe they are both. In any case, in pulling this stunt Artest has lost the respect of many fans who supported him (even if they only did because of team loyalty). I think that if his past haunts him, and the baggage of being a high-paid athlete is too much, he can always go back to being a mortal, working some place and playing pick-up ball at the local gym "for the love of the game". Somehow I don't think this will happen. I just hope that the Knicks don't end up with him.

At 12/16/2005 2:02 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

mostly because i don't want to come off as a naive grain-builder, i feel the need to assert that i do indeed understand the primacy of psychological make-up. i'll freely admit that (big surprise here) my "colorful" writing has a lot to do with things that are wrong with my brain. part of what fascinates me about kobe is the degree to which basketball genius is so transparently a function of his screwy personality.

but for whatever reason, i've always wanted to believe that basketball was artest's redemption. maybe it's self-serving: my entire understanding of the nba kind of depends on the possiiblity of a project kid from a broken home turning into one of the most awesome competitors the game has ever known. iverson did this, but in a divisive manner. artest, aside from the madness, is pretty much the ultimate proof that the "thug" mentality, background, ethos, whatever, can in fact result in basketball that would make larry brown tremble.

the important thing is that artest didn't sell out, or assimilate. he quite simply beat the game at its own game, and in the process, fought demons with demons in his personal life. he did it all on his terms, but ended up making everybody happy.

that his style could be parastic or reactionary, only incidentally resolve his past, and not be something he felt he owned (or meant, as i said yesterday) kind of puts us back in the same old web of problems, vulnerable to the same old criticism, etc.

At 12/16/2005 11:14 PM, Anonymous Jimbo said...

On the difference between fan attitudes in the NBA vs Premier League topic, I think what Shoals' said that EPL (and soccer more generally) supporters give their loyalty to the team rather than the player is exactly right. An obvious manifestation is the fact that of my five or so soccer jerseys, none have a player's name on the back. They're Chelsea, AC, Senegal, whereas my basketball jerseys are Duncan, Wallace, Garnett.

Of course that leads to a whole different set of questions about why this is so. I suspect that the American concept of the 'franchise' in sports has something to do with it, but it's more complicated than that. Maybe someone could start a blog on the topic... (Oh, wait, that's what Free Darko is. Excellent, keep it up fellas.)


At 12/19/2005 9:25 AM, Blogger emynd said...

I can't believe I didn't even seriously consider the fact that Ron-Ron would immediately regret this decision a la a boyfriend and girlfriend who break-up momentarily only to realize they want to be back together.

Problem is, more often than not, usually there's a reason bf and gf break-up in the first place, and they only get back together out of comfort and convenience and familiarity instead of resolving the issues in the relationship that caused the initial rift in the first-place.

Should be interesting to see how this plays out.


At 12/19/2005 4:41 PM, Blogger The Electric Zarko said...

This may be coming a little late; however, there are a significant percentage of English football fans who do not like what has happened with the Premier League. Enough so that earlier this year the EPL admitted to an attendance 'crisis' and tried to figure what exactly what was causing it (too much defensive play, too many matches on TV, results too predictable, etc).

One of the most famous would be Nick Hornby, who wrote "Fever Pitch" shortly before Arsenal began its modern period of glory. When asked about how he felt about this, he responded that the sport had become too corporate and there was less of a connection between a team and where they were from and that he had largely stopped attending EPL games.

What Hornby and other fans disillusioned with the EPL do is follow lower-league soccer, similar to how there are baseball 'purists' who prefer the minor leagues. This can be particularly rewarding because in the English soccer system, all the leagues are connected by promotion and relegation all the way down to the local pub teams. Which means that there are plenty of small teams that are actually full of people who are not professionals and have other jobs on the side -- yet these teams have their own stadia, uniforms and history -- a far cry from your standard rec league team.

So to answer the original question, there is a tremendous disconnection from the EPL with the common fan, we just don't hear about it because we only get the most mainstream of mainstream English media -- for a fan perspective, check out When Saturday Comes, a fanzine-cum-magazine that can be found in Borders or other bookstores with a reasonable import section.


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