I’ve been waiting to write this, secretly hoping something worse would happen. Turns out, I hit the jackpot Sunday night when Los Angeles Laker Metta World Peace went full-blown Ron Artest on the Oklahoma City Thunder’s James Harden.
In 2004, Ron Artest, then of the Indiana Pacers, was at the peak of sports controversy. Artest was suspended for a record 86 games after brawling with fans in Michigan.
Then, in “great” public relations moves, Artest changed his name to Metta World Peace, did some heart-warming charity work and had a short stint on “Dancing with the Stars.”
Cut to now: World Peace, after celebrating a dunk, flagrantly elbowed Harden in the head. I’m not sure a dumber sentence has ever been written.
Let’s get real. Ron Artest isn’t any different now than he was back in 2004. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck but changes its name to Swan, it’s still a duck.
But, the thing is, Artest’s stunts, be them good, violent or just flat-out weird, get him attention. And that will always be a major part of being an athlete, of being a celebrity.
What differentiates a famous athlete from any other run-of-the-mill player? Often times it’s controversy. Once a grandma can name an athlete for his or her transgressions, that’s a big-time celebrity.
Yeah, Kobe Bryant is one of the best basketball players of all time, but to many Coloradoans, he’ll always be the alleged rapist.
Tiger Woods was an amazing and historic golfer, but none of that really mattered after his, let’s just say, countless affairs. My feminist self will not allow me to support him making a comeback … Great job at The Masters, Tiger!
One of my personal favorite sports controversies involves Baylor women’s basketball superstar Brittney Griner. In 2010, Griner close-lined Texas Tech player Jordan Barncastle. Apparently, after winning an NCAA Championship, it’s now cooler to question her gender than talk about the fight that put her on the map.
Unfortunately, the last time CU football was relevant was when it was full of controversy.
Coach Bill McCartney is just as famous for getting us a national championship as he is for spewing homophobic speeches.
Former CU/Washington/UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel also did some great stuff for the program if you overlook the bloated 51 NCAA violations.
Gary Barnett was riding pretty high with conference titles and bowl game appearances, but there was that little thing about sexual assault and harassment.
Hot off a three-win season, Colorado football is making national headlines again. Although I still feel passionately about it, talking about Yuri Wright is like beating a dead horse.
But it begs the question, are controversies a necessity in sports? Would people even be talking about CU football if there wasn’t controversy?
I’m sure most athletes would rather have their names in the headlines for athletic achievements than for controversies. However, there’s no denying that attention has some kind of power over athletes.
Maybe they fall apart the way Tiger has.
Or maybe they come back even better the way Kobe and Griner have managed to do.
Would they have accomplished the same feats if it weren’t for the controversies? No doubt. But we might not care as much.
We love sports for the ups and downs, the underdog stories and the intensity that plays out during a game. Maybe that’s why we have a can’t-look-away reaction when controversies play out on or off the playing field.
We thrive on that drama.
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Marlee Horn at Marlee.firstname.lastname@example.org.