Thursday, March 5, 2009

Absolute Value of Zero

This is a great time to be a sports fan in the Washington, DC metro area. Notice I didn’t say to be a fan of those teams around here, because that omission is vital to my post’s point. You see, around this time—and this year has fallen in line with recent history—there’s glimmer of hope among Redskins fans. Owner Daniel Snyder (aka Montana Max) has just gone on another impulsive spending spree on sexy names; and there is a bit of a livelier bounce in their collective steps. It’s like the “Yes, We Can!” movement, only on a drastically lesser plane. Subsequently, like clockwork, the free agents flop (I’m looking at you, Prime Time) and disappointment covers the sports community like a cloak. But there has been a glimmer of hope emanating from the corner of 7th & G Street. It’s a quirky, crossover-wielding glimmer of hope with boundless determination and range, and devoid of any form of shot selection conscience. It is Gilbert Arenas.

Gilbert, Hibachi, Agent Zero, Gilly the Kid. Call him what you want, but he bullied his way into becoming one of the Association’s most gifted scorers…when healthy. At the height of his powers, Arenas gave the people of Chocolate City a reason to care about professional basketball again, and not just high school or Georgetown hoops (sorry, HU alums). He’d done something that not even an aging-but-effective MJ could do: get the Wizards into the postseason. You know a city is starving for success when confetti and hat/T-shirt sets were passed out…for a First Round series win against Chicago.

But yet, even with the Wiz recent obstacles—those being the Hammer of Lebron in the past three postseason and not winning this year—supporters of the team remain hopeful. This is the absolute value of Gilbert Arenas. Because of the memories he’s provided in his brief tenure here, coupled with just how bad the team was before his arrival, there’s that strand—that glimmer of hope—that allows Washington fans to believe. It’s the superstar effect. For example, Lebron has achieved the same effect in two cities; and one doesn’t even have him…yet. The City of Washington has rallied behind Agent Zero; and while I understand why, I still must ask.

That type of fan confidence usually has to be earned. That means that said player—Arenas, in this case—had to earn his stripes since he wasn’t a product of Washington’s streets like Lebron is to Cleveland (even though he’s from Akron). I’ll use the example of the SSOL Suns once Steve Nash was signed there. Before then, the consensus was that Stephon Marbury was better than Nash and the team was downgrading at the position. Sixty-two wins and an introduction of the new wave of basketball ideal later, those comparisons were quickly halted. So my question that I must ask is: Why do Washington fans put their faith in Gilbert Arenas?

This isn’t anything against Arenas the man or the player, because his game is atomized chaos; and is even underrated as a point guard and floor general. To paraphrase what he said in his now infamous SI interview, only he’s been able to genuinely co-exist with two other 20-point scorers and legit all-stars. But they aren't a life-changing group. In fact, they are the SSOL Suns with an identity crisis. The Wizards "try" to commit to defense instead of eschewing it altogether like D'Antoni told the current Knicks to do. Arenas isn't the Maestro that Nash was. He isn't the musing of a genius' radical philosophies; but rather the distant traveler who has picked up the manuscript of D'Antoni's teachings but hasn't quite unlocked all of its secrets. He's not the revolutionary talent that a Lebron, Wade, Kobe, or even a 'Melo is.

Or maybe he is.

Perhaps Gilbert Arenas is that long-lost son that has come to his rightful home in Washington. Someone with as much unrelenting drive as Arenas may only fit in The Most Powerful City in the World. Maybe Arenas' searching for true respect is what residents of this area can relate to when explaining go-go music to the outside world. Maybe that bond is on the atomized level with where Arenas studies Basketball. If it is, then he's perfect for this city.


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