Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Tale Of Two Selfish Twits

It is the Best of Times to be a Sports Fan. It is the Worst of Times. Never has there been such an incredible year of competition and Cinderella stories—Eli Manning beating the Patriots; Nadal defeating Federer at Wimbledon; the Rays upsetting everybody to take the lead in the AL East, the Fresno State college baseball team. And never has there been such unmitigated selfishness as there's been in the past couple of weeks.

Maybe I overstate, but truly, the sports world of the past few days has been eye-opening in the way a few athletes have been acting selfish with impunity.

If case you hadn't heard, Ron Artest was traded to the Houston Rockets recently. And when asked by the Houston Chronicle of his opinion on the trade, Yao Ming said, "Hopefully, he's not fighting anymore and going after a guy in the stands."

Right now, if you go and check out the mainstream media sites regarding Ron Artest and Yao Ming, all you'll find is how Yao and Artest love each other; fences have been mended, all is well. There are quotes of Artest saying all the right things, he loves the Rockets, he's a Soldier of Yao, blah blah blah. (Good PR team you got there, Ron.)

But here's Ron immediately after he found out what Yao said to the Houston Chronicle, this would be before his PR team got to him.
"I understand what Yao said, but I'm still ghetto. That's not going to change. I'm never going to change my culture. Yao has played with a lot of black players, but I don't think he's ever played with a black player that really represents his culture as much as I represent my culture. Once Yao Ming gets to know me, he'll understand what I'm about. If you go back to the brawl, that's a culture issue right there. Somebody was disrespecting me, so he's got to understand where I'm coming from. People that know me know that Ron Artest never changed."
To be honest, is there anyone who's surprised that this was Artest's first, most honest reaction? Here's a guy who appeared on the Today Show just days after he fomented an arena-wide brawl, and mugged for the camera while trying to hawk his new CD. A guy who asked for a month off from playing with the Pacers because he was tired from promoting an album for a group on his production label. A guy who's had the cops called to his house for domestic violence more than a couple of times throughout his career—including last year.

But the thing that irks is this: Why is Artest getting nothing but love from mainstream media? Here the link for ESPN's PTI interview one day after the "ghetto" comments.

Not one question about his first comments—his "I'm still ghetto, I haven't changed." Not one question to the fact that he hasn't changed. Nothing but softballs, such as "Do you think people think you have changed?" What the hell? Why not a question about his "Somebody was disrespecting me" comment?

A few days later, Ron Artest goes on Sunday Conversation with Steven A. Smith (again, great PR team, Artest—pay them well) and when Smith actually brings up Artest's reaction to Yao's comments (though leaving the most incriminating parts out—essentially Smith just quoted the part where Ron said "Yao doesn't know me") Artest's reply—with a straight face and with a serious demeanor—is that he thought Yao meant it as a joke. Honestly. About as believable as the Chinese government saying the pollution problem in Beijing is "just mist."

"Yao is a funny guy. I see him in commercials." Smith has no follow-up question to this—he lets Artest go on. And go on Artest does. He says he doesn't regret the Auburn Hills Palace brawl because he "overcame things." No counter-question from Smith about how the adversity Artest overcame he, in fact, created. Smith let him speak. "I'm not going to say I regret things. Everything I've been thrown has prepared me for now."

It's plain to see that Artest doesn't get it. And why should he? If the media is letting him off the hook for the comments he made, and swallows whole the PR nonsense he spouts afterwards, really, why should he? If they insist of believing—and reporting—that Ron Artest is a changed man, then he can go being who he really is whenever he wants, safe in the knowledge that the media has his back. As he said himself, "People that know me know that Ron Artest never changed."

Also this week, in a story that doesn't at first appear to be similar, but is...His Lordship, the great and powerful Favre himself, "reported" to Packer training camp. Of course it wasn't to lift weights or participate in practice drills with a single teammate. No, there was another purpose to The Favre's visit—to show Packer management how much His Lordship is still loved by the Packer fan and ticket holders. In short, it was to get 56,000 people out to Packer practice to tell new Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers, “You suck.” Which they did. Day after day.

Here's more of Lord Favre: “I worked my butt off . . . to try to get them to sign Randy Moss.” But the Packers didn't listen to Lord Favre. How dare they! “The Packers shouldn’t be allowed to tell me where I can and can’t play.” No, Lord Favre is above that. Only common players get traded, not The Favre. And to show his displeasure, he's got the faithful Cheese Nation, who showed up at the airport to welcome him back to Wisconsin as if he was John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Not to mention a couple hundred reporters (including his lapdog, ESPN).

Here's something from an article on Yahoo Sports. On Tuesday, while still in discussions with McCarthy about his future, a future he insisted he wanted to be in Green Bay ("My intentions have always been to play for Green Bay,” Favre had told the Sun Herald of Gulfport, Miss.), Favre took a break to call Chris Mortensen of ESPN to tell him he wanted out. In short, he pouted in public. And lied doing it.

“The problem is that there’s been a lot of damage done and I can’t forget it,” he told Mortensen. “Stuff has been said, stories planted, that just aren’t true. Can I get over all that? I doubt it. … So they can say they welcome me back, but come on, the way they’ve treated me tells you the truth. They don’t want me back, so let’s move on.”

Let me repeat that. He called ESPN in the middle of a meeting. Scratch that—in the middle of a spectacle of his creation—to say, we should all "move on." Well, Brett, Charles Woodson, one of your former teammates agrees.

“I think it should end today. We should be talking about the team; instead, we’ve talked about one guy for the last five minutes. This is a situation unique to itself, and it has become its own monster.

“You’ve got fans out there yelling ‘we want Brett,’ yelling A-Rod this and A-Rod that, Ted Thompson this and Ted that. That’s not looking at the grand scheme of things. It’s not helpful at all. You’ve got fans that are die-hard Brett fans, and they’ve put that above the team.”

Exactly, Charles. Brett is purposely making a giant spectacle—no matter who gets hurt—and damaging the ability of his former teammates to do their job. In effect, Favre is holding his former teammates hostage. Until Green Bay deals with him.

And that's what make Favre and Artest so similar. Even in totally dissimilar situations, they both acted the same. They put themselves before the team.

But why are we surprised? When a professional and good guy like Chad Pennington, who did nothing that would ever hurt the team—including helping Kellen Clemens, his eventual rival—appears on the scene and acts with dignity and respect, we all marvel at it, because it's so rare. More common are people who put themselves first—people like Manny Ramirez, who say the Red Sox don't deserve a player like him (a player like him who supposedly was too sick to play in an important series against the Yankees in 2003, but was seen drinking in a hotel bar with Yankee Enrique Wilson; a player like him who pushes down a press secretary when he can't supply him enough free tickets)—in short, athletes who make sure they get what's coming to them, and as much of it as possible.

So when you get a guy like Yao Ming, who's been nothing but a stand-up class act from the second he was drafted and who unequivocally apologized to Artest, we actually take notice. "If something I said would make Ron feel uncomfortable, I apologize...I'm really sorry about that, because I still don't know him very well...Right now the Rockets made a good trade for us and we got a good player." He apologized, even if he felt deep down he wasn't wrong. Why? Because that's what a good teammate does, create harmony for the betterment of the team. Would Manny have? Or would it be "Just Manny being Manny?"

And has Artest apologized to Yao? He said he'd be a warrior, but has he said said he was sorry for having done anything? To Yao? To the people of Detroit? To the game of basketball? "I'm not going to say I regret things. Everything I've been thrown has prepared me for now." Well, how nice for you.

What about Farve? Has he said a word to Aaron Rodgers for making him the most hated man in Green Bay? For whipping 56,000 people wearing Favre jerseys into a frenzy so they'd berate and curse him while he was trying to practice? Has he apologized to Rodgers, when shortly before training camp, a story surfaced that Favre had the itch to return. Favre, via text message, dismissed the report as “just rumors.” Has he apologized to Rodgers for the text message? Has he spoken one word of regret to the Packer franchise while he made them wait on a bed of razors every spring while he thunk and thunk about retiring or not—forcing the organization into inaction and making every other player in the franchise put their careers on hold? For putting himself ahead of the organization as a whole. Has he ever said a word of regret about that?

Of course not. They're both the victim! Favre didn't mean to retire. The Packers are to blame for his retiring! And Artest isn't to blame for jumping into the stands. Heck, everyone else needs to adjust to him, not the other way around.

And that's just the way it is. Right?


Pete S said...

He changed his mind (which was immature), but I wouldn't call him a bad teammate. The guy hadn't miss a start since the early 90s. Bad teammates nurse injuries - Favre never did that in his career. Green Bay's management had dropped the ball in recent years in terms of getting receiving talent for Favre...that's no secret. Many teams have responded to a veteran QB's request for receiving talent. There's nothing wrong with asking management to sign better receivers if you're a proven veteran and the talent around you has dwindled.

Favre can't be held responsible for the fans reactions at all. If they're not smart enough to read the situation and pull for the QB that Green Bay's management was backing, then that's their fault.

As for Rodgers, why should Brett Favre apologize to him? Did Montana apologize to Young for being a jackass to him for several years? No. It was a competitive situation between 2 guys who were dying to play. Favre realized he was itching to get out on the field again.

Drawing parallels between Favre and Artest is a stretch, to say the least. Artest is a thug - Favre is a warrior. The Jets got a steal unless an injury sidelines Favre. And unless that injury is severe, he's gonna be out there trying to win and they're gonna love playing with him for it.

P-Cat said...

Hey Pete,

Didn't say he was a bad teammate, (at least didn't mean to), rather said that he was a guy who needed to understand that he needed to take responsibility. Especially when his decision affects so many other people.

And I don't mind competition between guys, honest competition is cool, but deliberatly courting public opinion to set up another guy to fail rubs me the wrong way. On the field, Farve has been a real warrior, yes, but his actions and lack of accepting responsibility just make me rethink him.

Anyway, thanks pete for the opinion. Always glad to hear from you and see your point of view.