The backlash on Ron Artest (you won't hear or see his BS, nonsensical, made-up moniker dignified here) has been strong and swift, and rightfully so. The elbow used to deck Oklahoma City's James Harden was ugly and unwarranted. In the days that followed, his imminent punishment by the NBA was highly debated and anticipated. When it came down Tuesday night (7 game suspension), the pundits, predictably, were quick to sound off, perhaps some against due dilligence or fair analysis.
CBSSports.com's Ken Berger was one of the first to publish an opinion of the penalty, one he considers to be "just right". As a former sports journalist and still active fan and analyst, I was compelled to add my own opinion. The following is the letter sent to Berger in reponse to his take on the punishment.
Your bio on your CBSSports.com page ends by saying, "expect the absurd", and that's exactly what you've served up in your most recent column. I'm a writer myself, and a former TV sports journalist, and as such I know one column doesn't define your ability or career's work. I just have to tell you, respectfully, how off base you are in your analysis and opinion of Artest and his penalty.
To begin, basing your analysis on the Bynum-Barea incident is a complete false analogy. The 2 are not alike. One cannot, in good faith, make a credible argument what Bynum did was worse than Artest. True, Bynum's act was intentional, but a forearm to the torso is not as dangerous, and does not contain the inherent risk of a blow to the head. Your reasoning would've been better guided by making comparisons to a punching incident, such as Kermit Washington/Rudy Tomjanovich. In essence, Artest sucker punched Harden. He wound up, delivered a blow very equal to the force of a fist, and Harden was defenseless. In terms of immediate, visual reprehensibility, Artest's act trumps Bynum's by a mile. I know you recognized as much, with the stipulation that it was "arguable", but in all honesty, there's nothing to argue between the severity of the two.
Second, to give Artest any credence or credit for "apologizing" is just nuts! Did you listen to his apology? "It was unfortunate James had to get hit with an unintentional elbow..." For one, THAT'S NOT AN APOLOGY; and two, Harden absolutely did not "HAVE" to get hit with an elbow. It was intentional beyond question (see: Magic Johnson, aka: "Mr. Laker") and the "apology" was empty and, really, just insulting to any person of even average intelligence. If anything, Artest's denial and insistence against the obvious ought to have drawn more ire and factored against him. I don't want this email to carry an attacking tone, but how in the world can you draw "remorse", as you wrote, from Artest's statement? The same statement he ended with, "That's it for today", and turned and walked off with a grin on his face (Don't believe me-- check Youtube).
Finally, Ken, from a logical standpoint, your conclusion simply doesn't make sense. Yes, it could've been -- and probably should be -- worse for Artest. Yes, it certainly could've been worse for Harden. So, in recognizing this, we are to reasonably conclude Artest's punishment is fair? "Just right"? The fact that it realistically could've been A LOT worse for Harden makes the penalty seem that much more glaringly disproportionate. Not to mention, if we go by the recent basis established by the NHL (Raffi Torres 25-game suspension), repeat offenders, whether their past offenses are filed under the same moniker or not, should carry extra consideration. A 3-time DUI offender doesn't merely get his license revoked for 12 months after his 3rd arrest because his past punishment is just that-- in the past. There are aggregating consequences with each violation. Artest has now been suspended 13 times by the NBA. THIRTEEN TIMES! David Stern and Co. aren't doing him, or their product any favors by treating this latest act of insolence as though it were an isolated incident.
I realize the nature of this column was time-sensitive, and thus, I have to believe with added opportunity for reflection you would likely have put together a much more reasonable piece. It appears in the race to have an opinion piece on the "fairness" of this highly anticipated verdict, your more normal ability to analyze and articulate a well-thought work was greatly compromised. Haste makes waste, Ken, and your column and opinion of 7 games as an ample punishment for Artest's heinous and barbaric act was certainly a waste-- of my time and of your talent.
Thank you for your time.