Monday, January 16, 2012

Is World Peace Really Necessary?

Shakespeare once wrote, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." The Bard's philosophy has been put to the test recently by the Los Angeles Lakers' controversial forward Ron Artest. For reasons understood only by him, Ron has legally changed his name to Metta World Peace. Perhaps he did this to protect his self-esteem. I'd imagine it would be uncomfortable for 18,000 fans at the Boston Garden (or whatever they're calling it these days) to chant "World Peace Sucks! World Peace Sucks!" On the other hand, it might be interesting to hear his teammates support him by imploring coach Mike Brown to "give World Peace a chance."

Dennis "Tina Turner" Rodman
Mr. World Peace is hardly the first athlete to change his name. In many cases, the change has been made for religious reasons such as Lew Alcindor becoming Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bobby Moore becoming Ahmad Rashad, and most famously, Tina Turner becoming Dennis Rodman.

Other guys have tried to be more whimsical about it. Middleweight boxer Marvin Hagler went to court to fight for the right to be called "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler. NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson ridiculously took on his uniform number as his last name, converting to Chad Ochocinco. The fact that he erroneously translated "eighty-five" into Spanish did not dissuade him one bit. This of course makes me wonder if there's some Portuguese soccer player running around with the name Juan Carlos Fourseven.

Artest isn't even the first NBA player to try to spread a political message on his drivers' license. Back in 1981, Lloyd Free changed his name to World B. Free.

Clever, huh? He didn't even have to do anything with his last name.

Here's my problem.

Ron Artest is just about the last guy on the planet (certainly in the NBA) to take up the mantle for world peace. If Gandhi chose to go by Mahatma World Peace, sure, I think we could all buy that. Even John Lennon would've had a bit of credibility if he recorded Imagine under the name John World Peace.

But Ron Artest? As I'm about to explain, Artest calling himself Metta World Peace is a lot like Charlie Sheen calling himself Drug Free McSoberman.

"All we are saying . . . "
As you may recall, in 2004, Artest was the central figure in one of the ugliest displays of unsportsmanlike conduct and mayhem the sports world has ever seen, an incident that has affectionately come to be known as "Malice at the Palace." Late in a game that was already well out-of-hand, Artest -- then with the Indiana Pacers -- committed an egregiously flagrant foul against Detroit Pistons' Ben Wallace (not exactly Mr. Softie himself). Mr. Wallace took exception to this and politely expressed his displeasure by violently shoving Artest. Predictably, fights broke out, a melee ensued, and eventually Artest decided to take a break and lay down on the scorer's table. The Detroit fans, somewhat irked at Artest's behavior, began throwing various concession-related items onto the court and at one point Artest was pelted with a half-full (or half-empty, depending on one's perspective) cup of soda. Some witnesses say it was Diet Coke, others claim it was Dr. Pepper. Artest, none too pleased with his new-found fizzy beverage predicament, charged into the stands and confronted the man he incorrectly believed was responsible. This, of course, inspired the surrounding fans to go -- and here I use the clinical psychiatric term -- totally friggin' berzerk. Regaining his senses (to a point), Artest returned to the now-chaotic basketball court where he was called a rude name by yet another pissed-off Piston fan. As you'd expect by now, Artest punched the guy in the face. As a result of his actions, Ron Artest was suspended for the remainder of the NBA season, including playoffs. This is still the longest suspension for an on-court incident in NBA history.

But wait, there's more.

In 2007, Artest -- who had moved on to the Sacramento Kings -- was involved in a domestic incident and was charged with corporal injury to a spouse, battery, false imprisonment and dissuading a witness from reporting a crime, all misdemeanors. He pleaded no contest.

While researching this piece, I spoke with at least three individuals who asked, "Hey, isn't Artest the guy who choked out his coach a few years back?" Actually, that was Latrell Sprewell (who has since changed his name to Butterfly Placid Tranquility), but the fact that three separate people connected Artest's name with the choking incident tells you all you need to know about the guy's reputation.

Doesn't exactly scream "World Peace," does it?

And here's another thing. There are a lot of completely normal and even, dare I say, admirable ways to support meaningful causes. Bumper stickers, for example. I don't see why Ron couldn't have just slapped a WORK FOR WORLD PEACE sticker on the back of his Lamborghini. Start a foundation, build a website, write a weekly column for War Haters Illustrated, whatever. No need to get all "I think I'll give myself a stupid name" about it. After all, Bob Barker has done a lot of great things in the arena of animal rights activism, but he never once asked to be called Puppy Spay Chihuahua.

As a Laker fan, I would like to suggest that Mr. World Peace spend less time worrying about his name and a bit more time on other issues.

Like his jump shot.

To view the video of "Malice at the Palace," click here.


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From the Mind of a Madman said...

Ya Artest has always been a headcase... I think he shoulda changed his last name to something more appropriate like..... Ron "Needs Prozac"!

Eva Gallant said...

He was a tough defender, as I recall. It is a strange name choice, under the circumstances, however.

Fred said...

I'm chewing over the "Metta" part. Did he mean "meta" as in "metaphysics" or "metatheory" or something? If so, that means "beyond." It literally means "what comes after." It actually might make some kind of scary sense.

I read a few articles about this, but I haven't found any explanation of the "Metta" part, so I'm going with my own confusion. For now.

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

Fred: According to one of the articles I looked up, "Metta" is a Buddhist word meaning "Loving kindness and friendliness toward all."

Irony, party of one, your table is ready.

injaynesworld said...

Yeah. Ya gotta wonder. It's like when Prince changed his name to that weird-ass symbol. As for world peace, people have been praying for that forever and nada. On the other hand, a lot of people are driving around in Mercedes. I think I'll ask God for one of those. The odds seem better.

Fred said...

Thanks for clearing that up, Knuck. My mind gets easily bogged down in tangents. You saved me some time.

Suldog said...

You're on top of it and stomping hard with both feet today. Good stuff.

I was reading a Lakers box score a couple of weeks back and I saw "World Peace" listed. I said, to MY WIFE, "Who the f*** is that?" Oddly enough, she knew, and she brought me up to speed. I was fairly much as incredulous as you are.

notactuallygod said...

At least he's being positive. What if he changed his last name to something like "stomp kittens". He'd be driving for a lay-up and people would be sreaming "Go Stomp Kittens!"

MikeWJ said...

I'd like to change my name to Lucinda Nightshade. But that's an entirely different story.

Anonymous said...

Thank you this made me laugh real hard...the only other time i laughed so bad is when sully takes the field........44

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