Ready the fruited plain
You probably all already caught this on True Hoop, but since I'm feeling so blank about this draft I figure I'll take this as a gift from above.
While the rest of you are bellyaching over who might pan out from this class (who cares? best case scenario, three of them will be worth watching), I'm steadily watching my favorite player turn into a full-time broth of genius. Crusading for civil rights in South Beach? Asking for a pay cut that the CBA won't let him have? Before I got sick of his wispy game, I often touted Jermaine O'Neal as the voice of his NBA generation. Now, though, it's looking like Arenas—in his typically batty, roundabout, contradictory way—is spending his off-season delving deep into the socio-political fabric of the Association and how the world envelopes it. This has also led me to a new pressing question of Arenas-utics: is he painfully sincere but a little off, a wry trickster in all he does, or an absent-minded dreamer with a streak of goodness? I tend to think it's option three, though recent events have forced me to consider that he might be a little more deliberate a fellow than we've been lead to believe. And that the veil of foolishness might now be part of a fascinating, self-conscious adult, one that's grown under up the sheltering fog of "Gilbert being Gilbert."
Sports being sports, and the American mainstream being what it is, we've come to assume that athletes with a conscience must hew to the rhetorical straight and narrow. When it's time for someone to speak up, they generally fall in line with the grand tradition of pedestrian leaders that, for most of them, is the best case scenario when it comes to their having a relevant voice. Look no further than Ricky Williams, who is rarely taken seriously as a not-so-tacit critique of the football-industrial complex. Granted, the NBA supposedly wallows in its own peculiar brand of subcultural hegemony, but even there, there's a normative, post-MLK template in place for what it means to be a baller and a domestic diplomat. Baseball and football seem more likely to give rise to a true maverick of sentiment because of their establishment mentality; those professing bland decency are clearly a part of the system's dynamic, easily dismissed by both sides of the debate. The poor NBA, though, is already so firmly in the grip of racialized disaster that soundbitten dignity seems more a plea for clarity than the regression that it is.
Why not him?