Attach Me to the Radish
This post is hereby dedicated to the anonymous commentors who so irk me. And to anyone who has already figured out that my short posts die quickly for a reason, and will almost always be replaced by a stronger sort.
I want to thank Chuck Klosterman for robbing me of my weekend, but for in the end giving me so much more. In my culture, we have this thing called psychoanalysis. The essence of it is as follows: you protesteth too much before relieving yourself of the burden and admitting the opposite. Bang. Instant sunshine.
So it was with me and his Gilbert Arenas piece for PLAY. When it first went up on the internet, I felt some obligation to respond to it as a steward of one version of Arenas. In particular, I wondered how it related to something I'd written at the outset of this season, when the lore was piling up fast and the press drifting about it like bloody vapor. I ultimately decided that Klosterman's analysis downplayed what it meant that Arenas's honesty sounded weird. Unfortunately, I also insinuated that points of reference were the same thing as structural emblems. No, no, no, they are not.
Here's why I rebelled so much against the article, which in truth was me rebelling against the current state of Gilbert: shit was all low-stakes. What attracted me to Gilbert Arenas in the first place wasn't that he played pranks or went his own way. It was that, when things were on the line, he did things that appeared irrational. The "international pimp" comment before the 2001 Draft, rumored to have cost him guaranteed money. The needlessly long three against Cleveland. His desire to restructure his contract. The no-shooting game. The gaze trained on the basket that never fliches even once he's been fouled. The coin flip for free agency. The streakiness that seems directly tied to excess enthusiasm. Practicing endlessly to cultivate a lack of conscience. With competition and money involved, Arenas seemed to everyone to just miss the point——but to him, he was more serious than everyone else combined.
Over and over again during this season, we've been treated to sideshow Arenas, which is easy to dismiss as merely silly. And which, in all truth, I find a lot less inspiring. At one point, Klosterman writes "It may be impossible to understand Arenas, but it always feels possible to know what he’s like." To me, the latter part is a distraction; I'm far less concerned with his celebrity affect than I am his maverick way of handling what matters. It remains impossible to understand Gilbert, but unfortunately this year this is being masked by the goofiness that makes it "possible to know what he's like."