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Monardo: Attempting to Peace together the aftermath (April 25)

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lakers forward Metta World Peace bounded down the lane, used two sweeping steps to slide between defenders, rose up and threw down a dunk in the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the Thunder.

It was a good play but not a great one. On a SportsCenter-inspired ranking system, it was closer to “dunk you very much” than “ri-dunk-ulous.”

But that didn’t stop the player formerly known as Ron Artest from celebrating. The former rap star embarked on a shameless display of self-promotion that turned into a damning display of self-depreciation.

Halfway through a Tarzan-esque chest pounding, Metta took exception to Oklahoma City guard James Harden entering his realm. The oft-troubled Laker reared back and delivered a solid elbow to the side of Harden’s head. As Harden collapse

d into the purple paint, World Peace strutted off with a scowl.

That’s weird to say.

But it is so un-weird at the same time. The same man who played a central role in the Malice at the Palace in 2004 has once again caused a ruckus. He changed his name, he left the heartland for the West Coast and he expanded his facial hair, but he once again played the role of villain on the court Sunday. At least this time he refrained from climbing into the stands.

Basically, what it comes down to is one question: how dare he? How dare Metta World Peace clobber an opponent between plays, in front of thousands of fans and in full sight of all the players and referees – especially given his history? Especially given the fact that he took on the name “World Peace”? The pseudonym is assuredly among the worst advertising attempts in history.

“Thanks for trying, Ron, but I’m not sure it’s helping much,” world peace might be saying right about now.

How dare he act as though the elbow was inadvertent? How dare he insult James Harden, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the NBA, its officials and its fans like that? We all saw what happened. Via Twitter and postgame interviews, Metta World Peace attempted to express both concern for Harden and regret for his excessive celebration, all the while insisting that the contact was incidental.

Does he not understand what he has done? He could have knocked out James Harden’s teeth, “Cause you would look pretty ugly with no teeth.” That has nothing to do with your question, but that was definitely on my mind.

So who/what is Ron Artest/Metta World Peace? Is he really a villain? A joker? A defensive stopper? Just a normal human being?

Normality seems unlikely at this point. Anyone doubting this point should consult the Internet about Ron Artest’s philosophy on teeth (no, that wasn’t a typo two paragraphs ago).

But in all seriousness, the former Pacer has once again put the NBA’s reputation in jeopardy by interrupting an official contest with his entirely unprofessional actions. While he left the NBA with a figurative black eye, he inflicted a more literal wound on a fellow player. He put James Harden’s health at risk and left the Thunder with roster uncertainty as they head into the playoffs. He embarrassed his own team and complicated its already-suffering playoff prospects.

For a player whose antics, both on the court and off, have invoked laughter, disbelief, appreciation, shock and disappointment, the most recent infraction is a severely unfortunate event. How is basketball’s fan base supposed to take Metta World Peace seriously? How is the NBA supposed to trust him to represent its brand? At this point, can the 12-year veteran even trust himself to not snap when the emotions of a game accumulate?

Perhaps, with the swing of his elbow, Metta World Peace was taking an inspired but errant shot at the devil that has clung to his shoulder for the past several years. Unfortunately for all of us, the New York native will have to swing a lot harder (and preferably not when anyone’s cranium is within swinging range) to rid himself of that demon.

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.