Gilbert Arenas is a lucky man.
Lucky he’s spending a few days in a halfway house instead of a few years in a prison. Lucky he plays in a league that guarantees contracts.
Lucky he didn’t put bullets in the guns he brought to work to show a teammate he meant business.
Lucky that everyone understands he’s just a fun-loving guy.
Plaxico Burress can only wish he was so lucky. Not only did he shoot himself, but got locked up because of it. There’s no job guarantee when he gets out, no teams lining up to give him his millions.
Super Bowl hero one day, just another number in the New York prison system the next.
Yes, Gilbert Arenas is lucky, something the former Agent Zero surely understands even if he was having a little trouble in court comprehending the idea of a halfway house. Having to sleep in less than luxurious conditions for 30 days isn’t so bad when the alternative was being sent away to prison like so many others.
Arenas was properly contrite when he stood Friday before a Washington judge to learn his fate. There was no joking around, just an apology served up to assure the judge he had learned his lesson.
“Every day, I wake up wishing it did not happen,” Arenas said.
So, presumably, does Burress. The only difference is he wakes up in a prison cell.
The cases differ, of course, but they do have a common theme. Both involve star athletes so arrogantly caught up in the gun culture that is pervasive in professional sports that they thought gun laws didn’t apply to them.
At least Burress was quick to realize his situation was serious. Shooting yourself in your leg will do that.
Arenas was still treating it all as a big joke until the time NBA commissioner David Stern assured him it was no laughing matter.
The apologists for Arenas will claim that he is paying a heavy price despite getting no prison time. He’s losing more than $7 million in salary while under suspension, and his lawyers say he also lost a sponsorship deal with Adidas that will cost him at least $10 million.
It’s all relative, though, because Arenas still has a big portion of his $111 million contract due to him and it’s all guaranteed. There has been speculation the Wizards might try to void the contract because of his felony conviction, but the consensus seems to be that it would be tough to do.
Indeed, coach Flip Saunders talked as if he was expecting Arenas back for next season.
“He’ll probably start doing some stuff come summer time that he needs to from an in-shape standpoint,” Saunders said.
For that, Arenas can be thankful for good lawyers. His were so good that he escaped prison time despite having a prior gun conviction and despite lying repeatedly about bringing four guns into the team locker room and setting them near Javaris Crittenton’s locker with a sign telling him to “PICK 1.”
“If any other individual – without the fame, power, and the wealth of this defendant – brought four firearms into Washington, D.C., for the purpose of a similar confrontation, fabricated a story to conceal that confrontation, provided convenient explanations in an attempt to mitigate his conduct that were proved false, joked about the incident to large groups, and stated that he did nothing wrong and felt no remorse, the government would seek their incarceration, and the Court would almost certainly give it,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh wrote in asking for prison time.
Imagine any other person keeping their job, too, after bringing guns to work and offering them to a fellow employee to settle a dispute, say, over who gets the corner cubicle.
A more fitting sentence might have been a few months in jail, if only to demonstrate that guns are no joking matter. A more fitting response from Stern might have been to kick Arenas out of the league for good.
Instead, Arenas will spend a few nights at a halfway house. He’ll do a few hours of community work. Eventually he’ll get on with playing in the NBA once again.
The judge bought the argument that the good things Arenas has done with charity work mitigate the bad. He believed the defense portrayal of Arenas as being genuinely remorseful.
We can only hope it’s true. Right now the only thing we really know about Arenas is that he’s one lucky man.
And that’s no joke.