Tuesday, January 05, 2010

They Couldn’t Have Been Playing Checkers

Guns & PokerBeen following this Gilbert Arenas-Javaris Crittenton story over the last few days. You’ve heard about it, I’m sure. Started out as another one of those bizarre-sounding, outside-the-lines incidents in which professional athletes crazily risk their livelihood (or even lives?) thanks to some short-sighted behavior. As it has developed, though, it sounds like it is also turning into one of those not-so-good-for-poker stories. Like we need another one of those.

It was on New Year’s Day that the New York Post excitedly reported “Wizards Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton pull pistols on each other.” Kind of sounds funny reading that back. These guys aren’t real wizards, obviously. Figuratively or literally. They’re members of the Washington Wizards, the NBA team that used to be nicknamed the Bullets. The nickname was changed starting with the 1997-98 season because, as recently deceased owner Abe Pollin then explained, “Bullets” had negative connotations. Indeed, during the early 1990s our nation’s capital was also frequently referred to as the U.S. murder capital, too.

Thus did Peter Vecsey cheekily begin his New York Post article “Guess they’re still the Bullets at heart.”

The story is quite specific in its reporting that Arenas and Crittenton drew guns on one another in the team’s locker room on Christmas Eve. The dispute apparently was over “a gambling debt,” writes Vescey, who even is able to state that Arenas “went for his gun first” then Crittenton “brandished a firearm as well.” The article cites a friend of Crittenton’s as a source for these details.

ESPN picked up the story that day as well. There the story already has over 2,300 comments by readers. Noticed one comment that first day that read “arenas only shoots 40% so crittenton might have survived.”

Arenas also apparently initially adopted a jokey tone when commenting on the incident afterwards, downplaying its seriousness in messages sent on his Twitter page and in interviews. The jokes have stopped, though, and Arenas yesterday issued a seven-paragraph statement through his lawyer explaining his side of the story.

If you are interested in any of this, you are reading further details elsewhere, so I won’t repeat them all here. As you might imagine, Arenas downplays the severity of the conflict.

Oh, and that “gambling debt”? Yesterday’s New York Times states that “news accounts, based on unnamed sources” are reporting that Arenas and Crittenton “were involved in a high-stakes card game during a Dec. 19 flight from Phoenix to Washington.” Today the Post less cautiously clarifies that the debt at issue was for $25,000 and specifically notes Arenas has a “penchant for high-stakes Texas hold ’em poker.”

A-ha! So what we have here is Trouble with a capital “T.” And that rhymes with “P” and that stands for Poker!

We already knew Arenas was a poker player. Some might remember it being reported back in 2006 that the colorful Arenas -- a helluva a scorer when he’s not injured -- liked to play online poker, sometimes at halftime of games! “It’s just a mental challenge,” said Arenas, “to keep my mind going.” That was a few months before the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 was signed into law (in October), after which folks stopped talking so openly about playing online poker.

Kind of a bummer, then, the way this story has brought poker into the fray. Like those in The Music Man singing about the inherent dangers of pool, some will instinctively draw a causal relationship here, with poker somehow having started the trouble -- whatever it was -- that subsequently ensued.

We saw something similar happen with that Michael Phelps story from nearly a year ago, with some wanting to suggest his poker playing somehow directly led to a photo of the Olympian with a bong. (In any event, I think it is safer to speculate that the photo with a bong led to a reduction in Phelps’ poker playing.)

Poker will survive the hit. Lousy timing, though, what with lawmakers right there in River City Washington presently considering what to do about that awful UIGEA.

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Anonymous Jim L said...

Oh yeah, I've been following the story. The arguments on ESPN are entertaining. It's racial, the guns "were unloaded", it was a joke. Blah blah blah. I see through all that crap and see an idiot. Only an immature, spoiled athlete wouldn't realize bringing guns to work is unacceptable. Arenas deserves whatever he gets.

1/05/2010 2:15 PM  

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