- Ryan Corazza
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So much for keeping quiet.
In November, Gilbert Arenas leaked that he'd opened up a Twitter account, but would refrain from tweeting until he reached a staggering amount of followers: 1 million.
Well short of that goal and a few hours before the ball dropped on New Year's Eve -- and quite curiously, a few more hours before detailed reports of his gun probe surfaced in the middle of the night -- Arenas had enough. As he put it: "i know i said i wouldnt text til i get a mil..but s--t this is takin 4ever … Happy New Years … ps who do i hav 2 sleep with 2 get a mil."
By the time the morning hit, Arenas popped in with another update: "i wake up this morning and seen i was the new JOHN WAYNE. lmao media is too funny."
And then another. And another. And another. Gil's been on a Twitter rampage since New Year's Eve -- and up until he was suspended indefinitely Wednesday by the NBA -- hitting his followers at all hours with updates, usually stacking several tweets on top of the other. He's confused us by not knowing how to respond to specific users. He's told stories and jokes over several consecutive tweets -- hardly a conventional use of the service. Some have described it as a meltdown. Others have found it entertaining. Teammate JaVale McGee thinks Gil's Twitter comments have been "reckless."
Whatever way you want to slice it, one thing was clear: All was no longer quiet on the Arenas Twitter front.
So what's the deal here? Why the sudden onslaught during a time when it's usually best to keep your trap shut, or have a lawyer speak for you? Hasn't Arenas ever seen an episode of "The Wire"?
First, from the timing of his letting loose and his subsequent tweets on the matter, it's clear Arenas is trying to get his side of the story out about the reported altercation between him and Javaris Crittenton involving guns in the Wizards' locker room. Arenas hasn't shut out the mainstream media entirely when asked for comment, but he's been pretty tight-lipped about the whole matter in that forum. And where he might have taken to his blog a few years back, that's now shuttered; Twitter is our new window to Agent Zero's world.
Arenas has framed certain media reports as false. He's told us the serious initial reports of the incident don't sound like him because he's a "goofball." He's documented media sitting outside his house. And while not specifically talking about the incident, he's alluded to it in some tweets.
It's a fascinating use of the medium as an intimate, personal sounding board, and media outlets took note: Some quoted Arenas' tweets in news reports about the incident (or at the very least, mentioned he'd refuted some things on it) while a clearer picture of what happened in the locker room emerged.
But there is a larger theme to Arenas' unwieldy and erratic tweeting, and it's what should be the largest takeaway here: Arenas is making an attempt for us to keep that same perception of him -- the one that won the hearts of fans far and wide -- in light of some serious allegations. He wants us to continue to view him as the NBA's most eccentric soul. It's a bit overboard. Perhaps even a tad desperate.
In fairness to Arenas, it's entirely possible this is how he would have tweeted without a legal affair currently ensnarling him. It's also entirely possible his side of the story will bear true; this same persona he's trying to keep up -- always, always joking -- is his reasoning behind what happened in the locker room between him and Crittenton. It was a joke, albeit a misguided one that went too far. In that sense, Arenas is being authentic with this barrage of tweets; he's giving us a glimpse of that personality on Twitter. It's just Gil being Gil.
Yet, Arenas can't win, at least not with everybody. He'll still have plenty of fans who stick by him after the dust settles with his legal proceedings, for sure.
But there are going to be (and already are) several groups of people -- the NBA brass, the prosecution, anti-gun and violence groups, casual NBA fans, racists, angry columnists and talking heads looking to play the role of moral police -- who will forever perceive Arenas as the guy who messed around with guns in an NBA locker room, in Washington, D.C., of all places … especially if the law comes down hard on him and he receives a long suspension from the league and/or jail time given his prior gun incident (failure to maintain proper registration of a handgun while in California in 2003).
These folks will not care what Arenas' excuse is. They will not care that Arenas' crafted statement after his questioning Monday was far more apologetic, professional and void of jokes than what's been going down on Twitter. Many will simply see an NBA player plus gun and it will equal no sympathy, no gray area.
And they won't care that Arenas 180'ed on Twitter and is now playing the victim card.
Tuesday night, a photo of Arenas brandishing his index fingers as pistols in a huddle with his teammates before the Wizards' win over the 76ers hit the Web.
Arenas took to Twitter after the game to apologize: "I know everybody seen the pre game pics. my teammate thought to break the tention [sic] we should do that. but this is gettn way to much. I wanna say sorry if I pissed any body off by us havin fun … I'm sorry for anything u need to blame for for right now. I am going green.no more fun for awhile. So here we go. I landed in cleveland and its colder then the press heart.."
We'll see if the jokes are over.
Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and Web designer based in Chicago.
9hMichael C. Wright