|ESPN.com: Page 2||[Print without images]|
|With the help of Jesse Jackson, Ben Wallace and Ron Artest closed the door on The Brawl last Friday.|
He first went to the Bulls' locker room and asked Ben Wallace to come with him. Unable to say no, Wallace followed him down the corridor into the locker room of the team that had just beaten the Bulls by one, after the Bulls had a four-point lead with 17 seconds left. Back in the mirrored area, where the media is not allowed, Ron Artest was finishing getting dressed. Ron, meet Ben. Ben, meet Ron. Let us pray. It was the first time since they initiated the brawl in Detroit almost two years ago that Wallace and Artest had been face-to-face in the same room. It was a moment the Reverend had to be a part of, if not cause.
Amens said, hugs given, within minutes it was done. Over. Wallace left the locker room, Artest finished getting dressed. Afterward, both talked.
One saying he held "no grudge" towards the other; the other saying he was "kinda over it." "But," Artest added before leaving the locker room, "it was always in the back of my mind. It was good to get a chance to talk to [Ben]. I always wanted to talk to him. To take a hit like that, not playing in the NBA a whole year, I was frustrated. It was good that I had a chance to talk to him and finally say, 'Wassup.' " Wallace went one step further. "It was a nice gesture [of Jackson]. We had already talked on the floor. There's no hard feelings. It is what it is. All that stuff is in the past." But the reality is, that "stuff" is not in the past. We are still dealing with it. And the culture of sports in this country will be dealing with it every day until every amendment in David Stern's four-month-old mission statement is in the DNA of every player in the League -- or something worse happens. The socioeconomic, sociological, sociobehavioral, socioethical, psychological and racial aftereffects of that Wallace-Artest-initiated incident are still haunting everyone connected to sports. And even though those two seemed to have moved past it, it was something that remained unsettled, still lingering in our lives. Which is something Rev. Jackson knew, even though Artest and Wallace may not have been aware of it. He knew that "acknowledging" each other before the game was not enough. Which is why he brought them together, even after they had settled things on their own. He knew this one needed closure. And even though they didn't call him, he was called to do this. To go beyond a peace treaty or international negotiation or serving as a family spokesperson; to step up and do something that no one else thought was necessary, to think about healing souls instead of healing wounds; to be inside a bathroom with two NBA superstars, holding hands, heads bowed. Praying. And the fact that no one was summoned there to document the moment spits volumes. The fact that Sam Smith of the Chicago Tribune and Sam Amick of the Sacramento Bee were the only writers to highlight the moment is so opposite what Jesse Jackson has been criticized for being 'bout: Jesse Jackson. That's all. For so long he's been accused of being a lot of things -- grandstander, opportunist, philanderer, agitator, instigator are just a few words that often accompany his name -- but being a bird of prey in this was not one of them.
In the name of sports -- of which he is a huge fan -- Jesse Jackson came genuine. No hidden agenda, no self-indulgent prophecy, no political posturing, no grandstanding. No selfishness. Just selflessness.
|This just looks good, doesn't it?|
As I was leaving the gym, one of the directors, the league commissioner, who was in a room with one of the kids involved in the incident, called my name. "Mr. Jackson," he said to me, "can you come here for a moment and talk to the players?" Now I know how Jesse felt. Scoop Jackson is a national columnist for Page 2 and a contributor to ESPN The Magazine. He appears regularly on "Quite Frankly" and other ESPN shows. He resides in Chicago. Sound off to Scoop and Page 2 here.