Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Gilbert's Middle Name

Gilbert's Billboard, 8th & H Street NW

There are two billboards around Chinatown with Gilbert Arenas on them asking, "What makes you different?" These are to promote Gil's foundation, ZeroTwoHero.

As well all know, Gilbert is different. His name is different. His personality is different. He rides his bike for exercise throughout DC. He doesn't hang out with a posse. He stays in during nights on road trips, opting to order colon cleansers off of infomericals rather than go to the clubs with his teammates. He wears his own bizarre shoes for Adidas. This has all been widely reported.

With everything that's been said about Agent Zero over the past two years, I've never heard mention of his middle name. This got my mind a'wondering. Could it be as unusual as 'Gilbert'? Could it possibly be 'Danger'? My money was on something glorious and fitting, something that would set the blogosphere on fire, something like 'Alfonso'.

Thanks to the wonders of Wikipedia, I found out that Gilbert Arenas' middle name is 'Jay'.

At first, this was awesome. It brought to mind the episode of The Simpsons where we learn that Homer J. Simpson's middle name is 'Jay', an ode to cartoon legends Rocket J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose of Rocky & Bullwinkle fame. The middle name 'Jay' is a big deal in the cartoon world. It was fitting that an animated character such as Gilbert Arenas would share the classic middle name. After all, he did admit to Chuck Klosterman that he watches the cartoon Gummi Bears.

However, on second thought, the name seemed shockingly normal by Gilbert's standards. Sure he's got a nice jump shot, but 'Jay' just doesn't fit the stereotype of the "craaaazy" Arenas. That's when I realized that I've been buying into too much of the hype for Agent Zero.

Gilbert Arenas is not a cartoon character. Gilbert Arenas is not a joke.

Before the mainstream media completely turns him into a one-dimensional "character" that simply does quirky, off-the-wall things, we need to remember that it's his game and revenge mind-set that makes Gilbert Arenas an absolute assassin.

Another billboard, on the NPR building, 6th and Mass Ave NW

Before he was the blogosphere's darling, Gilbert was on a one-man mission to enact revenge on every team that skipped over him in the 2001 NBA Draft. He cried when he wasn't drafted in the first round. He has worn #0 for his entire college and professional career because that's how many minutes his critics said he would play at the University of Arizona. His blog is entitled "The Takeover." He vowed revenge on the Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, and (if ever possible - and I wouldn't put it past him...) Duke University because Mike D'Antoni, Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski snubbed him for the U.S. Men's National Team.

Does this sound like a joke?

It's apparent that Gilbert takes every insult to heart. Everything negative said about him is taken at a deeply personal level. This is what drives Agent Zero to become #1.

This is also what makes him the player in the National Basketball Association most relatable to fans .

In his most recent blog post, Gilbert wrote, "To understand me is to understand a fan." The reason he jumped off a trampoline at the All-Star Game and did a between-the-legs dunk wasn't for the money offered by Shaq to Gilbert's foundation. It was because he wanted to know how it felt.

How does it feel to be an Elvis impersonator jumping off a trampoline and dunking?

That's the same feeling I have when I see Gilbert ball.

How does it feel to hit a game-winning, buzzer-beating, three-pointer?

That is why I can relate.

If it takes some lunatic antics to get some recognition, than that's what he's going to do. If he needs to fill out an entire box of All-Star ballots to see his name on the roster he'll do that, too. If he needs to insert an oxygen chamber in his house to increase his stamina, he's going to do that as well.

From his clutch shots to his strong personality, Gilbert Arenas stands out from the crowd of NBA players. Never in my lifetime has an athlete exposed a personality that made him more relatable to fans. In today's sports culture, every athlete tries to show their personality to win over fans. Most of the time it seems like an agent-driven plot to gain a shoe contract. This isn't the case with Gilbert. He shows his emotions, his personality, his smile, because he's geniunely having fun taking out the naysayers.

That's why it's a shame that Gilbert Arenas has become known more for his antics than his game. He may be funny, but he ain't no joke. With a plain old middle name like 'Jay', it's easy to see that Gilbert Arenas is human. He's one of us. He's a Clark Kent. And that makes his Superman performances even more impressive. Fans and bloggers need to focus more on Gilbert's dagger and less on his swagger, lest they feel the wrath of Agent Zero.

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