It's one thing for a man to be denied his opportunity to work. It's quite another for a man to be denied his opportunity to Twitter.
The microblogging site, a bastion of free, spontaneous speech, has lost one of its more amusing denizens.
Perhaps you have been buried so deeply in the machinations of your new Nexus One to breathe, wipe the pizza stains from your shirt, or notice that Gilbert Arenas, the slightly waning star of the Washington Wizards, has been suspended indefinitely without pay by the NBA.
The Wizards' hometown Post has described in some delicious microdetail how Arenas allegedly lost money to fellow Wizard Javaris Crittenton in a card game. Threats were allegedly made, perhaps about the debt being unpaid.
Then Arenas, by his own admission (yes, on Twitter), brought four unloaded handguns into the Wizards locker room and asked Crittenton to choose one. His teammate allegedly produced his own gun, loaded it, and chambered a bullet.
What can these events have to do with Twitter? Well, Arenas is, perhaps, the most socially networked of NBA players. He was the first to have a blog, employing a sense of humor that can best be described as individual. The NBA seemed to rather like his progressive thinking and talking, even though Arenas retired from blogging in March of last year.
At the time he retired from blogging, he told the AP: "It's just like the double-(edged) sword thing: Eventually your words is going to kill you." He followed this observation up with: "It's like everything I said, everybody started using it as firepower, instead of saying it's just entertainment."
But then those crafty boffins created Twitter and when the microblogging site's popularity took off, Arenas couldn't resist. First, he declared that he wouldn't tweet until he had a million followers. However, the entertainer within him (he happens to be the son of a movie extra) couldn't wait for the extra 990,000 he needed to achieve his goal, so he began to use Twitter to solicit votes for the All-Star game.
Then came the gun incident. It seems, though, that firearmed did not mean forewarned for Arenas. So he began tweeting that the gun incident was just a bit of a jape. He was merely being a "goofball."
The gun incident happened December 21. It wasn't until January 4 that Arenas appears to have come to terms with things such as, well, gun laws: "no im not going to jail i didn't do what they keep writing but stay away from guns..i was wrong for puttn them in my locker."
The day before, he offered a joke in four separate tweets that could be considered off-color by some. He explained the joke with a follow-up tweet: "im around jokes like that all the time so i figured i can say them here if people take down there sensitivity bar a little."
Among his last tweets were suggestions that Jesus was on his side, that Cleveland was colder than the heart of the press, and that before complaining about their lives, people should think about the disabled and the dead.
And with that, the Gilbert Arenas Twitter page went dark. By the time the account disappeared, he had almost 24,000 followers (still a couple million short of Shaq).
Perhaps Arenas decided the medium had the same drawbacks as blogging. But it seems highly likely that, as part of his suspension, the NBA suggested rather forcefully that he shut his Twitter feed down. (We've asked the NBA, and we'll update this post if we hear word back from them.)
In the meantime, perhaps it's worth considering how you would like your sports "heroes" to behave in a world that networks socially more often than it eats socially.
Would you like them to be like Tiger Woods, perfect until cornered (or failing to corner)? Or would you prefer for them to use the unfiltered spontaneity of Twitter to reveal that they are just as wart-filled as, well, you?
Oh, alright, perhaps in certain cases, even more wart-filled.