This is a question without an answer, but after the Jamaal Tinsley shooting incident, which followed the Sean Taylor slaying, which followed the Antoine Walker and Eddy Curry home-invasion robberies, it's a question that might be worth asking:
At what point does a series of isolated incidents amount to a trend?
I was thinking about this as I was reading about Tinsley's foray through a night of clubbing that ended with his Rolls-Royce and his equipment manager being shot up as they were driving away from a club in Indianapolis at some ungodly everybody's-sleeping hour of the night.
The reports indicate that some guys at the club were less than impressed with Tinsley's ostentatious display of wealth and thought bullets were the answer.
After that -- and after the equipment man was handed off to the staff at a boutique hotel along the way -- Jamaal's brother James apparently pursued the shooters and fired some shots of his own. He thought bullets were the answer, too, only to a different question.
We can debate the idea of these guys' putting themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time -- Tinsley, who accompanied Stephen Jackson during his shoot-the-moon phase, is apparently a specialist in this -- but maybe it's also time to ask whether there's something deeper at work.
Are we seeing the beginning of a backlash against the wealth -- and the obviousness of the wealth -- of professional athletes? Will there come a time when these guys simply can't hang out in public, at a nightclub or wherever, without fearing for their safety?
Is there a chance we're witnessing the genesis of a new kind of turf war, one between the young men with money and the young men who resent them?
Here's the scary part: The knee-jerk response for the cornered athlete is to equip himself with the means to win these battles -- more guns, meaner dogs, a tougher group of friends.
Rather than avoid confrontations, they want to win them. Misguided, maybe, but it's the nature of the competitor. Maybe we should pool our resources and invest in a new enterprise -- Blackwater for athletes. Sadly, I'm only half joking.
This Week's List
• Here's a headline that really got me thinking about speciousness and irrelevance: "After Vick is sentenced, Falcons get slammed by Saints."
• Probably because the media always focus on the negative: I haven't heard much this year about what a great hire Jerry Jones made when he gave Bill Parcells' old job to Wade Phillips.
• If you -- or anyone else in the world -- had the equivalent amount of success at a particular job, you would have been not only fired but prohibited from ever working in the same field again: Isiah Thomas.
• Isiah was the only guy in America sitting in front of his television yelling, "Call for the double timeout, you fool! Call for the double timeout!" Joe Gibbs, pretty much desecrating his entire reputation.
• Again, I'm reminded of the time Barry Bonds had Michael Bolton present him with an MVP trophy: Mark Cuban, carrying two of Floyd Mayweather's belts into the ring Saturday night.
• He self-proclaims so often that it's usually unnecessary for anyone else to jump in, but here goes: With his dominating win over Ricky Hatton -- one of the few in which he actually showed an interest in attacking his opponent -- "Pretty Boy" Floyd has moved solidly into the discussion of the greatest fighters of the past quarter century.
• Think about it -- when a guy's undefeated in 43 fights, this is a pretty easy thing to say: Now the only criticism you hear about Mayweather -- aside from his personality -- is that he won't fight anyone who might beat him.
• Here's a prediction: Starting inside linebacker for your 2010 Atlanta Falcons ... Michael Vick.
• Remember Nov. 4? The Lions, from 6-2 to 6-7.
• And if they can continue to win when Adrian Peterson carries 14 times for 3 yards, they might never lose again: The Vikings, 7-6 and on a roll.
• Most overreported story of the year: Steelers safety Anthony Smith guaranteeing victory over the Patriots.
• My two favorite out-of-context broadcaster stats: (1) a team's record -- always gaudy -- when its best back runs for more than 100 yards, and (2) teams with gaudy records -- and this is always delivered in a shocked tone -- allow a lot of passing yards.
• What they never attempt to weave into the conversation: (1) Teams that are ahead generally run the ball more than they pass, especially in the second half, and (2) teams that are trailing generally have to pass like mad in an effort to catch up.
• I mean, it's not "Walking in a Hatton Wonderland" or whatever, but somebody decided this for us a long time ago and we're pretty much stuck with it: The hooliganish British fans in Las Vegas made it very difficult for Tyrese Gibson to sing the national anthem before the Hatton-Mayweather fight, what with their singing and hissing and booing.
• Yeah, but it's the volume that counts: USA Today reported that Mike Ditka's charitable efforts to aid down-and-out players has raised more than $1.2 million but paid out just over $50,000.
• Albert Schweitzer, Part II: The New York Times looked into A-Rod's charitable giving and found it less than charitable -- despite making $25 million in 2002, he only gave roughly $5,500 to his foundation, and the foundation gave out just $5,000 in 2006 even though one of its fundraisers brought in $368,000.
• Kind of like being "Mistress of the Robes," except for guys: Jimbo Fisher has been named "head-coach-in-waiting" for Florida State football.
• What I've learned: Questioning the validity of the Ohio State-LSU game as a true national championship game will inspire a certain segment of the population to write mean-spirited e-mails accusing you of belittling "how hard these young men have worked" to achieve their goal of a national championship.
Tim Keown is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Sound off to Tim here.