By now anyone who keeps an ear to the ground in the world of professional sports has either seen the mushroom cloud looming ominously over the city of Los Angeles (not just smog), or felt the after quakes for the atomic bomb that was Laker-forward, Ron Artest, filing to legally change his name to "Metta World Peace." Ron Artest, with a track record about as clean as James Harden's shave, has taken a lot of heat from sports analysts and fans alike for what seems to be yet another Hollywood distraction for a clearly out-of-sync Laker squad. I, while not usually a huge fan of Artest, beg to differ.
A few quick side notes before I jump into the meat of my argument.
1. "Metta" is a Buddhist word for "kindness" as far as I know. In addition to learning my World Religions professor loved Chocolate and hot sauce (not together), we also did a fair amount of learning.
2. The fact that this is such news underlines the state of sports media today and its apparent dependence of sensationalism. This is neither a good or bad thing, but it's impossible to talk about without pointing that out. I'd love to tell you more about that. If you want to hear more, let me know. I wrote a 20 page paper on it that I promise isn't boring. My 20 page papers on Illegal Immigration and Fluctuating Moralities in Thane and Lady Macbeth... are a different story.
3. Did anyone give World B. Free this much of a hassle? I mean you'd have to cite number 2 when talking about the difference between the two, but here we see two players who made similar life choices albeit in two very different times, but one is mocked while the other is lauded. Here we see Ron Artest's past coming back to haunt him.
However, while we're at it, let's take a closer look at the Ron Artest we've come to know and... know. We all know Ron the tenacious, one of a kind defender, the hot head and ticking time bomb responsible for the infamous "Malice at the Palace", a rap album during his suspension, multiple techs and post game interviews we'll never forget. After a Houston Rocket loss, I remember being left speechless and uncomfortable as he talked about seeing a man murdered with a piece of a bench on the streets of New York after a foul call.
But then, there's LA Laker Ron Artest. A Ron Artest who has acknowledged his mental issues and raised awareness to benefit kids similar situations. He even sold his championship ring to benefit his cause. Now, I don't think Ron's change in behavior has anything to do with his change of scenery, but while still not a guy I'd invite over to dinner, he's quite a different guy (publicly) than he was back in those days. It's a shame that analysts seem to prefer the former Artest rather than the latter.
Regarding the distraction, I don't really think there is one. I mean, how does a name on a jersey impact the team. He's still the same player. The media will go nuts for a week or two once they see him play in it, but then things should be business as usual. I've heard this equated to Chad Johnson's name change. I disagree there as well. Chad's name change was clearly something tailored for stroking his own ego. It's cliche, but his name says it all. While "Metta World Peace" is a name for from drenched in humility, the name expresses some sort of larger belief system. A crazy one, maybe, but it's more than just an ego supplement.
Great athletes like Kareem, and Ali changed their names because of their beliefs. I know that this point is strained and would never be my primary argument, but the point, while flawed, has merit in my opinion. The name is nuts, the man has issues, but this is not the kind of life choice that should fall under such scrutiny. Lamar Odom is the one with the reality show. Let him do what he pleases with his name.
A few people are saying that this a last stitch effort of a setting star to be in the spotlight. I'll say this. Ron Artest out of the triangle offense will have a much better season. He'll be more involved offensively and, I think, therefore more inclined to commit on defense like the Artest of old. Instead of him shooting threes, he should be put on the blocks and be the on-the-court bully we expect. Artest on the blocks will be anything but peaceful. By the way, I'm not saying the Lakers will be better necessarily, but Ron really should.
In conclusion, quite simply, cut the guy a break and let his game do the talking. Hopefully Ron Artest will let you.
Besides, who, in their heart of hearts, doesn't secretly want an NBA jersey with "Peace" on the back of it.
Song of the Day: I Still Care For You- Ray LaMontagne
Jazz Song of the Day: But For Now- Jamie Cullum