Strappers anonymous

So by now there have probably already been a million bad jokes made about the Pacer bench's big gundown. Cries that these thugs belong in prison, not in professional sports. And concerns over how this affects an organization still working through the Brawl's sordid legacy. I'm also hoping that I'm not the only person who has looked at the situation and thought "punched in the mouth, hit with a car. . .not a bad time to fire off some warning shots." Not saying we should applaud Stephen Jackson's well-documented restraint, or that a skyward round is a particularly responsible idea. What should emerge, though, is that this episode, and Jackson's actions especially, might be the best-case scenario for armed athletes.

As hood-to-death as S-Jax is, he's hardly the only NBA'er (or football player, obviously) known to pack heat. I can't say I was surprised that Mal Mal or 'Quis keeps a piece on tuck, given what I know about them. But over the last few years, we've seen such seemingly innocuous dudes as Arenas and Jason Richardson disciplined for catching gun charges. Like it or not, it seems like an unspoken rule of the Association that, like puffing on the sticky, for many a gun comes with the territory.

Now, I am no pro-gun maniac. I can, however, see how and why athletes feel the need to carry around the ultimate token nod to self-preservation. Only a few regularly roll with security, and, as is the case with rappers, there are always going to be any number of fooled-out individuals looking to get their attention or prove something. Granted one could, as Henry Abbott does, ask why they continue to put themselves in situation where they'll run into this kind of trouble. I think, though, that asking someone to change their friends and lifestyle because they've got a certain job is, well, unconstitutional. Athletes certainly aren't blameless human beings, and I'm sure that they insitigate and escalate a lot of these incidents. Still, asking them to entirely avoid certain settings does at least suggest that they need to learn to live the right way.

What this really points to, however, is just how much of a problem a lot of America has accepting that its athletes are quite often young African-Americans with gritty backgrounds. It's almost a slippery slope; how much would, say, Stephen Jackson have to do to convince certain fans that he was rehabilitated? Why is it that the mention of Richardson surprises us so, as if he weren't that kind of player? And finally, how is it so simple to excuse the mess of civil and criminal complaints filed against NFL'ers each year, with rarely anyone suggesting that these men find new places to hang out or consider a grown-ass makeover?

I really that this might sound like I'm equating being black with wanting a gun, or ignoring the fact that one could in fact take the high road in all cases. The point is, though, that many American feign outrage at basketball players repping a certain demographic as if it were simply another commodity for them. Anyone who knows a fucking things about weapons on city streets can tell you that the problem isn't agency gone berserk. Rather, it's an environment--and yes, to some degree a culture--that has made the gun into a psychological and a practical necessity. The complications arise when you realize how difficult it sometimes is to separate this aspect of some people's environment from whatever they draw strength and meaning from.

Given what we know about last night's alteraction, what would've been the smart thing for Stephen Jackson to do? Take the beating? Run? Pull out a pistol for the sheer brandishment of it? Any of these might've been less dangerous, but if Jackson thought that way, he wouldn't had something in his waist in the first place, or been somewhere where this might've been acceptable. And while I won't go so far as to blame that on society, calling Stephen Jackson a moron or a fuck-up dodges a far more tricky discussion of race in this country. Ultimately, it means accepting that, for many African-American men, identity is indeed a mixed blessing--and understanding that this is as much the fault of America's larger structure as those dark teens thinking up crazy trends on ghetto corners.

This was written fast as hell watching over my shoulder, so sorry if I tip off a major controversy here. I have absolutely no idea how Arenas fits into this, and don't really think we can say that the NBA made him hard.


At 10/06/2006 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My immediate reaction to this post: this is wrong, wrong, wrong.

I'll need to read through it a few more times (I'm in the middle of an ep of the Wire), but damn, this post didn't sit right with me at all.

At 10/06/2006 1:54 PM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

I hate to paint with a broad brush, but I expect many of the people trashing S-Jax this morning at the water cooler, on sports radio, on radio and other media, and in the echoing chambers of their own minds are also supporters of concealed-carry laws and related changes in criminal law and the rules of evidence to make the self-defense defense easier.

These people are also probably white and male. If this story were about an anonymous young white dude leaving a club in Dallas, I have to wonder whether their reaction would be the same.

And until their reaction would be the same, sane dialog on the subject anywhere other than on this blog and in similar locales will be difficult.

At 10/06/2006 1:58 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

anon 1:36, i can't say i feel entirely comfortable with what i ended saying, either. i think it's best to keep in mind that this is written as a reaction to what the msm invariably does with stories like this. there's a lot more to it than they care to admit, and the choices involved can end up bringing in a lot more than whether or not person X did action Y on Z night.

this might bring on even more problems, but does anyone remember how jackson explained wearing gang colors when he got dress-coded up?

At 10/06/2006 2:00 PM, Blogger skinny said...

nfl players don't get off that easy, the league as a whole does. otherwise there wouldn't always be the "thug team" meme.

you should post up ugk's "that's why I carry." or at least "tried by 12." I sign my name in the book at your funeral.

At 10/06/2006 2:05 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

oh, and anon, since i suspect you're familiar with my simon-approved work, please take into account everything else i've ever said related to this before rejecting it outright. i am not brazenly irresponsible when it comes to such matters, and there's an issue here that i think begs some discussion

At 10/06/2006 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Still, asking them to entirely avoid certain settings does at least suggest that they need to learn to live the right way.

Living the right way would have been putting those shots into the driver of a car that tries to run you over.

At 10/06/2006 2:25 PM, Blogger The Cavalier said...

I think one should take into account Jackson's long history of being a jack-ass in this way first before accusing anyone speaking out against him a racist.

We also don't know just what happened to lead up to the endgame. All we know is there was an "argument". Who knows who was the instigator in that argument? Nobody, at this point.

Jackson is a dumbass no matter what happened. At the first sign of any trouble he should be smart enough to walk away, and keep walking.

Does anyone really believe some random guy just came up and punched him in the face and shoved him onto a car? Of course not - there had to be shit-talking and yelling and getting-up-in-faces, etc. If he had half a brain it would never have gotten to that point.

At 10/06/2006 2:53 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

cav--point taken, and i guess i'm more concerned with the other pacers, and what their having guns means, than whatever zaniness s-jax has managed to get himself into this time.

jackson is a former gang banger with, as you say, a history of violence. but the point at which stephen jackson, psychopath, ends and the other three begin is the distinction i'm trying to draw. getting into scuffles while armed may be reserved for the nuts, but that they--and many other players--seem to want to carry guns is something that bear examination.

they can't all be crazy. or if they are, why would so many people be so crazy?

At 10/06/2006 3:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’ll realize about 20 minutes from now that this is an asinine argument, which is the equivalent of saying I don’t mean to offend anyone. The condemning factor in the young, black, and ready to die segment of society is the misunderstanding of the American Dream. Work hard, take advantage of opportunities, enjoy the fruits of your labor, and elevate your quality of life.
Why has “keep’n it real” been replaced for “elevate your quality of life.” I get it, you grow up in the hood, you saw that society rewarded the pimps, pushers, and players. You needed a glock and a crew to survive. This only happens with A-A’s.
Uegatha Urbana’s mother gets kidnapped in Venezuela. Ronaldidho grew up in shanty town slums of Rio, hell Dikembe Mutombo came from the Congo. These upstanding citizens had to endure far more hardships in their youth than anyone from Harlem, Houston, Watts.
The best we can say is Jackson made the best of a bad situation. That’s bullshit. He’s a personal bad situation.

At 10/06/2006 3:26 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

anon3:21, interesting to bring in the internationals. though don't underestimate the value of being thousands of miles away from that world.

and in retrospecct, this post shouldn't have said anything about jackson. i guess i'm just pleasantly surprised that he didn't kill anyone.

At 10/06/2006 3:37 PM, Anonymous davey d said...

Upstanding citizen huh? Didn't Urbina get charged with attempted murder by hacking someone with machetes and trying to set him on fire?

At 10/06/2006 4:29 PM, Anonymous Henry Abbott said...

Shoals--I admire what you're after here (and I say let's get on with race discussion). I'm prepared to acknowledge there are some truthy kernels in there. But I fear you may have hung this argument on the wrong story. I mean, there's a time for understanding a man's motivation, and bridging cultural differences. Then there's other times, when it's just some dumb fight at a strip club that never should have happened. I could be proven wrong as the particulars trickle out, but I suspect this is a situation without a whole lot of take-away lessons at all, other than, you know, let's make sure, Mr. Jackson, that this doesn't happen again.

At 10/06/2006 4:49 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

henry--i was actually worried you might think i was accusing you of something. glad to hear you found the post somewhat worthwhile.

and again, this should probably be more about "what does it mean that everyone else from the pacers had guns" than "s-jax: not quite as sociopathic as you might think"

WV: ayedudez!!!!!!!

At 10/06/2006 7:36 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

also, six kind of brought it up earlier, but think about this: fine, lots of young black men carry guns. including nba players. this makes a lot of people upset.

with about one in four americans owning one, though, how is this about anything but race? does it turn into "black men own guns differently than others?"

was this entire post just an attempt to explain something that, really, needs no more explanation for daniels and tinsley than it does anyone else in america?

(okay, fine, i do think concealed weapons in public and black masculinity are an entirely different kind of problem. still, maybe we should be careful before we act like this phemomenon is totally isolated and anomalous in american society)

WV: gxhjazma: limited edition african afro-latin funk matron comp.

At 10/06/2006 10:50 PM, Anonymous torgo said...

I think you've got some interesting ideas out there, and hey, good on you for posting gut response. It happens too much on the internet, but it's rare that someone who can write well does it, and even manage to think it out while writing.

As for the NFL thing, maybe it's the nature of the sport. Look at the praise given to "gunners" the guys whose job is to run down the field on a kickoff or punt and just hit the other guy as hard as possible. Or the NFL films with "the voice" and how they always play the sound of pad on pad impact just a bit louder. The NFL is all about violence. We expect the people (on the defense, and at the least on the O-line) to be violent people. I think, with stuff like Joey Porter and the puppies, or any of a hundred of other incidents, it's just football players being football players, although with the face stomping, and Romanowski's career in general, there seem to be limits.

As for basketball, I think that the "league of stars" bit is partly responsible in creating the backlash when an NBA player does something, for lack of a better word, bad. I would imagine that the sporting world has a better idea of who Stephen Jackson, or Qyntell Woods, or, to dig into the past, Charles Barkley 'is,' in that they are exposed to the fans more completely, we see them more often, and they stand out so much more than a star football player would. I would imagine that people could much more clearly name the starting five of more NBA teams than could name the starting 22 of NFL teams.

In short, it could be that the reaction to the NBA is a) it's a different kind of sport, where people aren't actually rewarded (through highlight clips/fan respect)for seperating their fellow man from the ground, and/or helmet, and b) they don't have as much of a background to fade into.

That, and, well, this is Stephen Jackson. I'd imagine that he's not exactly representative of the majority of the NBA players. I don't find myself being surprised that other players had guns. Would I have been surprised if they used them? No. Was I surprised that Jackson did? Hell no. Then again, I wouldn't be shocked if he retired to join a monastic order.

The best part I've seen is over on Deadspin, where someone quoted him at a press conference on the 3 days ago, talking about being an elder statesman, and wanting to be a mentor to young players...

At 10/06/2006 10:57 PM, Anonymous torgo said...

Damn. I meant to say, I would have been surprised if Tinsley or Daniels had used their guns. Damn...

At 10/07/2006 2:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there - Anonymous 136 again.

Before I get to the meat of this comment, a note about your work at Heaven and Here: I both hate it and love it. Hate it because I couldn't keep away, and subjected myself to some spoilers. Love it because from what I did read (spoilers aside) looked great. So in one stroke, you killed my desire to watch the show and rekindled it so I could join in on the discussion (I'm halfway through season 3, and should be all caught up soonish). Also, a word of praise - Whitman said something like, "for their to be great poets there must be great audiences". I think this is true for TV as well, and you and your writers are certainly fulfilling the demands of the latter. Nice job.

Now to clarify what I said earlier: disregard the note about the post being "wrong wrong wrong"... I don't mean to say your points are invalid or not cogent. Focus instead on how it doesn't sit well with me. Because in one post we're compounding the uneasiness of racial discussion with aspects of determinism. This debate discomfits me in the same way Native Son did.

Some things that I'm curious about - we've got Stephen Jackson (6'8", 220), Marquise Daniels (6'6", 200), and Jamaal Tinsley (Uh... he's an okay passer?) being intimidated to the point where one of these guys brandishes a gun? What? Who were these other strip club patrons they were scrapping with - a bachelor party of yetis? Perhaps Kodiak bears? All questions about assailants aside, you ask - "Take the beating? Run? Pull out a pistol for the sheer brandishment of it? Any of these might've been less dangerous, but if Jackson thought that way, he wouldn't had something in his waist in the first place, or been somewhere where this might've been acceptable."

Certainly all of those tactics enumerated would have been a better way to go. Hell, even Marcus Vick didn't fire off his pistol. And five rounds? That seems like kind of a lot, no? Anyway, point is, you then go on to say, "Well, Jackson wasn't really capable of making any of these decisions - if he was, he wouldn't be in the situation."

That argument kind of irks me. I'm not trained in anyway in dialectic (I may have grossly misused that term), but that argument sidesteps the whole issue. If we don't have agency, then our entire justice system is for shit. I know you say, "And while I won't go so far as to blame that on society," it still read to me like you were, in a way.

Anyway, I feel a little out of my depth here, being a white boy from a suburbs, so I'll stop typing and suggest one other way Jackson could have resolved the dispute:

Have Jermaine O'Neal barrel out from a nearby alley and slide punch the dude.

-Erik, or Anonymous136

At 10/07/2006 2:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to take the conversation south, but where can I find the NBA logo w/the silhouette holding a gun? Cam'ron used it to promote an album before the NBA shut it down.

At 10/07/2006 10:43 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

erik--my exact words were "if jackson thought that way," not "jackson's not capable of making that decision." that's no different than saying "people who keep guns in their homes think, for whatever reason, that they need one to keep their families safe. if someone breaks in, they'll get shot the fuck up. that's just the way they think about personal safety." as several have already said, jackson might well be incapable of making those decisions; but for NBA player ________, who very easily could end up in a similar situation, doing something with a gun when attacked is akin to paranoid white home owner deciding he has to blast on a petty thief.

and before some wise-ass insists that the house is a man's temple, remember the oft-cited fact that having guns at home makes break-ins more likely to injury you or your family, and more likely that your kids will kill himself or others.

i also find it a little disturbing, if interesting, that you propose jermaine o'neal's haymaker as the semi-humorous solution to the situation. i take o'neal very serious as a cultural ambassador, and the punch he threw seems to me an indication of how threatened that team felt, not how inclined he is to go that route. were this anyone less disreputable than jackson, it might be possible to interpret this thing this way.

wv: onowv=my deepest internet-induced performance anxiety

At 10/07/2006 5:00 PM, Blogger Kames the Jelly said...

65% of all prisoners are minorities, and I believe that the chance of prison-time for a black male before he's 30 is something over 50%.

The truly telling thing about these statistics, though, is that they can be easily misconstrued. For instance, if you subscribe to the perfunctory postulate of many Americans, you could say this means that there is a serious proclivity in African American males towards violence and improvidence. We see this argument with many people who believe developing countries are poor because their officials are simply malfeasant and their citizens obtuse.

Conversely, you can ratiocinate this and come up with a Shoalsian perspective. All of the above may be a pseudo truth, but it is all derivative of environment. Carrying a gun is immaterial to many young black youth: you either do it or you don't; either way a gun can end and save your life. Too many young kids with no gang affiliation have died or been seriously affected by gun violence/drugs completely out of their control. Then, after somehow getting out of this erratically baneful environment and making the NBA, you still subject yourself to these type of people if you maintain any contacts whatsoever to your roots, which is ineluctable. Consider what it would be like to achieve the most successful position imaginable to everyone at your high school (Rock Star, Famous Actor etc.) Anyone who disliked you from the beginning will definitely do so with even more acrimony now that your famous. Now imagine you're at a bar in your hometown and this person is drunk, has a weopon and is part of a hot-headed gang. They see you.

Not to overly analogize situations, but I'd have shot my gun much faster the S-Jax -- much, much faster.

At 10/07/2006 5:29 PM, Anonymous aug said...

From what i understand, a lot of robbers won't bring guns into a home on a break in because it's a lot of added years and charges. Shooting someone with their gun in their home is different than shooting them with a gun you brought in. I see what you're after shoals. I don't think that calling stephen jackson dumb neccessarily dodges a tricky situation, because as you have repeated, you wanted to get to the issue of the importance of daniels and tinsley being involved with guns.

The nfl thing is different because unless you live in that nfl city, you really don't know many of the 52 players on every other team. The average nfl fan could probably only name a few players from each team, and that's only because of fantasy football. In the nba, not having helmets and getting constant close ups and post game interviews makes all players subject to more scrutiny. But at the same time, it enables us to appreciate them on a whole different level. Part of the reason i think we all love the nba and its players is the personal relationship we can try to develop with them. However, i think we all know that people have many flaws(many which myself and FD love) and i think the fact that many of these players did not come from great situations and some do not have the education from leaving early or the fact that school isn't that hard for athletes, and instant rags to riches kind of magnifies these flaws. Being an NBA fan is more about the love of the game and its players than the nfl/mlb love of your team. The players are on center stage, and it's hard to condemn them all the time for making mistakes considering all people do but don't have it published and analyzed. Especially when the context of the situation and the players themselves and their mentality is so complicated.

At 10/07/2006 10:36 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Shoals: Awesome and meaningful. I'm trying to process this. Regarding "black men own guns differently," the tried-and-true response is of course they do, because they live lives that are different, by and large. That came to mind immediately. No need for any exposition, although you could do it if you wanted.

I feel the expanded question is, Why would those "other players", being now removed from that place (having found "a way out") be unable to truly leave that stuff behind? Are they unable, not allowed, or unwilling? The second of those options is most ripe for discussion, though maybe not the truth.

Is it too easy to bring up the idea that class as opposed to race means something here, and that whites, when put in dire straits, always act the same way? It's tangential and we've all heard it before, but ignoring for a moment the culture of guns, and looking at the economics driving the actions of those who have insufficient resources, can be helpful.

I thought of two books: Collapse, and Code of the Street, that you'd love.

Henry: you almost used the word "truthiness" in there.

Torgo: I'm with you all the way on the NFL corollate. The "facelessness" principle applies so well here.

All: This totally shatters the mood, but Tim Tebow made the most FD football play in history today for the University of Florida.

At 10/08/2006 4:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"65% of all prisoners are minorities" just doesn't read right.

At 10/08/2006 6:33 AM, Anonymous danny said...

Brave and cool post. I can't say it's the best case to hang the argument on, but I agree with the argument. The morality plays in the press will be based on an imagined reader with no real experience of the life that Jackson et al. live. And that's the bottom line.

But here's what I thought about. This is freaking Indiana, home of the hoosiers, with two of the whitest dudes in the Association at the helm of the franchise, and a fan base with a similar demographic. What the hell are they doing bringing in guys like Jackson / Daniels / Tinsley who are just not going to be understood by their fan base? That makes no business sense to me. Wouldn't it be like Utah trading for AI? How could it possibly turn out ok?

At 10/08/2006 10:05 AM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

Danny, in terms of "basketball whiteness," I would consider Bird to be one of the least white white guys in the history of the league. His conflicts of attitude, image, and public perception/myth would make for a whole semester course. It's been done before, but the children's book-level characterization he gets from a lot of people (Simmons) is far less interesting than the real.

Geography-wise, let's not forget that Indianapolis proper has more people than Boston, Baltimore, Memphis, Atlanta. There's a weird cultural imbalance in Indiana that's different than anywhere else. Look up some of their voting and census statistics. Anyway, to me it's not surprising to find this kind of friction within that particular organization.

At 10/08/2006 12:22 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

this does raise the question of just how much an organization can (practically) and morally (should) take the "charatacter guys" philosophy as gospel. again, if it's true that more NBA players guns than just the ones getting into trouble with them, or that at least a lot of players might find themselves in gun-ified environments, doesn't screening for this start to be a joke?

it might get back to my central point: white people need to deal with the backgrounds of a lot of these athletes. fans need to learn how to accept that they're there, teams need to be honest about them and adjust their bluster accordingly. not because the athletes in question deserve a question, but so the sport doesn't end up looking so hypocritical and silly so often.

At 10/08/2006 4:54 PM, Blogger jon faith said...

Being but two hours outside of Indinapolis, I can say with some certainty that it remains bereft of an urbanity which would appear second-nature to anyone from Boston or Baltimore. I concur as to its being an odd amalgamation of colors and creeds (often at direct odds with the rest of the state)- that said, it did convict and imprison Iron Mike (despite his jewish council) and was vehement in opposition to the drafting of Reggie Miller over the beloved (and now ash-canned) Steve Alford. Race matters in Indiana, to a pejorative degree, unfortunately.
wv- jjmax (didn't they remix Supersonic circa 1988?)


Post a Comment

<< Home